So the Yankees took the 2009 World Series in 6 games, making this their 27th World Series Championship. They opened the new Millennium with a championship and closed out the first decade with a championship. They were runner's up in both 2001 and 2003 losing to the Diamondbacks and Marlins, respectively. They went to another ALCS in 2004. They are the team of the decade, hands down. Let's take a look back at my 5 game changers for the World Series and see how they held up:
1. A-Rod - Games 1 & 2: 0-8 (.000), 6 K's. Ruh-oh! Games 3-6: 5-11 (.456), 6 RBIs, 1 HR, 5 runs, 4 BBs, 2 K's, 1 game winning 2B in the 9th inning of game 4. Series Average & Total K's: 5-19 (.263), 8 K's. Throwing out games 1 & 2, the shock factor of the World Series, and after he got plunked by Cole Hammels in his first AB of game 3, A-Rod tore up the rest of the series, unlike his counterpart Ryan Howard, who set a new WS Record with 13 K's.
2. Starting Pitching - Cliff Lee was outstanding, and had he pitched every game, the Phillies may have won the series. Unfortunately for them he only pitched 2, but those 2 were wins, including his game 1 complete game, 10 K, not allowing an earned run performance, which has to be one of the greatest pitching performances I've ever seen in my life. CC was very, very good (not as good as Cliff Lee), but didn't let the Phillies not named Chase Utley do much against him - he didn't earn a W in the series. Burnett showed just how good he can be in game 2 out dueling Pedro with 7 innings of 1 run, 3 hit, 9 K ball, and then just how bad he can be in game 5, giving up 6 runs in 2+ innings. Hammels, given a 3-0 lead, imploded after 3 masterful innings, and within 8 batters was losing 5-3 and then the game 8-4, he also gave up a hit and RBI to Andy Pettite...Andy Pettite. Joe Blanton pitched a great game 4, just not great enough to earn the Phillies a win. The game changer was Pettite, earning a win in game 3, and then on three days rest a win in game 6 going 5 1/3 innings. He battled, didn't have his best stuff, but didn't let the Phillies beat him and stuck in the game.
3. Base Running - Four words: Game Four, Johnny Damon. In what has to be one of the greatest heads-up plays in World Series history, Johnny Damon stole two bases...on one pitch. I repeat: 2 bases, 1 pitch. This was the turning point of the series. Game is tied 4-4 and Brad Lidge comes in to pitch the 9th inning and gets two quick outs, including a nice strikeout on Derek Jeter for out #2. Johnny Damon comes to the plate and falls behind 1-2, proceeds to work the count full, fouls off a few pitches, and then gets a fastball up over the plate and pokes it to left center field. A nine pitch at bat that showed the peskiness of the Yankees. Damon didn't miss a beat, and on Lidge's first pitch, a slider, took off for second base. Now is where it becomes interesting: the Phillies were in a defensive shift because Teixeira was up at the plate, batting lefty against Lidge. Tex has been pulling almost everything when he bats lefty, so the shift made sense for that reason. However, a shift, like its name, shifts everyone out of position. Rollins was now playing where Utley would normally play, and Feliz, the third baseman was playing where Rollins would play. So on Damon's stolen base, Feliz covered the throw from Ruiz (who shouldn't have thrown it in the first place). Damon beat the throw, immediately noticed no one was covering third, and raced to third, recording his second stolen base in a matter of 10 seconds. This apparently unhinged Lidge. His slider, one of the best in the game, gets in the dirt a lot. With Damon on third base now, if his slider gets in the dirt and gets away from Ruiz, that would give the Yanks a 5-4 lead in the 9th. Well, Lidge decided to stay away from his slider. Second pitch to Tex, a fastball that hits him. A-Rod is up now, first pitch is a fastball inside for a ball, the second pitch is a fastball a little more over the plate and A-Rod crushes it for a double to left field, scoring Damon. Posada is up next, and hits a single in the gap, scoring Tex and A-Rod and giving the Yanks a 7-4 lead. Yanks bring in Mo, game over, 3-1 series lead. Effectively, series over.
4. Bullpen - Outside of Chan Ho Park, each Phillies reliever gave up at least one run. Hughes was ineffective in this series for the Yanks, again. Joba pitched great in game 2, was great in game 4...until he gave up the game tying home run late in the game. But he came back and pitched great in game 6. Mo, again pitched brilliantly. Rollins after game 2 said they "saw some things," and Charlie Manuel said that they "can get to Mo." Well, 4 1/3 innings later, they hadn't scored Mo. They made him pitch about 90 pitches, but even with bad ribs, Mo continued his postseason dominance and did not let up a run. The real hero out of the bullpen for the Yanks: Damaso Marte. Unhittable. His best performance game in game 6. He came in for two batters, both lefties, the Phillies 3 and 4 hitters. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Chase Utley had came to the plate with 2 men on base and 2 outs. Marte - three pitches, three strikes, one strikeout, getting Utley to commit on a check swing. Howard up next inning, three pitches, three strikes, one strikeout, getting Howard to commit a record 13th strikeout. 6 pitches, 2 strikeouts, perfect.
5. Experience - Although the experience favored the Phillies, it was the experience of the "core four" for the Yankees that won them the series. Jeter batted .440, they couldn't get to Mo, Pettite showed his grit with 2 huges wins and a game tying single in game 3, and Posada, although had a less than great series, put game 4 out of reach with his 2 run single in the 9th. Johnny Damon hit .364 in the series including the series changing moment, Pedro pitched very well for 6 innings and 3 innings in games 2 and 6, respectively, but not for a 7th inning or 4th inning. Do I even have to mention Matsui? Batted 8-13 (.615) with 3 HRs, and won the MVP as a DH. Pretty incredible. Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz were the only two Phillies who realized they played in the World Series last year (and Joe Blanton). Howard did nothing, Werth had one great offensive game, Lidge in his only appearance imploded, Hammels was awful in a stretch of 1 1/3 innings that lost his game. The guys with no experience: Cliff Lee was amazing, CC was great, Burnett was two sides of the same coin, Tex had two big hits, Marte was (almost) perfect (1 hit), Swisher was pretty bad, except for game 3 when he broke out of his slump, only to go back into it for games 4-6.
I must say, I picked the 5 defining game changers of the World Series, not to float my own boat or anything. I was at Game 6, I saw the Yankees close out a World Series, one of the greatest events of my life. I won't soon forget it. Go Yanks.