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World Series Game 4: Clutch-Rod Comes Through Again

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In Game 1 of the World Series CC Sabathia turned in a tough outing that, if not for Cliff Lee's commanding performance, could have easily resulted in a victory.

That night CC put in seven solid innings, giving up only two runs on four hits and struck out six Phillies.

In Game 4 on Sunday night CC Sabathia was not quite as good — going 6 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on seven hits with six strikeouts — but there was a much more important difference between the two starts than simple statistics. In the first game CC opposed Cliff Lee, off whom the Yankees managed only one unearned run. He is the only Phillies pitcher to contain the Yankees' offense to date. In Game 4 on Sunday, it was the struggling and inconsistent Joe Blanton on the mound instead of the dominating Lee, and the Phillies definitely felt the latter's absence.

Blanton actually put in a solid performance but from the first inning in which the Yankees posted up two runs on the scoreboard and Philadelphia put up one, it was clear that Game 4 would be more offensively inclined than any of its three predecessors in the series. A constant rollercoaster of emotions for the Philadelphia crowd, every time the fightin' Phils fought back, the Yankees seemed to have an answer — like a Floyd Mayweather counter-punch — slugging away with mechanical-like precision until an eventual and inevitable knockout.

In the bottom of the fourth the Phillies finally came back from the first inning deficit when Pedro Feliz singled in Ryan Howard to tie the game 2-2. But in the top of the next inning the Yankees slugged right back, cutting off the momentum of their opponent as quickly as it had accumulated. With one out in the top of the fifth Derek Jeter continued his hot hitting, singling to left, driving in Nick Swisher. Picking up where The Captain left off, Johnny Damon lashed a single the other way that scored Melky Cabrera, who had advanced to second on Jeter's single. CC Sabathia had a lapse of effectiveness and lost the lead in the fourth but the Yankee bats were there to slug back with an answer the very next inning, and the prize fight was on.

In the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings, Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz hit solo shots, the latter (off Joba Chamberlain) tying the game at 4-4 and once again sending Citizens Bank Park into a frenzy. Pedro's home run saved the game for the Phillies, and with closer Brad Lidge ready to come into the game, Philadelphia seemed to be in control of the game once again.

This time though, the counter-punch landed square on the jaw and turned out to be the knock out blow. Lidge got off to a strong start, getting pinch hitter Hideki Matsui to to pop out to the shortstop and striking out Derek Jeter. But with two outs, Johnny Damon singled to left (after an incredible at bat) and proceeded to steal second and third bases on a bizarre play where Pedro Feliz was covering the second base bag (due to the shift for Teixeira) and third base was left wide-open and unmanned. Visibly rattled by the sudden change in circumstances, Lidge promptly drilled Teixeira, giving the Yankees' runners at first and third with two outs and a slumping A-Rod at the plate.

After a torrid postseason, A-Rod's World Series has been brutal. But with his home run on Halloween night in Game 3 Alex seemed to be getting back on the right track at the plate. He confirmed that analysis on Sunday, coming up with a massively clutch double in the top of the ninth to score Johnny Damon and give the Yankees a 5-4 lead. And then, to seal the deal with one final thundering blow, Jorge Posada crushed a single to left center scoring Teixeira and Rodriguez. He handed his battery-mate Mariano Rivera a three-run lead, none of which the closer would squander in his 1-2-3 ninth.

It was another great baseball game in a slightly lopsided, but still entertaining series. CC Sabathia once again pitched very well but one has to wonder how differently Cliff Lee on short rest may have handled the Yankees' lineup as apposed to the fully rested but highly inferior Joe Blanton. Especially if there had been a limit on Lee's pitch count in that first game (as their was on Sabathia, at least in a rough sense) keeping him fresh for three possible appearances.

So now the Yankees are up 3-1 in the 2009 World Series and will face the aforementioned Lee on Monday when he battles AJ Burnett, throwing on three-days rest himself. While this is a game the Phillies may/must win, it seems unlikely that — even if they do win on Monday — going back to Yankee Stadium for Games 6 and 7 Philadelphia will be able to win one game (nevermind the two necessary) without Lee pitching again in this series. So because Lee could not go on short rest, his Game 5 start could be rendered inconsequential beyond the delay of the inevitable.

Philly fans should remember to appreciate Monday night because it is the last time they will see their ace in 2009 while Yankee fans can be assured that, worse case scenario, CC Sabathia will be armed and ready for a Game 7, should his use prove necessary.

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About Anthony Tobis