Monday, March 26, 2012

2009 World Series: Home Run Derby

The Teams
American League: New York Yankees (103-59) - 40th World Series (won 26 previous times)
National League: Philadelphia Phillies (93-69) - Sixth World Series (won in 1980, 2008)

What Happened
It wasn't so much of a World Series as it was a home run derby. The Phillies and Yankees hit a combined .237 in the 2009 World Series, but combined to bash 17 home runs and 23 doubles. A lot of times, it seemed like the two offenses were just sitting around waiting for somebody to hit the next big home run.

I suppose it wasn't too surprising. Both teams easily lead their leagues in home runs, and between them, 16 of their 17 regular starters reached double-digits in home runs. They both had one solid ace pitcher leading an otherwise so-so staff. But there was no question about it: These were good, deep teams who should have been known as more than just power-hitting behemouths.

Only one team looked powerful in Game 1, as Philadelphia's Cliff Lee struck out 10 in a complete-game victory over the Yankees' C.C. Sabathia. Sabathia did well himself, giving up only a pair of solo home runs to Chase Utley in his seven innings, but the Yankees bullpen betrayed them, and Philadelphia scored four runs in the final two innings to close it out.

In Game 2, A.J. Burnett surprisingly shut down Philadelphia and the Yankees hit two home runs off Pedro Martinez as they tied the series. The series moved to Philadelphia in Game 3, and the fireworks started there. Each team hit three home runs in Game 3 as the Yankees came back from 3-0 down to win 8-5; Sabathia pitched Game 4 on short rest, and though he gave up two more home runs, he led the Yankees to a 3-1 series lead.

Game 5 was Lee's turn, and he was backed by three Phillie home runs to take an 8-2 lead into the eighth inning. But then, he tired, and the Yankees got three runs off him in the 8th and one more in the 9th before the rally fizzled. Though the Phillies won the game they needed to win, the Yankees comeback made couldn't have made them feel too good about themselves. Game 6 was back in New York, with Martinez back on the hill for Philadelphia. The Yankees knocked him out after four innings with a 4-1 lead, then scored three more to take a commanding lead. They were done scoring, but they had scored more than enough to clinch their 27th World Series title.

Defining Game
The Yankees played nearly 1,600 innings in the 2009 season, but no inning was more important than the 9th inning of Game 4 against Philadelphia. With the Yankees holding a 2-1 lead in the series, the Phillies twice came back from 2-run deficits. After Pedro Feliz hit a two-out home run in the bottom of 8th to tie the game, the teams entered the ninth inning knowing that it was very possible that the next team to score would win not only the game but the World Series.

Facing embattled Phillie closer Brad Lidge, the first two Yankee hitters went down quietly in the ninth, bringing up Johnny Damon, who was no stranger to postseason heroics. After falling behind 1-2, Damon called on his experience, fouling off three two-strike pitches and working the count full before lining a single the opposite way to get on base. He wasn't done there, either, as he stole second and third on the same pitch to open the next at bat. Rattled, Lidge hit Mark Teixeira with the next pitch to bring up Alex Rodriguez. After taking a strike, Rodriguez ripped a double to left field to score Damon and move Teixeira to third. The next batter was Jorge Posada, who drove Rodriguez and Teixeira home to make it a three-run lead. With Mariano Rivera coming in for the bottom of the ninth, that three-run lead might as well have been a 13-run cushion. The Yankees had their series-turning victory, sparked by a nine-pitch at bat from a World Series veteran.

Damon's at bat:

Damon's steals:

Though he only started the three games played in New York because of the DH rule, Hideki Matsui was the runaway choice for Series MVP. With a team leading .615 average, three home runs and eight runs batted in, it would have been foolish to go with anybody else.

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

Philadelphia 6 1 5 4 8 3
New York 1 3 8 7 67

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:

78. 2009 - New York (A) def. Philadelphia (N) 4-2
79. 1984 - Detroit (A) def. San Diego (N) 4-1
Numbers 80-89
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

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