It was Damon who did the real damage to Phils

While the highlights from Game Four show Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez as the ninth inning heroes for the New York Yankees, there was another player who literally stole the game from the Phillies.

If you're looking for a pivotal moment from Game Four, look no further than Johnny Damon's at-bat against Brad Lidge in the ninth inning.

With the score tied 4-4, Lidge easily disposed of the first two hitters in the ninth and had just Damon standing between him and a perfect inning. Lidge used 12 pitches to dispose of pinch-hitter Hideki Matsui and Derek Jeter. Damon stepped to the plate looking to simply make something happen.

He battled his way through eight pitches from Lidge, fouling off five pitches and taking three others for balls. With the count full, Damon saw his fifth consecutive fastball from Lidge and plopped it in front of Raul Ibanez in left.

Nine pitches later, Damon was on-base with a soft single to left, bringing Mark Teixeira to the plate. Teixeira has struggled during the series and was hitting just .071 when he headed out to face Lidge.

Even with Damon on at first, the Phillies decided to employ their shift against Teixeira, leaving just Pedro Feliz on the left side of the infield. From the moment he reached first and saw the infield move into the shift position, Damon was putting a plan into motion. His thought was that if he could get himself into scoring position, perhaps Lidge would be a little more leery of throwing his good, hard slider and if he did throw it, one might be in the dirt and Damon could take advantage of the situation.

Damon took off for second, knowing that Feliz would have to field the throw from Carlos Ruiz, which would open up the possibility of using the second part of his plan.

"Well, I think what I had to see before I could start running to third base was how Pedro caught the ball. So I knew it drug him off some. I'm just glad that when I started running, I still had some of my young legs behind me," laughed Damon after the game. When Feliz was pulled slightly off the bag to the first base side, Damon took off for an uncovered third and easily outran Feliz to the bag and put himself 90 feet away from scoring.

Manager Charlie Manuel contributed the success of the play to a lapse in concentration from his club. "It's catcher or pitcher, got to be heads up," explained Manuel about whose responsibility it is to cover third.

"We've got the shift on like that, Feliz was covering second base, and evidently there was some miscommunication there. That's the first time we've had it happen to us this year, but at the same time, somebody has got to be covering third base. Usually it's the catcher tries to get down there."

While Damon's presence on third didn't take away Lidges slider - his first two pitches to Teixeira were sliders - he certainly had put pressure on the Phillies. The third pitch to Teixeira was a fastball that plunked Teixeira, putting runners on first and third.

Now, having thrown 20 pitches and having to face Alex Rodriguez, Lidge was running on fumes. Lidge relies strictly on his fastball against Rodriguez, who took the second pitch that he saw and lined it to left for a double, putting the Yankees up 5-4 and leaving runners on second and third. Jorge Posada followed by lining a 2-2 fastball into left for a base hit that suddenly put the Yankees up 7-4. Fortunately for the Phillies, Posada tried to stretch the hit into a double and was thrown out at second.

Wearing down, Lidge over-relied on his fastball and got away from the slider that was working for him earlier in the inning. In his first 20 pitches of the inning, Lidge threw ten sliders - eight of them for strikes - but threw just three in his final ten pitches of the inning.

Had Damon's lengthy at-bat gone quicker for Lidge, he may have had enough gas left to retire Teixeira, even had Damon pulled off his personal double-steal to advance to third. But by fouling off pitch-after-pitch, Damon wore down the Phillies closer and put him in a position where he had to rely more on his fastball.

Now, the cliches start to fly as the Phillies face elimination. The fact remains that they have to win three straight against the Yankees, with two of those games coming at Yankees Stadium. The good news is that the Yankees lost at least three games in a row six times this season, but the bad news is that it hasn't happened since late July. Cliff Lee starts Game Five for the Phillies and he'll be opposed by A.J. Burnett, who is pitching on short rest to make the start.



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