With Mariano Rivera, baseball's all-time master postseason closer, registering the final five outs, the Yankees held on for a 7-3 victory over the Phillies in Game 6 of the World Series on Wednesday night, claiming their first title since 2000.
The combination of designated hitter Hideki Matsui's six-RBI performance and lefty Andy Pettitte's strong work on three days' rest put New York in charge. The fans at Yankee Stadium began to sense early that the next chapter in team history was about to be written, and they were itching to hear "Enter Sandman," Rivera's entrance music.
They got their wish with one out in the eighth, after Damaso Marte got Ryan Howard to strike out swinging. Although Rivera gave up a double to Raul Ibanez, he got out of the eighth on a Pedro Feliz popout, before a 1-2-3 ninth.
With that, the Yankees set off a World Series celebration not seen in the Bronx since they swept the Braves in 1999.
What was turning into a blowout got a little tighter when Howard delivered a two-run homer off Pettitte in the sixth to cut the lead to four runs. Pettitte received a standing ovation from the crowd on his way off the field as Joba Chamberlain came in to relieve him with two outs in the sixth.
Chamberlain got Pedro Feliz to ground out to end the threat, and Pettitte's night was officially over, having allowed three earned runs on four hits while walking five. Chamberlain got the first two outs of the seventh but left two baserunners on with Chase Utley coming to the plate, bringing Marte in from the bullpen.
With Phil Hughes warming up in the 'pen, Marte got Utley out on a check swing to end the threat. Girardi said he was willing to use Rivera for two innings in Game 6, and Rivera was warming up in the bottom of the seventh before replacing Marte in the eighth.
Matsui, now 8-for-13 with eight RBIs in the series, put an early charge into the Yankee Stadium crowd by hitting a towering two-run homer inside the pole in right field to give the Yankees the first lead in the bottom of the second. He added a two-run single in the third and a two-run double in the fifth.
Matsui's assault was largely responsible for Pedro Martinez's night ending after four innings, replaced by right-hander Chad Durbin to start the bottom of the fifth.
Martinez threw 77 pitches before giving way to Durbin, finishing with four runs allowed on three hits while striking out five. The Yankees added a run off Durbin in the fifth on a Mark Teixeira single to score Derek Jeter, and J.A. Happ came on in relief with one out recorded, surrendering Matsui's double to put the Yankees ahead by six.
Early on, the stage was set for a duel of veteran pitchers Pettitte and Martinez. Matsui boosted the Yankees early with his homer, but the Phillies responded quickly in the top of the third, with Carlos Ruiz tripling and scoring on a Jimmy Rollins sacrifice fly, cutting the Yankees' lead to one run.
Matsui stretched the lead again with his two-run single with the bases loaded, outdueling Martinez a second time. In an eight-pitch at-bat in the second inning, Matsui's third homer of the series gave some early support to Pettitte, who put up zeroes in the first two innings before Ruiz's triple.
Pettitte, pitching on short rest in the postseason for the first time since 2003, kept the ball in the infield in the top of the first inning and shook off a walk to get through the second before buckling a bit in the third.
Martinez had to battle to get out of the bottom of the third, and didn't emerge unscathed. Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee hit the phone to get lefty J.A. Happ warming up in the bullpen after a one-out walk of Johnny Damon put runners at the corners, and Martinez followed by hitting Mark Teixeira with a pitch to load the bases, bringing Dubee out to the mound.
In the first World Series played to a sixth game since 2003, the Yankees took their first World Series title since a run of three in a row ended in 2000. The Phillies were trying to become the first team since the 1985 Royals to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win the World Series, one of only six such comebacks in 104 previous Fall Classics.
The teams split the two games at Yankee Stadium before the series shifted to Philadelphia, where the Yankees won Game 3 and Game 4 before the Phillies took Game 5 on Monday night.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.