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After failing to make the playoffs for the first time in 14 years the previous season, the New York Yankees made their first World Series appearance in six years in 2009.  New York earned a trip to the Fall Classic by sweeping the Minnesota Twins in three straight games in the ALDS, and then defeating the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in six games in the American League Championship Series.

Awaiting the Yankees in the World Series were the Philadelphia Phillies, who encountered few problems while advancing through the National League playoffs.  After beating the Colorado Rockies in four games in the NLDS, Philadelphia needed only five games to dispose of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.

The senior circuit’s most well-balanced team over the course of the regular season, the Phillies finished first in the N.L. East with a record of 93-69, six games ahead of the second-place Florida Marlins.  Philadelphia led the National League with 820 runs scored, 224 home runs, and a .447 team slugging percentage, placed second with 119 stolen bases, and finished sixth with a 4.16 team ERA.  J.A. Happ was Philadelphia’s most effective starter during the year, compiling a record of 12-4, to tie Joe Blanton and Jamie Moyer for the club lead in victories, while also posting a team-leading 2.93 ERA.  Yet, the Phillies’ top weapon on the mound throughout the postseason was Cliff Lee, who they acquired from Cleveland just prior to the trade deadline at the end of July.  After winning seven games for the Phillies over the season’s final two months, Lee went 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA in the National League playoffs.

The Phillies’ greatest strength, though, was their potent offense.  Philadelphia featured the senior circuit’s deepest lineup.  Jayson Werth hit 36 home runs, knocked in 99 runs, and scored 98 others.  Jimmy Rollins hit 21 homers, scored 100 runs, and stole 31 bases.  Shane Victorino batted .292 and scored 102 runs.  Raul Ibanez hit 34 home runs, knocked in 93 runs, and scored 93 others.  Chase Utley hit 31 homers, drove in 93 runs, and scored 112 others, en route to earning an eighth-place finish in the N.L. MVP voting.  Ryan Howard finished third in the balloting after hitting 45 home runs, scoring 105 runs, and leading the league with 141 runs batted in.

Even more impressive than Philadelphia’s offense was that of their World Series opponents, who finished a major-league best 103-59 during the regular season.  The Yankees led the American League with 915 runs scored, 244 home runs, a .362 team on-base percentage, and a .478 team slugging percentage, and they placed second with a team batting average of .283.  The Yankees outscored the Phillies by almost 100 runs (915 to 820), out-hit them by 25 points (.283 to .258), and compiled a much higher team on-base percentage (.362 to .334).  The quartet of Mark Teixeira (39), Alex Rodriguez (30), Nick Swisher (29), and Hideki Matsui (28) combined to hit 126 home runs, and the trio of Robinson Cano (25), Johnny Damon (24), and Jorge Posada (22) added another 71.  Teixeira (122) and Rodriguez (100) both surpassed 100 runs batted in.  Derek Jeter (107), Damon (107), Teixeira (103), and Cano (103) each scored more than 100 runs.  Meanwhile, Jeter (.334) and Cano (.320) both finished among the A.L. leaders in batting.      

New York had perhaps an even greater advantage on the mound, having finished third in the junior circuit during the regular season with a team ERA of 4.26.  C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte combined to win 46 games, with Sabathia leading all American League pitchers with 19 victories and placing among the leaders with a 3.37 ERA, 197 strikeouts, and 230 innings pitched.  The Yankees also had the game’s premier closer in Mariano Rivera, who continued to excel at age 39, saving 44 games and compiling a 1.76 ERA.  

Having an edge both at the plate and on the mound, the Yankees entered the World Series against the Phillies as a slight favorite to win their 27th world championship.

Philadelphia had other ideas, though, riding the left arm of Cliff Lee and the powerful bat of Chase Utley to a 6-1 victory in Game One, played at Yankee Stadium.  Lee went the distance for the Phillies, allowing New York only six hits, three of which came off the bat of Derek Jeter.  C.C. Sabathia also pitched well for the Yankees, surrendering only four hits to the Phillies over seven innings.  However, two of those hits were solo home runs by Chase Utley that gave Lee all the runs he needed.  Philadelphia put the game out of reach by scoring four times in the final two innings against New York’s bullpen.  The 6-1 victory not only gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead in the Series, but it also made history in that Lee joined the legendary Christy Mathewson as one of only two pitchers to begin their postseason careers with four starts in which they went at least seven innings and gave up no more than one earned run.  Lee also became the first pitcher ever to strike out at least 10 batters, walk no one, and give up no earned runs in a World Series start.

The Yankees didn’t show a great deal of offense in Game Two either, scoring only three runs and collecting just eight hits against four Philadelphia pitchers.  But Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui each homered off Pedro Martinez, to give the Yankees two of their three runs.  Meanwhile, A.J. Burnett pitched brilliantly for New York, allowing the Phillies just one run on four hits over seven innings, before turning the ball over to Mariano Rivera, who worked two scoreless innings in relief to preserve New York’s 3-1 victory.

The bats of both teams awakened when the Series shifted to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia for Game Three.  Jayson Werth connected for two home runs against Yankee starter Andy Pettitte, and Carlos Ruiz delivered a third blast for the home team against reliever Phil Hughes.  But all three homers were solo shots.  Meanwhile, the Yankees scored five times against Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels in just 4 1/3 innings, and Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, and Hideki Matsui homered off three different pitchers, as the Yankees posted an 8-5 victory that gave them a 2-1 lead in the Series.

The outcome of the fourth contest remained very much in doubt until the ninth inning.  Solo home runs by Chase Utley off Yankee starter C.C. Sabathia in the bottom of the seventh inning and Pedro Feliz off Joba Chamberlain in the following frame enabled the Phillies to overcome a 4-2 deficit.  However, New York pushed across three runs against Brad Lidge in the top of the ninth inning, with Johnny Damon making the game’s pivotal play.  After delivering a two-out single against Lidge, Damon stole second base with Mark Teixeira batting for New York.  With the Phillies employing an exaggerated shift against the lefty-swinging Teixeira, Damon continued on to third base when he noticed that Philadelphia had left the bag uncovered.  Clearly unnerved by Damon’s “mad dash,” Lidge subsequently hit Teixeira with a pitch, before surrendering a run-scoring double to Alex Rodriguez and a single to Jorge Posada that plated two more runs.  Mariano Rivera worked a perfect bottom of the ninth for the Yankees, giving them a commanding 3-1 lead in the Series.

After C.C. Sabathia’s strong outing in Game Four on only three days’ rest, Yankee manager Joe Girardi elected to start A.J. Burnett on short rest as well in Game Five.  The strategy backfired, as Burnett allowed the Phillies six runs in just two innings of work, putting New York in an early 6-1 hole against Cliff Lee.  Chase Utley reached Burnett for a three-run homer in the bottom of the first inning, before delivering a solo blast against Phil Coke in the bottom of the seventh that tied him with Reggie Jackson for the most home runs (5) in a World Series.  New York tried to mount a late comeback against Lee, scoring once in the top of the fifth inning and another three runs in the top of the eighth.  But, it was too little, too late, as Philadelphia drew to within one game of New York with an 8-6 victory.

Continuing to follow his predetermined plan of using just three starting pitchers throughout the Fall Classic, Joe Girardi handed the ball to Andy Pettitte when the Series returned to New York for Game Six.  Although the Yankee left-hander was far from perfect, surrendering three runs on four hits to the Phillies over 5 2/3 innings, he pitched well enough to earn his second win of the Series.  The Yankees scored four times in four innings against Pedro Martinez, before the Philadelphia starter gave way to Chad Durbin, who proceeded to allow the Yankees to score three runs in just 1/3 of an inning.  The big hitter for New York was designated hitter Hideki Matsui, who went 3-for-4, with a home run, a double, and six runs batted in.  Matsui’s six RBIs tied Bobby Richardson’s 1960 World Series mark for the most RBIs in a single game.  Mariano Rivera came on in the eighth inning to get the final five outs of the Yankees’ 7-3 victory that gave them their 27th world championship.  

Hideki Matsui’s three home runs, eight runs batted in, and .615 batting average earned him Series MVP honors.  Meanwhile, by winning Games Three and Six, Andy Pettitte extended his record for most career postseason wins to 18.      

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