PHILADELPHIA - Alex Rodriguez waited all game long for this hit. Heck, he waited his whole life.
The New York Yankees have been waiting, too.
Rodriguez delivered a go-ahead, two-out double in the ninth inning off Brad Lidge and the Yankees took advantage of Johnny Damon’s daring dash to beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-4 on Sunday night for a 3-1 lead in the World Series.
“There’s no question — I’ve never had a bigger hit,” Rodriguez said.
Derek Jeter came through again and Mariano Rivera finished it off as the Yankees moved within one win of that elusive 27th championship and first since 2000.
Rodriguez applauded his own hit, for good reason. Seething since the first inning after again being nailed by a pitch, the highest-paid player in the majors struck back with his potent black bat.
Overanxious at the start of his first World Series, Rodriguez struck out six times in the first two games. He homered in Game 3, yet it was another kind of thwack that him going.
“The one time I got hit in yesterday’s game, my first at-bat, kind of woke me up a little bit and just reminded me, ’Hey, this is the World Series, let’s get it going a little bit,”’ he said.
Now in his sixth season with the Yankees, he’ll try to help them close out the defending champions Monday night when A.J. Burnett faces October ace Cliff Lee.
Of the 42 teams to take a 3-1 lead in the World Series, 36 went on to win the crown. The last club to overcome such a deficit was Kansas City in 1985.
Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz hit late home runs for the Phillies that tied it at 4. Then it moved to the ninth and Phils brought in Lidge — a postseason star last year, he had struggled all season before regaining his touch this October.
But November was not so kind.
Lidge had been the only closer in the playoffs who hadn’t allowed a run until the Yankees tagged him. With two outs, Damon capped a nine-pitch at-bat with a single. The Phillies overshifted their infield to the right side for Mark Teixeira and Damon took off.
Damon beat the one-hop throw to steal second, popped up from his slide and noticed no one was covering third. That’s because Feliz had handled the throw, and Damon easily beat the third baseman to the bag for a rare double-steal — fact is, who’d ever seen it?
“I’m just glad that when I started running, I still had some of my young legs behind me,” Damon said.
Offered Feliz: “We never got anybody to say, ’OK, you’ve got to go in there, you’ve got to go here.”’
Rattled or whatever, Lidge hit Teixeira with a pitch. So up stepped Rodriguez, 1 for 13 to that point and looking nothing like the feared slugger he was earlier in these playoffs.
Putting all his prominent failures behind, Rodriguez lined a solid double into the left-field corner for a 5-4 lead. The three-time AL MVP connected so solidly, the sound echoed throughout Citizens Bank Park. Maybe it wasn’t such a surprise — Rodriguez had homered and doubled in three prior at-bats against Lidge.
“Facing Brad Lidge, he’s a great competitor. He’s had a lot of success late here. Just trying to make contact there,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez stood at second with his 15th RBI, tying the Yankees postseason record shared by Bernie Williams and Scott Brosius. A-Rod’s other hit this week came in Game 3 when his double was changed to a home run after an instant replay review.
“He’s the reason why we’re sitting here and we’re in Philadelphia right now,” Damon said. “I felt like without him, who knows where our road may have stopped at.”
The crowd was still silent when Jorge Posada followed with a two-run single. Then it was Rivera’s turn and he quickly got three outs for his 11th World Series save. Joba Chamberlain, who gave up Feliz’s tying homer in the eighth, was the winner in his second Series appearance.
Just like that, the Yankees were 27 outs from their record 27th title and the Phillies were on the brink of getting eliminated. Philadelphia faces a daunting task; New York lost three in a row only twice after the All-Star break.
“I think we take a lot of pride on being resilient and the way we bounce back,” Phils manager Charlie Manuel said. “I’ve seen us go through it before. We’ve blown 22 games from the seventh inning on or something this year. That’s got to tell you something about the resilience of our team.”
The first inning offered a replay, of sorts, when Rodriguez was hit in the back by Blanton’s first pitch. Rodriguez got drilled twice in Game 3 and told plate umpire Mike Everitt “third time, it’s a little obvious” in a comment heard on Fox.
ATLANTA (AP) - Matt Harvey pitched six hitless innings, John Buck homered and the New York Mets held off another Atlanta comeback, beating the Braves 4-3 Tuesday in the first game of a doubleheader.
Yankees win their 27th World Series
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