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Johnny Damon just went on base instinct

After blooping a single to start the Yankees' game-winning rally in the ninth, he steals two bases on one pitch. 'Fortunately, it worked out,' he said.

November 02, 2009|Kevin Baxter

PHILADELPHIA — The Yankees may have scored the go-ahead run on Alex Rodriguez's ninth-inning double. But if you ask Rodriguez, they won Sunday's game two batters earlier, when Johnny Damon fouled off three two-strike pitches before blooping a single to left to start the game-winning rally.

"For me, the whole key of that whole inning was an unbelievable, tenacious at-bat by Johnny Damon," Rodriguez said. "This guy is just a great competitor. Put us in a position to get a big hit there in the ninth."

And in between his single and Rodriguez's double, Damon stole two bases on one pitch, dashing from first to second, then jumping up and continuing to third because the Phillies' infield, shifted over with Mark Teixeira batting, left the base unguarded.

"That's instinct," Yankee Manager Joe Girardi said. "[But] you'd better be sure because you've got Tex and A-Rod up. You'd better be sure."

Yet Damon, who won a footrace with Phillies third baseman Pedro Feliz, confessed it was anything but a sure bet when he took off.

"I know that I still have some decent speed left in the tank," he said. "But I knew Pedro's speed also. I mean, if it was [Angel] Chone Figgins, that might have been tough. I just went off of instinct, and fortunately it worked out."

'We're still breathing'

Although the Phillies face elimination tonight, trailing the best-of-seven series 3-1, they've led in all four games. Failing to hold leads, however, is something the team battled all season.

And if that didn't keep them from reaching the World Series, Manager Charlie Manuel is hoping it won't keep them from winning it either.

"I think we take a lot of pride on being resilient and the way we bounce back," Manuel said. "I've seen us go through this before. We've blown 22 games from the seventh on or something this year. That's got to tell you something about the resilience of our team.

"Tonight is tough. We're in the World Series now. We're down. But you know what? We're still breathing."

Family rivalry

Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee and Yankees right-hander A.J. Burnett grew up 20 months and about 10 miles apart in south-central Arkansas, making them the most famous pitching pair from the Razorback State since Dizzy and Daffy Dean.

So when they start for their respective teams tonight in what could be the deciding game of the World Series, it will be big news back home.

"They've got two country boys from Arkansas going at it," said Burnett, who will try to give the Yankees their first championship since 2000.

"We've met each other over the years and became friends and stuff, but it's not very often two guys from the state of Arkansas make it to the big leagues, much less square off against each other in the World Series," Lee said.

The pitchers share more than just a state and a World Series spotlight, though. Both are represented by the same agent, Darek Braunecker of Little Rock, a former professional pitching prospect himself. And Braunecker is refusing to make predictions or pick a favorite for tonight's game. Asked what he's rooting for, Braunecker took the diplomatic way out.

"Nine innings of shutout baseball for both and let the bullpens settle it in extra [innings]," he said.


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