Matsui lifts Yankees to 27th World Series win
Drives in 6 runs in Game 6 victory over 2008 champion Phillies
Pedro Martinez played a huge part in Hideki Matsui's biggest World Series game. So, too, did New York Yankees teammate Derek Jeter and several other elite American League players.
Matsui, who was unable to play the outfield in Games 3, 4 and 5 in Philadelphia because of a bad left knee, returned to the lineup Wednesday night as New York's designated hitter and drove in six runs, including four off Martinez, to lead the Yankees to a 7-3 win and their 27th World Series title.
"It's awesome," Matsui said through a translator. "Unbelievable. I'm surprised myself."
Matsui's performance was good enough to clinch Series MVP honours — the first time a Japanese-born player has achieved the feat — and tie Bobby Richardson for the most RBIs in a single World Series game. Richardson did it for the Yankees in Game 3 against Pittsburgh in 1960.
7th heaven for George
Shortstop Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees said throughout the post-season they wanted to win another title for George Steinbrenner.
The frail owner was in Tampa, Fla., when New York beat Philadelphia 7-3 on Wednesday night to win the World Series, but there's no doubt the outcome brought a smile to his face.
"He's the reason we're here," Jeter said. "First of all, we wouldn't be in this stadium if it wasn't for him. We wouldn't have this group together if it wasn't for him. This is a special moment. We all tried to win it for him. He deserves it."
It was the 79-year-old Steinbrenner's seventh crown since he bought the team in 1973 and first since turning over the day-to-day operation of the team to his son, Hal, last November.
"Dad, I know you're at home watching with Mom," Hal Steinbrenner said after he accepted the championship trophy. "This one is for you."
George Steinbrenner has made few public appearances since his health deteriorated in recent years. He attended the first two games against the Phillies, returning to the new Yankee Stadium for the first time since opening day.
"He built this ballpark for us," Game 6 winner Andy Pettitte said. "He put this team together. He set a standard for us to uphold. These guys embraced it, and that makes it even sweeter to accomplish what we did."
It was also more than enough support for 37-year-old New York starter Andy Pettitte, who went 5 2/3 innings on three days' rest to earn his 18th career post-season and sixth to end a series — both major league records — before 50,315, the largest crowd in the inaugural season at new Yankee Stadium.
Mariano Rivera recorded the final five outs against last year's champions to cement New York's first Series championship since 2000, when the Yankees downed the New York Mets in five games.
"It feels better than I remember it," Jeter, who batted .423 in this Series, said. "It's been a long time."
In a fitting coincidence, this championship came eight years to the day that the Yankees lost Game 7 of the 2001 World Series in Arizona on Luis Gonzalez's broken-bat single off Rivera.
Joba leads victory lap
Moments after the final out, Joba Chamberlain and Nick Swisher led a victory lap around the warning track, carrying flags that read "2009 World Series champions."
Players high-fived fans, then sprayed bubbly behind the mound — the same sort of celebration Philadelphia enjoyed last year after beating Tampa Bay.
Matsui, who hit a solo home run off Martinez in the sixth inning of Game 2, got to the Phillies right-hander earlier on Wednesday.
With Martinez seemingly ailing — his fastball registered only 81 m.p.h. in the first inning — the left-handed hitting Matsui ripped an 89 m.p.h. heater into the seats inside the right-field foul pole to score Alex Rodriguez.
After Philadelphia cut the lead in half in the top of the third, Matsui drilled an 0-2 pitch up the middle in the bottom of the inning to score Jeter and Johnny Damon to make it 4-1. Damon strained his right calf running to home plate and was replaced in left field by Jerry Hairston Jr.
Matsui put the game out of reach at 7-1 in the fifth, clubbing a two-run double off the base of the fence in right-centre for his seventh and eighth RBIs of the Series and 12th and 13th of the 2009 post-season.
Reggie Jackson's three homers in Game 6 against the Los Angeles Dodgers made the Yankees champs in '77. On this November night, Matsui delivered a sublime performance at the plate that must have made Mr. October proud.
A big reason Matsui got the opportunity to play Game 6 hero dates back to this year's all-star game, in which Jeter scored two runs in a 4-3 AL win over its National League counterpart.
Since 2003, the all-star winner has been awarded home-field advantage in the World Series.
Matsui finished the 105th Series with eight hits in 13 at-bats in six games against the Phillies for a .615 average. The soon-to-be free agent also scored three runs.
Pettitte allowed three runs, four hits and five walks. Chamberlain and Damaso Marte combined for 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief before Rivera took over.
"You don't look at it as a failure," said Howard, who set a Series record with 13 strikeouts. "We had a great season. We just got beat by the better team."
For Rodriguez, the season certainly ended a lot better than it started — with a steroids scandal, followed by hip surgery that kept him out until May.
"My teammates, coaches and the organization stood by me and now we stand here as world champions," said Rodriguez, who admitted using steroids from 2001-03 while with Texas. "We're going to enjoy it, and we're going to party!"
For Chase Utley and the Phillies, it was a frustrating end to another scintillating season. Philadelphia fell two wins short of becoming the first NL team to repeat as World Series champions since the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds.
Utley tied Jackson's record with five home runs in a Series. But Howard's sixth-inning homer came too late to wipe away his World Series slump, and Phillies pitchers rarely managed to slow Matsui and the Yankees' machine.
"I told them that I loved the way they played. We're fighters and never quit," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We want to keep what we got as far as attitude and chemistry."
The Yankees may or may not keep Matsui, the toast of the Bronx.
With files from The Associated Press