Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada drove in the deciding runs with two outs in the ninth inning on Sunday as the New York Yankees beat Philadelphia 7-4 to reach the brink of a World Series title. The Yankees broke a 4-4 deadlock on a double to left field by Rodriguez and Posada plated two insurance runs with a single to centrefield as the visitors seized a commanding 3-1 lead in Major League Baseball's best-of-seven final.
New York could stretch their record to 27 World Series titles with a victory in game five here tonight when southpaw Cliff Lee, the game one winner, will pitch for the reigning champions against Yankee game-two winner AJ Burnett. The Yankees, whose $201 million payroll is the largest in baseball, have not won a World Series crown since 2000. Teams with a 3-1 edge have won the World Series 34 of 40 times, the most recent failure being when St Louis dropped the last three games to Kansas City to lose the 1985 Series.
Philadelphia's Chase Utley smacked a solo homer in the seventh inning and teammate Pedro Feliz followed with another in the eighth to pull the hosts even at 4-4. But New York answered in the ninth when Damon hit a two-out single to left field off Phillies reliever Brad Lidge, then stole second base and took third as well on a Phillies fielding blunder. Lidge failed to cover third base on the pick-off attempt, allowing Damon to reach third base with ease.
After Mark Teixeira took first base for being hit with a pitch, Rodriguez brought home Damon with a double to left field, his 15th playoff run driven in to match a one-season club record. Posada followed by knocking in two insurance runs, although he was thrown out at second trying to stretch his hit into a double. Yankee relief ace Mariano Rivera retired the Phillies in order in the bottom of the ninth for the save.
Clinging to a 4-3 lead in the eighth, the Yankees brought in relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain, who struck out Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez and had two quick strikes on Feliz, only to offer up the equalising homer three pitches later. Derek Jeter and Damon each had smacked run-scoring singles in the fifth to give the Yankees a 4-2 edge. Nick Swisher walked and Melky Cabrera singled to open the inning and crossed the plate thanks to the leadoff batters.
But Utley smashed his third homer of the Series off Yankee starter CC Sabathia with two out in the seventh inning to pull the hosts within one run. Utley had belted two solo homers off the 29-year-old left-hander in the Phillies' game one victory and sent the southpaw to the showers in game four with a towering round-trip blast into the right-field stands. Sabathia became the first pitcher in six years to have only three days' rest between World Series starts instead of the usual four, having pitched and lost in last Wednesday's opener at Yankee Stadium.
Sabathia surrendered three runs on seven hits while striking out six in 6 2/3 innings, but Philadelphia's rally ensured he would not become the first black pitcher to win a Series game for the Yankees. New York tagged Phillies starter Joe Blanton for a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Jeter opened with a single, took third on a Damon double and scored on Teixiera's ground out. Rodriguez then was hit by a pitch for the third time in six trips to the plate in Philadelphia, joining Pittsburgh's Max Carey in 1925 as the only players hit by pitches three times in the same World Series.
The incident prompted a warning to both clubs about throwing too close to batters, after which Posada smacked a sacrifice fly to left field to score Damon from third. The Phillies answered in the first, pulling within 2-1 on back-to-back doubles by Shane Victorino and Utley. Philadelphia slugger Ryan Howard followed by striking out for the eighth time in the Series but snapped an 0-for-9 drought with a single in the fourth, then stole second and scored on a Feliz single to pull the Phillies even.