NEW YORK - Hideki Matsui has the most curious habit at the plate. He never takes a practice swing once he steps into the batter’s box.
He saves all those meaty cuts for when they count.
Matsui did all sorts of damage Wednesday night, setting a record with six RBIs in a World Series clincher and leading the New York Yankees over the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3.
His performance won Game 6 — and clinched the MVP trophy.
Matsui became the first Japanese-born player to win the award that started in 1955. He homered, doubled and singled, highlighting a Series in which he hit .615 with three home runs and eight RBIs.
“It’s awesome,” Matsui said through a translator. “Unbelievable. I’m surprised myself.”
Standing on a podium in shallow center field, Matsui waved his new championship hat and shook hands with commissioner Bud Selig. Matsui won three titles in Japan and was eager to celebrate his first in the Bronx.
“I guess it’s hard to make a comparison. When I was in Japan, that was the ultimate goal. Being here, winning the World Series, becoming world champions, that’s what you strive for here.”
“You could say that I guess this is the best moment of my life right now,” he said. “It’s been a long road and very difficult journey.”
Matsui’s two-run drive off Pedro Martinez in the second inning put the Yankees ahead for good. Nicknamed “Godzilla” back home, Matsui sent a shot to right field that banged off an advertisement on the facing of the second deck — fittingly, it was a sign for the Japanese company Komatsu, which makes mining and construction equipment.
Matsui added a two-run single in the third and lined a two-run double off the right-center field wall in the fifth. The giant videoboard in center field showed fans holding Japanese signs and while the sellout crowd roared, he stood placidly at second base.
Fans cheered when Matsui’s feat, matching Bobby Richardson’s 1960 mark for RBIs in any Series game, was posted on the scoreboard. No one, however, had ever delivered such a bounty in the game that wrapped up a championship.
Matsui drew a standing ovation when he came to bat in the seventh, and chants of “MVP! MVP!” bounced around the ballpark.
“He hit everything we threw up there,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Watching Game 6 on TV in Tokyo, Masanori Murakami echoed that sentiment. He was the first Japanese player in the majors, in 1964 with San Francisco, and fully appreciated the magnitude of Matsui’s honor.
“Ichiro Suzuki has had many accomplishments, but they’ve all been in the regular season. As the first Japanese to win an MVP in the World Series, this is a great accomplishment for Matsui and will have a huge impact,” Murakami said.
“New York is a tough place to play, so this is a great achievement for him given all he has been through with injuries and missing time,” he said.
An outfielder by trade, Matsui hasn’t played the field since June 15, 2008, because of bad knees. He hit .274 this year with 28 homers and 90 RBIs, and wasn’t much of a force in the AL playoffs against Minnesota and the Los Angeles Angels.
That changed against the defending champion Phillies.
Now strictly a DH and pinch-hitter because of bad knees, Matsui accomplished a lot in a hurry. His 13 at-bats tied Baltimore’s Rick Dempsey in 1983 for the fewest by a Series MVP (nonpitchers only, naturally), according to STATS.
“He has been a clutch player ever since I’ve known him,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Matsui became the first player to win the award as a full-time DH in the Series. Toronto DH Paul Molitor played in the field when the Blue Jays won the 1993 title.
“Oh my goodness. You can’t say enough about Matsui all year,” Yankees star Mark Teixeira said. “The biggest game of the year, unbelievable. I haven’t seen a guy hit like that in the World Series.”
Matsui became the 11th Yankees player to win the award, joining teammates Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, along with the likes of Reggie Jackson and Whitey Ford.
At 35, Matsui’s greatest achievement might’ve come in his last game in pinstripes.
Matsui hit a grand slam in his first game at old Yankee Stadium in 2003 — just like Wednesday night, New York won 7-3 and Pettitte got the victory.
This year wrapped up Matsui’s $52 million, four-year contract. It remains to be seen what the aging Yankees will do with Matsui. Whatever happens, he certainly left his mark.
“I hope so. I hope it works out that way,” he said. “I love New York, I love the Yankees.”
HBT: Controversial umpire Angel Hernandez blew another call that nearly cost the White Sox a win on Friday, earning the ire of manager Robin Ventura.
Add another near miss in this 2013 baseball season - this time it was Detroit's Anibal Sanchez falling just short of a no-hitter.
Yankees win their 27th World Series
Check out all the best action from the World Series.
Taking a look at some of the greatest catchers off all time.