- The Washington Times - Monday, November 2, 2009

PHILADELPHIA — Forget about the 49 other guys in uniform. This is Alex Rodriguez’s World Series, and everyone else is just a bystander in the long-awaited arrival of baseball’s greatest player on its grandest stage.

The New York Yankees third baseman has been the center of attention since the regular season ended four weeks ago and the postseason began. And after A-Rod came through yet again in a crucial situation Sunday night, the Yankees now find themselves on the cusp of a World Series title.

With a line-drive double to left in the ninth off Philadelphia Phillies closer Brad Lidge, Rodriguez drove in the go-ahead run that paved the way for New York’s 7-4 victory in Game 4.

“There’s no question, I’ve never had a bigger hit,” the controversial star said.

A subsequent two-run single by Jorge Posada only padded the Yankees’ lead and made life easier for Mariano Rivera to finish things off in the bottom of the inning and send a crowd of 46,145 at Citizens Bank Park home disgusted.

Imagine how upset those same fans will be Monday night if the Yankees finish the series off and celebrate their 27th World Series title in the middle of the same diamond that hosted the Phillies’ championship dog pile one year ago.

“We take a lot of pride on being resilient and the way we bounce back,” Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. “Tonight is tough. At the same time, we’re down but we’re still breathing.”

If New York clinches in Game 5, surely Rodriguez will be front and center of it all, perhaps the biggest contributor to his team’s first championship in nine years and the first of his otherwise sparkling career. The slugger’s game-winning hit Sunday represented his 15th RBI of the postseason, matching the Yankees’ playoff record.

“He’s the reason why we’re sitting here,” said teammate Johnny Damon, who scored the go-ahead run after swiping two bases on one play earlier in the ninth. “Without him, who knows where our road may have stopped at.”

Rodriguez’s clutch hit came moments after his bullpen blew a 4-3 lead and allowed the Phillies to turn another pedestrian ballgame compelling again.

Clinging to that slim lead in the eighth following a solid-but-not-spectacular effort from ace CC Sabathia on short rest, the Yankees asked Joba Chamberlain to record three outs and get the ball to Rivera. The husky right-hander was downright dominant in striking out Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez on 96 mph high heaters, but he left another of those fastballs just enough over the plate for Pedro Feliz to knock the ball into the left-field bleachers and tie the game.

“Joba was throwing the ball great; I think it’s the best he’s thrown the ball in the bullpen for us thus far,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Then he makes a mistake to Feliz.”

No matter, because the Yankees stormed right back to recapture the lead. After Lidge retired the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the ninth, Damon battled through a nine-pitch at-bat before singling to left. Then he surprised everyone in the park by stealing second and proceeding directly to third upon realizing no Philadelphia infielders were covering the base while shifted around to the right with Mark Teixeira at the plate.

“I’m just glad that when I started running, I still had some of my young legs behind me,” said Damon, who turns 36 Thursday.

Perhaps rattled by the whole situation, Lidge then plunked Teixeira, setting the stage for Rodriguez to drive his double to the left field corner and further distance himself from his past October failures and his connection to performance enhancing drugs.

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