11/05/09 3:45 AM EST
World Champions in the BronXXVII
Matsui ties mark with six RBIs; Pettitte gets 'W' in clincher
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
It was the dream that the franchise had waited nine years to fulfill, and as the players clustered to celebrate the perfect ending to the inaugural season at Yankee Stadium, they can finally -- and forever -- claim that the 27th championship is theirs.
"You realize how difficult it is to get here," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "I never lost sight of the fact that it's very difficult to get to the World Series, let alone to win one. You realize and remember how hard it is."
With Mariano Rivera inducing Shane Victorino to hit an easy ground ball to second base for the 27th and final out, the Yankees' mission statement was complete on Wednesday, frozen in the history books with a 7-3 victory over the Phillies in Game 6 of the World Series.
"This is what the Steinbrenner family has strived for, year after year -- to deliver to the city of New York," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "To be able to deliver this to the Boss, the stadium that he created and the atmosphere around here, it's very gratifying to all of us."
In what may have been their final games in pinstripes, Hideki Matsui tied a World Series record with six RBIs and Andy Pettitte stepped up on three days' rest to green-light what promises to be a raucous celebration parade down the Canyon of Heroes on Friday starting at 11 a.m. ET.
"This is what you set out to do when you go to Spring Training," Pettitte said. "It's a great feeling to be able to accomplish with the rest of the team. This is what you play for."
Superb in Game 6
|Year||Opp.||Gm 6 res.||Series res.|
|2009||PHI||W at home||W in 6|
|2001||ARI||L on road||L in 7|
|1996||ATL||W at home||W in 6|
|1978||LA||W on road||W in 6|
|1977||LA||W at home||W in 6|
|1962||SF||L on road||W in 7|
|1956||BRO||L on road||W in 7|
|1953||BRO||W at home||W in 6|
|1951||NYG||W at home||W in 6|
|1947||BRO||L at home||W in 7|
|1936||NYG||W on road||W in 6|
|1926||STL||L at home||L in 7|
|1923||NYG||W on road||W in 6|
|1921||NYG||L at home||L in 8|
With old foe Pedro Martinez standing in the way of the end to a nine-year title drought, Matsui starred on the biggest stage of his career, belting a two-run homer and drilling a two-run single off the Phillies right-hander to provide Pettitte, the old workhorse, with a cushy advantage.
"My first and foremost goal when I joined the Yankees was to win the world championship," Matsui said. "Certainly, it's been a long road and a very difficult journey. I'm just happy that after all these years, we were able to win and reach the goal that I had come here for."
Once a fresh face of the dynasty, Pettitte tugged the bill of his cap low over flecks of gray hair and prayed that his left arm could deliver the World Series rings with one more night to remember -- this start on short rest, an equation that has given him mixed results over the years.
Pettitte needn't have worried, attacking the Phillies' lineup and holding the National League champions to three runs over 5 2/3 innings, earning every decibel of a standing ovation from the crowd of 50,035 as he jogged off the field.
"My command wasn't real good, but I was able to get through it and make some pitches when I had to," Pettitte said. "I'm just very thankful for that."
Descending the dugout steps while acknowledging the roar, Pettitte and those behind him in relief allowed Girardi to make the easiest decision he has had all postseason -- put the ball in the right hand of Rivera, the best closer history has ever known, and wait to celebrate.
"Game over," Jeter said. "He's human. He's going to give up some runs here and there. But a four-run lead? C'mon, man. We could have gone and played another nine innings."
"I can't be happier than I am right now with this special team that we have," Rivera said. "We worked hard for this one. It's a beautiful thing."
The on-field exultation would not have been possible without Matsui, who played in the 2003 World Series after coming over from Japan and saw the franchise fall into a dry postseason patch, wondering if he would have the opportunity to feel the exhilaration of a New York championship.
Matsui put the Yankees back on top with a hard-fought at-bat against Martinez in the second inning, belting the eighth pitch for a high, arcing drive that landed in the second deck of the right-field grandstands -- the third home run of this World Series for the Series MVP.
"Matty has been a clutch player ever since I met him," Girardi said. "Again, he was just clutch. We missed him dearly last year. It just shows you the determination and heart."
The homer was a crushing early blow against Martinez, who was loudly serenaded with ringing chants of "Who's Your Daddy?" -- a leftover from 2004, when Martinez eventually got the last laugh. Not this time, as Matsui struck in the fourth with a bullet liner that brought home Jeter and Johnny Damon.
Jete in the elite
Teixeira touched Chad Durbin for a run-scoring single in the fifth inning, and Matsui blasted the capping blow later in the inning, a two-run double off lefty J.A. Happ. The six RBIs from Matsui tied a Major League record set by Bobby Richardson in Game 3 of the 1960 World Series.
More importantly, it put the champagne on ice in anticipation of the Yankees' 11th postseason win after 103 in the regular season, leaving them as the last team standing and uncorking a raucous, loud celebration at Yankee Stadium and throughout the five boroughs of New York City.
"This is the top -- winning a championship for the New York Yankees, I just feel so blessed," Teixeira said. "It's such a blessing to be a part of this group."
It was a journey that began when the Yankees steamrolled the Twins in the American League Division Series. New York then emerged victorious in a hard-fought AL Championship Series to topple the nemesis Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before meeting the NL's best in the 105th Fall Classic.
Philadelphia presented a challenge, especially after ace Cliff Lee handcuffed the Bombers' potent lineup in the first World Series game played at the new Yankee Stadium, but the Yankees won three straight before losing Game 5, providing the opportunity to celebrate the championship at home.
"It takes a lot to be here," catcher Jorge Posada said. "We were spoiled in the 1990s and 2000, so to be back and win it is really special."
To hear the Yankees talking about the anticipation driving them, this push was for the "core four," as Jeter, Pettitte, Posada and Rivera returned to their glorious youth, partying like it was 2000 all over again and acquiring a fifth ring for the thumb -- 3,296 days after the last one.
"This is what you dream of as a kid," Jeter said. "It doesn't get any bigger than this. You've got to enjoy it when the spotlight is on."
It was the wish of those who have put in their time without having the opportunity to taste the sweetness of that stage, like Matsui and Alex Rodriguez, who played major parts in powering the Yankees here after coming to New York years earlier and being rebuffed time and time again.
"I've been humbled -- I've been through a lot," Rodriguez said. "And I can't be happier with the way the Steinbrenner family, the coaches and players and the city of New York has supported me."
And above all else, it was for principal owner George M. Steinbrenner, whose declining health has been no secret and who watched the first two games of the World Series from his box seats at Yankee Stadium before taking in this victory via television from his Tampa, Fla., home.
"I thank God for this and Mr. George," Rivera said. "I had hoped he was here, but he's not. But I'm grateful that I work for him. Definitely, this one was special. I think we have accomplished something great."
A certain urgency was embedded in the Yankees' actions during the offseason, as they doled out $423.5 million to acquire the top three free agents on the market, fitting ace CC Sabathia, right-hander A.J. Burnett and Teixeira for pinstripes and incorporating them into a clubhouse that meshed wonderfully.
The biggest statement was the five-word slogan affixed to the franchise postseason run -- "Win It For The Boss."
Those within the Yankees family thirsted to present Steinbrenner with the opportunity to savor one more moment, and with Girardi wearing the uniform No. 27 as a daily reminder of the job expectation, they finally have.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.