What a ballgame tonight. Here I am, a Mets fan with considerable disdain for both the Phillies and Yankees, and yet I was sitting at the edge of my friend's couch, hanging on every single pitch. I had chills running up my spine to the back of my neck on several occasions.
World Series Game 4 represented everything we love about baseball. Everything that drew us to the greatest game in the world as kids; everything that keeps us connected to America's Pastime, decades and decades later. There were a number of clutch performances, and a handful of classic, timeless moments.
I'll start with Johnny Damon. After Brad Lidge recorded two outs rather quickly in the top of the 9th, Damon could have easily rolled over like his immediate predecessors. I say "easily" because I'm a Mets fan -- when bad teams hit into two quick outs, the third one tends to come just as quickly. Well, the Yankees are just the opposite. Damon, the true "professional hitter" (as the cliche goes) that he is, worked a marvelous at bat against the Phillies' closer, one that eventually concluded with an opposite-field single to left.
Then he really made his mark.
Damon, completely aware of Lidge's slow delivery from the stretch (great coaching and player preparation), took off on his first pitch to Mark Teixeira. Johnny swiped second with ease...
And then it got even more interesting.
In what initially seemed to be a costly baserunning blunder, Damon took off for third base -- but the ball was still in the infield. At first it seemed that Damon thought it went through, but we soon realized something quite different...
No one was covering third base.
Damon quickly and astutely realized that fact, advancing himself to third and placing intense pressure on Lidge. The latter proceeded to drill Teixeira (who took it rather well), leaving the game in the hands of Alex Rodriguez...
Enter Hero #2.
Lidge opened A-Rod up with a well-placed fastball down, and on the inner portion of the plate, taking an 0-1 lead in the count. That was the last of the positives for the Phillies in this game, as Lidge and catcher Carlos Ruiz proceeded to make a terrible, potentially season-crushing decision:
They came back with the fastball inside.
No. No. No. You can't give a hitter like Rodriguez a look at a 92-mph fastball on pitch one of an at bat, and then come back immediately with an eerily similar pitch. Even if Lidge and Ruiz thought A-Rod would be looking offspeed, that's no excuse for not using the 0-1 count to their advantage. Taking the early lead in the count, the 0-1 pitch was their opportunity to toy with Rodriguez, and give him the chance to expand the zone. Lidge's best pitch is his near-famous slider, and yet he never went to it against A-Rod.
That cost him, as Alex smoked an incredibly clutch double to left.
Jorge Posada followed up with an equally important two-run single. That three-run cushion was more than enough for Mariano Rivera (are you surprised?), who made some of Philly's better hitters look like average little leaguers in the bottom of the 9th.
It's late and I'm getting tired, but before I go I'd like to shout out Pedro Feliz, Chase Utley, Ryan Madson, and Joe Blanton. All four provided key performances for the Phillies, though they eventually went for naught.
Sorry Philly fans, but the Yankees earned this one.
("JFro," aka John Frascella, is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land."
It's the first full-length book centered on Boston Red Sox's popular
general manager Theo Epstein. Preview or purchase it online at Amazon.com, Barnes
and Noble or Borders. It's currently stocked in Barnes and Noble stores
throughout the U.S. John has also done some work for NBA.com. Check him out on Twitter as well.)