11/05/09 4:21 AM EST
Champions are all Captains
Yanks' longtime core of Jeter, Mo, Andy, Posada share Clutch
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
"You realize how difficult it is to get here," the Yankees' captain said on Wednesday night after the 7-3 victory over Philadelphia secured his team's 27th World Series championship. "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."
The four links to the past and the present of pinstripe championships all share the final Captain Clutch recognition, which was given to individuals after previous games during the World Series. They are just too bound together, too valuable as a whole, too decorated now as five-time individual champs. Besides, Hideki Matsui got to strike the pose with his Most Valuable Player trophy.
Jeter reached base safely in all 15 of his postseason games, including a 3-for-5 night with a pair of runs in the clincher. He finished the series with a .407 average -- 11-for-27 in six games. It was the perfect cap on a week in which he also won the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevy for community service and then the Sharp presents the Hank Aaron Award for outstanding offensive performer in the American League.
"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."
Pettitte did just that, and once again, he handled it with aplomb. The left-hander won all three clinch games of the postseason for the Yankees, this time gritting out a final start on a rare three days' rest for him. Pettitte went 5 2/3 innings and finally started buckling at the end, allowing three runs and four hits, and striking out four while walking five.
Chants of "An-dy Pett-itte!" filled the air at Yankee Stadium as he battled in that sixth inning, finally giving way to Joba Chamberlain. Pettitte pitched well enough to extend his record to six series-clinching wins, and he just padded his MLB record total of career postseason wins. This was the first time since Minnesota in 1991 that a team won it all with just three starting pitchers, so what he did was clutch for the champs.
"I'm just thankful to have the opportunity," Pettitte said. "Thankfully I was able to give us a decent start. I didn't feel like I had great stuff. My command was off. I might have started getting tired there at the end, but I just felt like if I stuck with my mechanics, just focused on my mechanics and get my mind where I needed to get it, I'd be able to make pitches. I had a lot of walks, I kind of scuffled through it a little bit, but fortunately, I was able to make some pitches when I needed to. I'm gonna battle, and I did."
Rivera threw the last pitch of the season to retire Shane Victorino after a tough 10-pitch at-bat, protecting the final lead yet again for the Yankees. He was the only closer in the entire postseason who did not buckle. Everyone else either blew high-profile save opportunities or -- as was the case with Brad Lidge in the Game 4 "Damon Dash" game -- lost. Rivera was unscored upon in 5 1/3 World Series innings, including the final 1 2/3 innings of Game 6.
"It's amazing. I never forgot, but when you're in there, you know how much you missed it," said Rivera, back on the grand stage for the first time in six years. "You find out, definitely, how moving it is to be in this position. To be the last team standing on the mound and win the whole thing, it's priceless."
Posada was 5-for-19 in the series, driving in five runs. Although he was 0-for-3 and had a passed ball in the finale, Posada still was a key part of the leadership. For this one, the core four had to be kept together in the call for all captains.
"It takes a lot to be here," Posada said. "We were spoiled in the '90s and 2000, so to be back and win it is really special."
Captain D: Robinson Cano
With two out in the ninth and Victorino at the plate, Cano got to assist on the final putout of the 2009 World Series -- meaning a place in posterity, because the last out is always replayed over and over for years. Victorino grounded to the second baseman after a battle with Rivera, and Cano threw over to Mark Teixeira at first to start the celebration scene.
"That," said Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher with a big smile, "was the most fundamentally sound ground ball I ever saw Robinson Cano pick up."
Captain K: Damaso Marte
In the top of the seventh inning with two men on, Marte was called on to face the dangerous Chase Utley, who already had tied Reggie Jackson's 1977 record of five homers in a single postseason. That was about as tense as it got on this night at Yankee Stadium, wondering if Utley could close the gap with No. 6, but Marte wasted no time in striking him out on three pitches -- two called strikes and, finally, a slider that Utley failed to check.
Marte got the Yankees out of that inning, and then he whiffed Ryan Howard on three straight pitches to start the eighth -- promptly yielding to Rivera as right-handed-hitting Jayson Werth was the next batter up. Marte appeared in four games during the World Series, allowing no hits or runs in 2 2/3 innings and striking out five while walking none.
It was the second time this series in which Marte received the Captain K honor. Watch the Captain Morgan videos here and see why.
Calling All CaptainsWe were Calling All Captains for the World Series between the defending champion Phillies and now-27-time-champion Yankees. There's Captain Clutch, the player who gave his team the lift when it needed it most; Captain D, the player who got it done with the glove; and Captain K, who threw the biggest strikeout. Here are the choices from earlier in the Series, so watch the videos and make your own call in the comments. Game 5 Captain Clutch: Chase Utley
With Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino on base, Utley comes up in the first inning and hits the first pitch he sees from A.J. Burnett into the right-field stands for a three-run homer. In the seventh inning, for good measure, he adds a solo shot off Yankees reliever Phil Coke. "It doesn't really matter who it is," Utley said of his Game 5 leadership. "The bottom line is to win the game, however you need to do it, whether it's hitting, pitching, defense. It doesn't really matter who steps up, it's just a matter of when and how." Captain D: Brett Gardner
Werth leads off the fifth with a drive to the gap in left-center field. Gardner, the Yankees' center fielder playing in place of the injured Melky Cabrera, tracks and makes the remarkable catch, slamming into the wall at the 387 sign. "I got the wind knocked out of me," Gardner said. "For five or 10 seconds, you feel like you're going to die. And then you're all right." Captain K: Ryan Madson
With the potential tying run at the plate in 2009 American League home run king Mark Teixeira, Madson throws a first-pitch fastball for a called strike and follows with a changeup to go 0-2. After a changeup for a ball, Madson throws another change, getting Tex to swing at a ball out of the strike zone for his first postseason save. It secures an 8-6 Phillies victory and forces Game 6 on Wednesday in New York. "I'm not going to walk many guys, especially in that situation," Madson said. "I'm just going to give them something to hit. I can give up one run, two runs, just not three." Game 4 Captain Clutch: Alex Rodriguez
With two out and two runners on in the top of the ninth against Phillies closer Lidge, Rodriguez delivers a double to the wall in the left, scoring Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira. What a stark contrast to recent postseasons for A-Rod. It's well into the World Series and we are anointing the Yankees' third baseman as "Captain Clutch" right here. Who'd have thought? "Yeah, you just take every at bat as it comes to you," Rodriguez said. "You know, just try to get a good pitch to hit there and hit it hard. I've only faced Brad Lidge once or twice, I think, in my whole career. He's a great competitor, and he's had a lot of success here as of late in the post season. Just not trying to do too much." Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Rodriguez: "I think both of his hits have been extremely big in helping us win the game. You know, you look at (Saturday) night's home run, (Cole) Hamels was breezing along, and he got us going. That one may not get quite as much attention as the one tonight, but I thought that was a real big hit, too." Captain D: Mark Teixeira
Yes, this makes him 2-for-2 on the Captain's D-list. Can't help it; the guy has serious glove. While there were some good defensive plays in Game 4, Teixeira single-handedly took care of the Phillies in the bottom of the ninth. He grabbed Matt Stairs' ground ball down the line, getting the out unassisted; caught Jimmy Rollins' pop fly; and retired Shane Victorino unassisted to seal the victory for the Yankees. "Well, I've said all along I've felt this club has been extremely resilient all year," Girardi said after Tex took care of the last out. "We've been through some up and down times and our guys have gotten back up and played extremely well. As far as thinking about one game, all I think about is playing a good game tomorrow. Go out and play a good game tomorrow and let's see where we're at." Captain K: CC Sabathia
With two out and two runners on in the fifth inning, CC Sabathia battled Jayson Werth in a seven-pitch at-bat, striking out Werth swinging on a changeup to get out of the jam. For that, CC Sabathia, who had six strikeouts on the night, is Captain Morgan's Captain K of Game 4. "I felt good. I felt strong," Sabathia said. "You know, sometimes too strong, trying to overthrow and trying to do too much. I try to make pitches when needed to and get some big outs and try to help the team win." Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was asked if his team should have been more patient early with Sabathia to knock him out, and the skipper replied: "I think CC is tough, and I think when CC is throwing the ball over the plate -- I felt like the other night against Burnett that we took a lot of fastballs, and actually I kind of thought that -- I understand exactly what you're saying. I thought that our guys, some of them, it's different hitters in the lineup and at bats and everything, and I wanted definitely some of them to swing if they've got a fastball to hit. But he hung in there and he battled, and we were fighting him tooth and nail. He was good." Game 3 Captain Clutch: Andy Pettitte
With one out and Nick Swisher on second after a leadoff double, the winningest postseason pitcher in Major League Baseball history delivered a game-tying RBI single to center. It was Pettitte's first postseason RBI -- and the first postseason RBI by a Yankees pitcher since Jim Bouton did it in Game 6 of the 1964 World Series. "We saw him get a hit in Interleague, and that is now his third World Series hit," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He let me know that he had one off of Kevin Brown and one off of Randy Johnson, and now he has one off of Cole Hamels. Andy works very hard, and I think playing in the National League for those few years probably helped his swing a little bit." Captain D: Mark Teixeira
With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Chase Utley smacked a ground ball heading toward right field. Teixeira ranged to his right and slid to field the ball before making a pinpoint throw to Pettitte, just getting Utley. Teixeira has had only flashes this postseason of the offense that resulted in a league-leading 39 homers, 122 RBIs and 344 total bases, but his defense throughout the playoffs has been vitally important to the Yankees in getting to a 2-1 World Series lead. He has been sort of a Human Vacuum like Brooks Robinson was in the 1970 World Series for Baltimore -- only at the other corner of the infield. "Just drape him in gold," teammate Nick Swisher has said of Teixeira, referring to the possibility of a Gold Glove at first base. Captain K: Damaso Marte
The Yankees' left-handed reliever came in to replace Joba Chamberlain for the eighth inning and started by striking out Ryan Howard -- refusing to let the slugger bust out of his slump at his expense. Then up to the plate stepped Jayson Werth, who already had homered twice on the night. Marte mixed pitches and locations effectively, and on the seventh pitch, Werth took a called third strike. It was a big lift for the Yankees' bullpen. "I feel good," Marte said. "[Girardi] is giving me the chance to show how good I am, and I'm going to give it all on the field."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.