The Bombers stunned Brad Lidge and a sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park with an astonishing ninth-inning rally on Sunday, securing Game 4 of the Fall Classic with a wild 7-4 decision, moving just nine innings away from celebrating in the Canyon of Heroes.
"I've said all along that I've felt this club has been extremely resilient all year," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We've been through some up-and-down times, and our guys have gotten back up and played extremely well. All I think about is playing a good game tomorrow."
Using the formula that fueled 103 regular-season victories and now 10 more in the postseason, the Yankees dealt a crushing defeat to the Phillies after Pedro Feliz had provided hope with a game-tying eighth-inning homer off Joba Chamberlain.
The 105th World Series may have turned for good in the top of the ninth, as Damon finished a hard-fought nine-pitch at-bat against Lidge with a two-out flared single into left field. What followed was a display of instinctual baserunning that will be replayed and referenced for years to come.
Stealing second base on a slider in the dirt, Damon knew the infield had shifted for Mark Teixeira -- who was batting left-handed -- and he executed a popup slide to see that third base was left uncovered by Feliz, who was near second. Damon instantly broke, hoping his legs had enough juice left in them to outrun Feliz to third.
Chasing the championship
|Year||Opp.||Gm 4 res.||Series res.|
|2009||PHI||W on road||????|
|2003||FLA||L on road||L in 6|
|2000||NYM||W on road||W in 5|
|1981||LA||L on road||L in 6|
|1977||LA||W on road||W in 6|
|1964||STL||L at home||L in 7|
|1962||SF||L at home||W in 7|
|1961||CIN||W on road||W in 5|
|1960||PIT||L at home||L in 7|
|1957||MIL||L on road||L in 7|
|1955||BRO||L on road||L in 7|
|1953||BRO||L on road||W in 6|
|1949||BRO||W on road||W in 5|
|1947||BRO||L on road||W in 7|
|1943||STL||W at home||W in 5|
|1941||BRO||W on road||W in 5|
|1936||NYG||W at home||W in 6|
|1921||NYG||L at home||L in 8|
"I knew Feliz covered the bag, and I knew how he caught the ball," Damon said. "When I saw him right behind me, I thought, 'Man, I hope I'm still the Johnny Damon of 21 years old and not the 35-year-old guy.'"
In the Yankees' dugout, players were speechless for a moment until they realized where Damon was going. When Damon pulled into third base safely after the footrace, the Bombers erupted into applause.
"He called himself an 'Idiot' a few years back, right?" captain Derek Jeter said, referencing Damon's nickname on the 2004 Red Sox. "He looked pretty smart on that play."
When Teixeira was hit by a pitch, Rodriguez stepped to the plate in perhaps the biggest situation of his 16-year career. Expecting Lidge to stay away from his trademark slider with Damon 90 feet away, A-Rod crushed a fastball down the left-field line for a go-ahead double.
"There's no question, I have never had a bigger hit," Rodriguez said. "When I get good pitches to hit and I put a good swing on it, good things usually happen."
Jorge Posada added a two-run single, which was enough for the Yankees, who again got to savor what an advantage they have in handing the ball to Mariano Rivera. The future Hall of Famer locked down the ninth inning with eight pitches, recording his 11th World Series save.
"It's not a luxury every team has," Jeter said. "There isn't a closer that has ever played this game that you'd want to see in that position other than him. He comes around once in a lifetime."
Ace CC Sabathia -- signed to a $161 million deal last offseason -- started and did not have his sharpest command, but he dodged damage often enough to put together a gutsy effort and depart after 6 2/3 innings, entrusting a one-run lead to the bullpen.
Sabathia hung tough against Philadelphia despite seeing Posada wear a path to the mound with frequent visits that earned a chorus of boos.
"They're a good team," Sabathia said of the Phillies. "You know, they're the defending champs. They have an American League lineup, and you have to battle. There's really no time limit on the game, so it's up to us to make sure we're making the right pitches and doing the right things."
Sabathia's 107th and final pitch was rocketed over the right-field wall for a home run by Chase Utley -- who has hit three off Sabathia during the Fall Classic -- and it was the only call Posada would second-guess.
"He was outstanding," Posada said. "He really gave us a chance to win. If we can take one pitch back, I would take the pitch that Utley hit. Everything else, you really have to give credit to the hitters. He was on."
The Yankees gave Sabathia early breathing room with two first-inning runs, and after the Phillies tied the game by scoring in the first and fourth innings, Jeter and Damon logged fifth-inning RBI singles to regain the lead from Joe Blanton, who allowed four runs in six frames.
|1.||Harry Brecheen||3||32 2/3||0.83|
|3.||Sherry Smith||3||30 1/3||0.89|
|5.||Monte Pearson||4||35 2/3||1.01|
|6.||Mariano Rivera||4||34 2/3||1.04|
|7.||Christy Mathewson||12||101 2/3||1.06|
Warnings were issued to both clubs in the first inning after A-Rod was hit by a Blanton offering, Rodriguez's third plunking of the World Series. While Rodriguez later declined to discuss being hit, TV microphones captured Rodriguez telling home-plate umpire Mike Everitt, "It's the third time. It's a little obvious."
The Yankees thought it was the best that they have seen Chamberlain in some time, with Posada calling his stuff "electric."
But Chamberlain missed his location with a fastball to Feliz, who slugged it for the game-tying homer, bringing the Philadelphia crowd back to life.
That frenzy of white towel-waving persisted for a span of just three more outs, as Damon and Rodriguez combined to suck the passion out of the building and leave the Phillies despondent about their hope of being baseball's first back-to-back World Series title team since the dynasty Bombers of the late 1990s.
"That's this team," Chamberlain said. "We just go out and pick each other up. In the bullpen, you get to go back out there tomorrow. I can't say enough of these guys for picking me up."
A.J. Burnett gets the ball on Monday evening, when the Yankees will try to topple Cliff Lee -- who beat New York with a dominant complete-game effort in Game 1 -- as the final stumbling block to a championship title.
"We won't think about that now until it's done," Damon said. "They're a great team. We're not going to count anything until our job is finished."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.