They clearly have this ability. They led the Major Leagues in runs scored this season. But this offense had not been seen in the first two games of the 2009 World Series. The Yankees had been limited to a total of four runs. They had gained a split of the first two games only because of a truly superior pitching job by A.J. Burnett in Game 2.
But Saturday night and Sunday morning in Game 3, the Yankees put together their first eruption of this Series. They went from getting nothing accomplished to five runs in a hurry. In the process, they took a 2-1 World Series lead with an 8-5 victory over the Phillies.
In the first three innings, the Yankees did not give you the appearance of being ready to set off the fireworks. They had to wait through a one-hour, 20-minute rain delay before the game. Then they had no hits through 3 1/3 innings against Cole Hamels. He had been a dominant pitcher in the 2008 playoffs, but the left-hander had been a struggling pitcher in this postseason.
The Phillies, meanwhile, had taken a 3-0 lead against Andy Pettitte, who was not as sharp as he had been in his past start, the AL Championship Series clincher against the Angels. But this all was subject to sudden change in the fourth inning.
After a walk, Alex Rodriguez hit a drive to right that was initially called a double. That ruling was overruled by a video review and became a two-run home run. Rodriguez made the abbreviated home run trot from second to home. This was yet another postseason call that umpires had booted, but since the boundary calls are reviewable, this episode ended with an appropriate decision. After this postseason, there will be more and louder calls for expanded replay. And if replay is eventually expanded, the umps will have only themselves to blame.
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|
Meanwhile, this home run gave A-Rod and his club a boost. After carrying the Yankees with a hitting performance for the ages in the first two postseason rounds, he had opened the Fall Classic with no hits in eight at-bats and six strikeouts. Plus, he had failed to handle three makeable defensive plays in the past two games, although only one of these misplays was called an error.
Was A-Rod coming into another infamous postseason slump? When he hit that home run to right at the very moment the Yankees needed it most, no, probably not.
"A big hit for us, because it really got us going," manager Joe Girardi said. "He has been so good for us in the playoffs. I mean, Alex has been a great player for a long time. He's a big reason we're at this point, what he did in the first two series.
"He has been patient and he has not tried to do too much. I mean, he hit a home run to right field, down the right-field line. To me, that tells you you're not overswinging, and he stayed in his game plan. He's been huge for us."
"Huge" was not too large as an adjective describing the effect of this home run.
"It was a big hit," Rodriguez said of his first World Series hit. "I think it woke our offense up a little bit. It felt really good, and it was a little weird to have the first home run and the replay and the whole nine yards."
The Yankees came up with three more in the fifth. That inning featured an RBI single by Pettitte, who had a solid night after a shaky start on the mound. And there was a two-run double by Johnny Damon. In the following inning, Nick Swisher, who had been locked in a serious postseason slump, hit a solo homer. The Bombers' breakout was official; everybody was capable of hitting.
Hideki Matsui, at least partially unemployed because there is no designated hitter in the National League city, rebelled against these circumstances with a pinch-hit solo homer in the eighth. The Yankees have had much bigger nights, but given the way this Series had gone in the first two games, eight runs and three home runs was a real outburst.
Even for a team such as the Yankees, with more run-producing talent than anybody else in baseball, there is nothing automatic about scoring runs at this level, in this company, at this time.
"The thing about hitting this time of year, you're going to struggle at times, because you're facing the best pitching," Girardi said.
Even New York struggled to score in the first two games of this World Series. But in Game 3, given a major boost by Rodriguez, the Yankees found their offense and then found themselves leading in the Series.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.