- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 1, 2009

PHILADELPHIA — The explosion was bound to happen at some point before the 105th World Series concluded. The New York Yankees simply have too much firepower spread across their lineup to be stymied over the course of an entire series.

And what better place to rediscover it than in the hitter-friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park, no matter the presence of the Philadelphia Phillies or on-and-off rain showers?

Unfazed by any of that, the Yankees came out Saturday night and won Game 3 as only they could: by slugging the Phillies and their waterlogged fans into submission, seizing control of this World Series in the process.

Behind a trio of home runs — including Alex Rodriguezs first of the Fall Classic — New York overcame Andy Pettittes early struggles on the mound and emerged with an 8-5 victory that wasnt complete until the wee hours Sunday morning.

The Yankees, producers of a major league best 244 regular season homers, had been held in check by Philadelphias pitchers during Games 1 and 2 in the Bronx. But they knew they wouldnt be held down forever, and they picked an opportune time to get themselves back on track.

The thing about hitting this time of year, youre going to struggle at times because youre facing the best pitching, manager Joe Girardi said.

Girardis team is suddenly in the drivers seat of the series, up two games to one with ace CC Sabathia returning to the hill for Game 4 Sunday night.

We know theres a lot of work left to do, Pettitte said, though as he admitted: This was a big win for us.

The date on the calendar was different and the team in the visiting dugout was different, but the scene surrounding Game 3 of the 2009 World Series bore a striking resemblance to Game 3 of the 2008 World Series in this very ballpark. Heavy rain delayed the start of that game 91 minutes, at which point the Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays (knotted at one win a piece) finally commenced a wild game into the wee hours of the night.

Rain likewise pushed back the start of Saturdays game 80 minutes, leaving a sellout crowd of 46,061 soaked and extra anxious to get this one going. Once the skies cleared and the infield was prepared, they were treated to a wild, back-and-forth affair that couldnt seem to stick to any one storyline.

It began as a brilliant display of pitching by Cole Hamels, who bounced back from three ragged outings earlier this postseason to retire 10 of the first 11 batters he faced and position himself to again be the Phillies Fall Classic hero.

But just when the words no-hitter were beginning to be uttered around the ballpark, Hamels collapsed in a heap, beginning with a fourth-inning drive to the right field wall by Rodriguez that wound up making World Series history. The line shot was originally ruled a double by umpire Jeff Nelson, but Rodriguez and Girardi immediately argued it cleared the fence and should have been a home run.

After a brief conference among themselves, four of the six crew members retreated underneath the stands for the first instant replay review in postseason history. Less than two minutes later, they returned and signaled home run, confirming what anyone watching at home had seen themselves: the ball clearly struck a camera above the fence.

It really was a big hit, said Rodriguez, who has now hit six homers in these playoffs. I think it woke our offense up a little bit. It felt really good.

The two-run shot cut the Phillies lead to 3-2 and served as precursor to Hamels eventual meltdown. That came one inning later, when the formerly unhittable lefty allowed five of six New York batters to reach, three of them scoring. Even Pettitte got into the act, blooping a run-scoring single to center — hes the first Yankees pitcher to record a World Series RBI since Jim Bouton in 1964 — and later scoring on Johnny Damons two-run double.

Thus ended Hamels up-and-down night, the savior of the Phillies championship run a year ago still a major cause for concern this time around.

Its just unfortunate, Hamels said. In the fifth inning, I wasnt able to put them where I wanted to. I left too many over the palte.

The young leftys veteran opponent in Game 3, Pettitte, looked destined to join him in the goat department. But after a ragged opening act, the winningest pitcher in postseason history rediscovered his form.

For two innings, Pettitte was all out of sorts, unable to get on the same page with batterymate Jorge Posada, unable to keep his mind off Philadelphias baserunners. By the end of the second, he had allowed three runs (one of them coming on a bases-loaded walk) and thrown a whopping 51 pitches.

But just as quickly as Hamels imploded, Pettitte rebounded. He breezed through the Phillies lineup the second time around, and though Jayson Werth tagged his second solo homer of the night, he managed to get through the sixth in line for the win.

It never really felt good, he said. I started getting a few balls to where I wanted to get them. But it was a battle tonight.

Three tack-on runs against Philadelphias bullpen, including homers by Nick Swisher and Hideki Matsui, gave New Yorks beleaguered relief corps some breathing room and allowed the visitors to cruise to victory by the end of a long and soggy night at the ballpark that left the home club in a precarious position.

We know that we just have to play one game at a time, Hamels said. No matter what we do, we just have to win three more.

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