BRONX, NY – Hideki Matsui has hit a lot of home runs in his long and storied career, but none bigger than his blast that evened up the World Series on Thursday night.
Matsui’s solo shot off Philadelphia’s Pedro Martinez in the sixth inning of Game 2 broke a 1-1 stalemate and was the key blow in the Yankees’ 3-1 victory over the Phillies.
When healthy, Matsui has been one of the most consistent Yankees since arriving from Japan in 2003. But his troublesome knees have given rise to doubt that he will return to the Bronx in 2010. For one night, he puts those doubts to rest.
“Matsui has been huge for us all year,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
The former Tokyo Giants legend posted 28 homers and 90 RBIs in 142 games this season, and his second homer of the playoffs is proof he remains a vital part of the team’s offense.
On the mound, New York was even more impressive.
After A.J. Burnett allowed the Phillies their first – and only – run of the game on an RBI single by Matt Stairs in the second inning, the Yankee offense was quiet until Mark Teixeira homered to right-center leading off the fourth to tie the game at 1-1.
The Bombers got another run in the seventh, when Jerry Hairston led off the inning with a base hit. Brett Gardner pinch-ran, and reached third on a perfectly executed hit-and-run by Melky Cabrera, and scored on Jorge Posada’s pinch-hit single.
Burnett had a solid outing, striking out nine, including Ryan Howard three times, in his seven innings of work to earn his first-ever Series win. Thought by some to be the weak link in the Yankees’ rotation coming into the postseason, Burnett’s gutsy performance saved the bullpen any extra work after a terrible showing in the Game 1 defeat.
Instead, Mariano Rivera, like he did in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Angels, got the final six outs for the save.