A Harrowing Escape

Remember the position James Bond was in in Goldfinger, when he was tied up with the laser ready to — what do lasers do again? slice? buzz? — him into two pieces?

“You expect me to talk?”

“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.”

The Phillies didn’t talk; they walked, both literally (in the baseball sense) and figuratively.

After yet another first inning run was given to the Yankees — the third in two games — Chase Utley gave the Phillies the spark they needed to force a Game 6 in New York. Jimmy Rollins led off the bottom of the first with a line drive single up the middle, and A.J. Burnett proceeded to hit Shane Victorino in the hand with a two-seam fastball that didn’t tail back into the strike zone.

Utley, to that point, had done the majority of his damage against C.C. Sabathia. Burnett, however, served up a first-pitch fastball down the middle that simply couldn’t be passed up. Chase took his usual perfect, effortless, mechanically-flawless swing of his and gave the fans in the right field seats a souvenir and the Phillies a 3-1 lead. The home run was Utley’s fourth of the World Series, tying Lenny Dykstra, Barry Bonds, and Duke Snider for the National League record.

In the third inning, the Phillies stayed patient against A.J. Burnett who, unlike his Game 2 self, simply could not find the strike zone. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard both walked to start the inning. Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez would follow with RBI singles to center field and right field respectively. It was at that point manager Joe Girardi opted to remove Burnett from the game — without having recorded an out in the third inning. Burnett’s replacement, David Robertson, would allow the sixth run on a Carlos Ruiz RBI groundout.

Chase Utley hit his second home run of the game and fifth home run of the post-season in the seventh inning off of Phil Coke. Utley’s five is tied with Reggie Jackson for most in a World Series all-time. He still has at least one more game left to lay sole claim to the record. Ibanez also added a solo home run in the seventh off of Coke after Ryan Howard struck out, tying Willie Wilson’s post-season record with 12 strikeouts.

The early offense, a five-run cushion, was more than enough for Phillies savior and starter Clifton Phifer Lee. The Phillies put ten runners on base on five hits, four walks, and the hit-by-pitch in the first three innings alone. Lee wasn’t as sharp as he had been in his prior four post-season starts, but was good enough to keep the Yankee offense at bay.

Charlie Manuel — who has rarely pushed the right buttons in the World Series — let Lee come back out for the eighth inning despite owning a six-run lead and many available arms in the bullpen. He allowed a single to Johnny Damon and two doubles to Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez to start the inning. A-Rod’s drove in two runs with the double and would score on a sacrifice fly by Robinson Cano, making the score 8-5.

Lee’s final line: 7 IP, 5 ER, 3 K, 3 BB. It looks much worse than his start really was. His line was 7 IP, 2 ER, 3 K, 3 BB prior to Manuel’s illogical decision to allow him to take the bump to start the eighth. Chan Ho Park, however, limited the damage in relief of Lee, and Ryan Madson induced Derek Jeter to hit into a run-scoring ground ball double-play, and struck out Mark Teixeira in the ninth to seal an 8-6 victory.

The Phillies will pack up their bags and head to New York for Game 6, which will likely see a match-up between starters Andy Pettitte (on short rest) and Pedro Martinez.

One down, two to go.

Game graph above courtesy FanGraphs.

Curtains

Game Four was a microcosm of the Phillies’ 2009 season. Starter not named Cliff Lee gives up too many runs in too few innings, middle relief does a decent job of keeping the game close, the Phillies catch up, Brad Lidge wraps the game up with a nice bow tie for the opposition.

Eleven blown saves. At least one run allowed in 30 of his 67 appearances during the regular season.

The fear that came along with Charlie Manuel’s continuing to rely on Lidge was that their 2008 untouchable superstar would come in in a critical spot in the playoffs and — well, you know the rest. That fear came to fruition tonight, even after Lidge rather handily retired the first two Yankees in the top of the ninth inning.

Johnny Damon had what is known as a “professional at-bat” when he fouled off five Brad Lidge offerings to work the count to 3-2 after eight pitches. On the ninth, he hit a line drive that dropped in front of left fielder Raul Ibanez for the single. What would unfold next is atypical, but given Lidge’s season, perhaps not surprising.

With the right-hander on the mound, Mark Teixeira came up to the plate in the left-handed batter’s box. Due to that, the Phillies shifted their infield towards the right side, leaving Pedro Feliz at shortstop and covering second base on a stolen base attempt. Damon attempted and succeeded to steal the base, and because Lidge failed to cover third base with the shifted infield, Damon dashed past Feliz for the free extra base.

Still, a runner on third base with two outs is not terrible news — it just means that Carlos Ruiz has to be sharp on Lidge’s slider in the dirt. And that is perhaps why Lidge was victimized, as he hit Teixeira to put runners on the corners for Alex Rodriguez. He then threw a first-pitch low-and-inside fastball to get ahead of A-Rod.

Perhaps Rodriguez was looking for another fastball because he knew that the slider was less of an option with the runner on third base. Nonetheless, Lidge threw another fastball and it was laced past Ibanez in left field for a go-ahead RBI double.

The Yankees would tack on two more runs when Lidge threw four fastballs out of five pitches to Jorge Posada. The fourth fastball was lined into the left-center field gap, scoring Teixeira and Rodriguez to up the score to 7-4. Posada was thrown out trying to advance to second base.

It is a devastating loss for the Phillies as they once again showed their resilience when Pedro Feliz hit a game-tying solo home run in the bottom of the eighth off of Joba Chamberlain. That hit would have been added to Ryan Howard’s go-ahead double in Colorado and Jimmy Rollins’ walk off against the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton, but it went for naught. Chase Utley’s dominance against C.C. Sabathia is also lost as a result of Lidge’s ninth inning collapse.

The Phillies now find themselves down three games to one with three games left to play, all of which they must win if they want to repeat as World Series champions.

Game graph above courtesy FanGraphs.