MLB

Best Yankees Playoff Games: Johnny Damon steals two bases in the same play

Best Yankees Playoff Games: Johnny Damon steals two bases in the same play

There are few things baseball fans love more than a run-scoring or game-saving play. A second base runner who recognizes that a pop-up will fall into No Man’s Land can score the tying run on a batted ball with a .073 xBA. On the other hand, a fielder who knows that he will not be able to catch a fly ball may deke out the runner in order to prevent him from taking an extra base. While these plays don’t always make the difference in the final outcome of the game, they are sometimes the difference between victory and defeat.

In the World Series, those face-off plays can be the difference between lifting the commissioner’s trophy and staring longingly at that hunk of metal. One such play came in the top of the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2009 World Series, setting the stage for Alex Rodriguez’s heroics … again.

2009 World Series Game 4-1 November

Final score: Yankees 7, Phillies 4

MVP of the game: Johnny Damon, Alex Rodriguez

Everyone knew going into the night that Game 4 of the 2009 World Series had the potential to be a huge momentum swing. Although the Yankees held a 2-1 lead in the series, it was the first time in the postseason that a Yankees starter went on three days’ rest due to the team’s decision to go ahead with a postseason rotation of three (CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett). , and Andy Pettitte). With a win, they would be one game away from a championship and, at worst, return to the Bronx with a seeded lead; a loss, however, would not only tie the series, but since Cliff Lee would line up against AJ Burnett in Game 5, it meant there would be a good chance the series would go back to the Bronx about to be swept.

The Yankees jumped on Phillies starter Joe Blanton early. Derek Jeter led off the game with a single, advanced to third on Johnny Damon’s double and scored on Mark Teixeira’s grounder to first base. A sacrifice fly by Jorge Posada would plate Damon, giving the Yankees an early 2-0 lead. Philadelphia, however, cut it in half with a pair of doubles in the bottom of the first, and after both sides traded a pair of outs, tied it in the bottom of the fourth on a play in which Sabathia and the Yankees showed up. a low level of consciousness.

Ryan Howard led off the inning with a single and then stole second. He proceeded to score when Pedro Feliz singled to left field as Jorge Posada fouled off Damon’s throw. Howard never hit home, though, and the plate umpire only called safe once Sabathia threw the ball to second to try to nail Feliz advancing on the error. The Yankees, however, did not notice and lost an opportunity to appeal the play by immediately intentionally walking Carlos Ruiz to bring pitcher Joe Blanton to the plate.

The Yankees’ offense immediately rallied in the top of the fifth. Nick Swisher walked to start the inning and advanced to second on a single by Melky Cabrera; both would come around to score on a pair of singles by Jeter and Damon. But the Phillies wouldn’t go away quietly, as Chase Utley hit Sabathia in the seventh and Feliz hit Joba Chamberlain in the eighth to tie it at four.

As had become common that postseason, the Yankees bounced back again, this time against Philadelphia closer Brad Lidge. Although Hideki Matsui, hitting hard for Chamberlain, grounded out to short to lead off the inning and Derek Jeter singled for second, Johnny Damon sparked a rally with a line drive single to left after ‘a hard nine pitches to the left. – bat Then, with pinch hitter Mark Teixeira batting to left and the changeup on, Damon stole second, slid in easily, stood up and stole third because nobody was covering the bag.

Lidge immediately lost the strike zone, grounding Teixeira to put runners on first and third with Alex Rodriguez coming to the plate. True to form, as he had done many times that October, A-Rod came up in a big spot, hitting an RBI double to left field that allowed Tex to advance to third.

Jorge Posada followed with a two-run single to extend the lead to 7-4, and even though he would be thrown out at second, it didn’t matter. A three-run lead was more than enough for the best shutout of all time, as Mariano Rivera drove in a Jimmy Rollins single into first base between Matt Stairs and Shane Victorino, who each grounded out, to bring the Yankees to a World Series game. number 27

Obviously, there’s no way to know how the game would have gone had Damon not recognized that Teixeira’s change left third base open. Even for an aging Damon, second base is in scoring position, and an extra-base hit like Rodriguez’s double would have easily scored him. But to assume that would be to fall into the fallacy of predetermined outcomes. With a quick runner on third, Brad Lidge threw away his best pitch, the slider, in an effort to avoid a wild pitch. Would the Yankees still have been able to mount a rally, or would he have been able to dig in and escape unscathed? It is impossible to know.

But you know what I know? That inning gave the Yankees a 3-1 lead, and while the Phillies would send the series back to the Bronx by knocking off AJ Burnett, the stage was set for the Yankees to open the new stadium by returning the Commissioner’s Trophy to . belongs More on that next time.



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