11/02/09 2:02 AM EST
Collapse in ninth pushes Phils to edge
Utley, Feliz homer late, but Yanks score three off Lidge
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
The flashbacks eventually took their toll.
Game 4 of the 2009 World Series is a game that is unlikely to be forgotten, and Lidge seemed to understand that as he stood in the middle of the Phillies' clubhouse Saturday night to recount the critical 7-4 loss to the Yankees. A ninth-inning collapse gave the Yanks a 3-1 lead in the Fall Classic, putting the Phils' hopes to become the first National League team to win consecutive World Series since the 1975-76 Reds on life support.
"I was one pitch away from getting out of there," Lidge said.
The Phillies are one loss away from ending their season, unless left-hander Cliff Lee outduels Yankees right-hander A.J. Burnett in Game 5 on Monday night and the Phillies win Games 6 and 7 at Yankee Stadium.
"This team is really resilient," Phillies right-hander Joe Blanton said. "It takes a lot to get us down, and I don't think this will. I haven't seen anything that has since I've been here."
Philadelphia had tied the game in the eighth when Pedro Feliz hit a solo home run to left field against Yankees right-hander Joba Chamberlain. Lidge started the ninth and got Hideki Matsui to pop out to shortstop Jimmy Rollins for the first out and struck out Derek Jeter swinging for the second out.
He looked good.
He looked dominating.
He got Johnny Damon into a 1-2 count, but Damon pieced together a fantastic nine-pitch at-bat and singled to left field.
The Phillies deployed a defensive shift for Mark Teixeira's at-bat, which proved critical when Damon stole second base. As Damon popped up, he noticed nobody was covering third because third baseman Pedro Feliz was covering second and Rollins was backing up the throw.
Damon had a clean shot at third and took it. Feliz tried to chase down Damon, but he had no chance. Lidge headed toward third, but it was too late.
Damon was on third with two outs.
"I just went off instinct and fortunately it worked out," Damon said.
A shocked sellout crowd wondered what had just happened.
"To be honest, that's not really something you go over a lot," Lidge said. "I don't know who is supposed to cover third on that. It was kind of a weird play where no one ends up being there and it becomes a foot race and he's faster than I am. It's kind of an unusual play. You're kind of out of sorts and then all of a sudden, there's just nobody at the bag."
LIDGE'S SURGE ENDS
Rollins said it was his fault.
"I make sure the pitcher knows that he knows on a steal he has to cover third," Rollins said. "At that time, I didn't really mention anything to Brad, so when he made the pitch, in his mind, it was just a regular steal. But with the way the defense is set up, it's my job he makes sure he knows to go to third. I'm the captain of the infield. That's my job. I did it before when Chan Ho [Park] was pitching and I just didn't do it that time."
Lidge appeared to become unglued with the go-ahead run suddenly 90 feet away. He plunked Teixeira with a pitch to put runners at the corners. Alex Rodriguez then ripped a 1-0 fastball to left field for a double to score Damon to give the Yankees a 5-4 lead. Jorge Posada followed with a single to left to score Teixeira and Rodriguez to make it a three-run game.
Lidge said Damon's double steal didn't affect him in his following at-bats.
"No, no," he said.
But the questions did. Lidge talked for roughly 15 minutes in the center of the clubhouse. He sounded fine at the start, but toward the end his voice clearly started to waver as he answered the same questions about the inning and about how the Phillies are on the brink of elimination.
But the Phillies had their chances before the ninth-inning catastrophe. They were just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position against Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia.
Blanton allowed five hits, four runs and two walks and struck out seven in six innings. The two runs he allowed in the fifth to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead came on a walk, an infield hit, a seeing-eye single to left and a flare to right.
They counted just the same.
The Phillies scored a run in the bottom of the first when Shane Victorino and Chase Utley, who homered twice off Sabathia in Game 1, both doubled to make it 2-1. Sabathia retired eight of the next nine batters he faced when Ryan Howard, who is 2-for-14 with 10 strikeouts in the World Series, hit a leadoff single to center field in the fourth.
Howard stole second and Feliz hit a two-out single to left. Damon, who does not have a strong arm, made a basket catch as the ball hopped up to him before he threw home. The throw arrived at the same time as Howard, and Howard plowed into Posada.
Howard jarred the ball loose to tie the game at 2.
Howard actually never touched home plate, but nobody noticed as the inning continued.
The Phils had more opportunities to score against Sabathia. Utley was on second with one out in the first, but never scored. They had runners on first and second with no outs in the fifth, but nobody scored. They had a runner on second with two outs in the sixth, but couldn't score.
Utley hit a solo homer to right field in the seventh off Sabathia to cut the Yanks' lead to 4-3. Feliz then homered in the eighth to tie it.
Then came the ninth.
Lidge struck out Rays pinch-hitter Eric Hinske to record the final out to clinch the 2008 World Series championship. The image of Lidge dropping to his knees and catcher Carlos Ruiz hugging him has become iconic in Philadelphia.
Lidge was asked how disappointing it would be if Sunday night is his final memory of 2009.
"It would be disappointing for everybody. We're here to win," Lidge said. "Everybody, of course, would be disappointed if we don't win. That's the goal. That's why we're here."
Winning became much more difficult after Sunday night's loss, and nobody knew that more than Lidge.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.