Saturday, they finally justified it. Sparked by Alex Rodriguez's replay-assisted two-run home run, aided by Nick Swisher's sudden rush of offense and capped by Hideki Matsui's pinch-hit power, the Yankees bashed out eight runs in their 8-5 win in Game 3 of the World Series, their greatest offensive output since Game 4 of the ALCS.
"It was just a great day," Swisher said, and it surprised precisely none of them. They were waiting for this surge.
"All those guys are Major League players," closer Mariano Rivera said. "They're capable of doing that. Just because they've been cold, doesn't mean they can't break out one night. They did tonight."
Against Cole Hamels, the offense sparked to life in the fourth inning, when Rodriguez hit a ball off a television camera in right field. Umpires, after the first instant replay review in postseason history, correctly ruled it a two-run home run.
Before the hit, Rodriguez had been 0-for-8 in World Series play.
Next in line was Swisher, who doubled to right field to lead off the fifth, later coming around to score on -- who else? -- Andy Pettitte's RBI single.
Before the hit, Swisher was 0-for-3 in World Series play and 4-for-35 in the postseason.
Flying out in Philly
|10/27/89||A's (5), Giants (2)||7|
|10/31/09 *||Yankees (3), Phillies (3)||6|
|10/26/08 *||Phillies (4), Rays (2)||6|
|10/20/02||Giants (4), Angels (2)||6|
|10/14/75||Red Sox (3), Reds (3)||6|
|10/4/53||Yankees (4), Dodgers (2)||6|
|10/1/32||Yankees (4), Cubs (2)||6|
Sense a trend?
Six Yankees in all recorded hits, six drove in runs and two homered. The Yankees were aided by fortuitous circumstances, such as when Shane Victorino couldn't handle Derek Jeter's sinking liner in the fifth inning, transforming it from a potential out into a rally-extending single. And they reaped the benefits of a sudden power surge, homering three times as a team.
"Offense is all about one thing: swinging at strikes," Rodriguez said, harping on the message that hitting coach Kevin Long has drilled into his head. "A walk is as good as a hit, and be patient. Wear him down a little bit. Make him make some tough, tough pitches to get us out."
The feel-good headlines went to Swisher, who was benched in Game 2 in favor of Jerry Hairston Jr., and who was no lock to start Game 3 against the Phillies. Needing a hit for his confidence, Swisher rapped out two, including a solo homer off J.A. Happ with one out in the sixth.
"I think tonight just really, really turned things around for me," Swisher said. "Obviously, this postseason has been kind of a struggle for me, but I'll tell you what, I think the real thanks from me definitely goes to my teammates. My manager, those guys have never lost faith in me. And my family, they've been behind me this whole way. It's different. When you're in the postseason and you're in New York, it's completely different than anywhere else I've ever been."
Right. Because in New York, production like this is expected.
NO DH? NO PROBLEM
For no player is that more true than Rodriguez, who carried the Yankees throughout the first two rounds of the postseason before falling into a miniature funk in the first two games of the World Series. A third straight 0-fer would have placed Rodriguez even more squarely in the crosshairs of criticism.
More than that, it would have burned a hole in the middle of the Yankees' lineup. So Rodriguez and his teammates were grateful for his homer, one of the four times he reached base.
"We got some pitches to hit and we had some good swings," Jeter said. "You just try to have good at-bats. Sometimes you're going to have good at-bats and guys are going to get the best of you. Today, we were able to find some holes."
Not to mention to knock a few over the wall. Confined to the bench due to manager Joe Girardi's hesitation to use him in the outfield for the first time this season, Matsui pinch-hit in the pitcher's spot in the eighth inning, drilling a Brett Myers pitch over the left-field wall for a homer.
|A. Pettitte||NYY||'09 Gm 3||Single|
|D. Matsuzaka||BOS||'07 Gm 3||Single *|
|C. Ogea||CLE||'97 Gm 6||Single *|
|D. Cone||TOR||'92 Gm 2||Single|
|M. Moore||OAK||'89 Gm 7||Double *|
|M. Boddicker||BAL||'83 Gm 3||Sac fly|
|T. Stoddard||BAL||'79 Gm 4||Single|
|K. Holtzman||OAK||'74 Gm 4||Home run|
He was the sixth and final Yankees player to drive in a run on the night, helping the Yankees amass their greatest World Series run total since Game 2 in 1998.
"We felt like our at-bats were starting to get better," said left fielder Johnny Damon, who finished 1-for-4 with a double, a walk and two RBIs. "We made [Hamels] throw strikes. And when you do that with our ballclub, we're capable of doing some good things."
Now, with up to four games remaining in two of the league's foremost hitters' ballparks, the Yankees have reestablished themselves as an offensive power.
"That's what you hope for," Jeter said. "That's been one of our strengths throughout the year is we get contributions from the whole lineup. It's not always going to happen. There are going to be times when people struggle, and you hope other guys can step up and do a good job. But today it seemed like we got contributions from a lot of people."
Count Pettitte among them. Now with four career World Series hits to his credit -- "more than some people in our clubhouse," Damon cracked -- Pettitte, with a looping RBI single off Hamels in the fifth, shuffled into the ranks of the prolific New York offense.
"I always tell him, 'I don't care how you pitch,'" Jeter said, laughing. "Just get a hit."
On this night, it was a motto all the Yankees could embrace.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.