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Monday, November 2, 2009
Kneejerk Reactions: Game 4


Hero: Johnny Damon, after singling with two outs in the top of the ninth, promptly stole second base ... and took another base upon noticing the simple fact that, umm, nobody was covering third. How important was that? Brad Lidge, perhaps worried about one of his patented sliders skipping past Carlos Ruiz, fed fastballs to Alex Rodriguez, who drove home Damon with the tie-breaking run.

Goat: If anyone should have covered third base and dissuaded Damon from advancing -- or perhaps even tagged out Damon to end the inning -- it was Lidge, who also managed to give up three runs and take the loss.

Turning Point: Lidge zipped through the first two Yankees in the ninth, and got ahead of Damon 1-and-2. But Damon fouled off a pitch, took a couple of balls, and fouled off two more pitches before driving a single into left field. Just like Joba Chamberlain in the eighth, Lidge was just one strike away from a brilliant inning, only to lose (in his case) everything.

Costly Move: Chase Utley is one of the game's best defensive second basemen. But in the fifth inning he eschewed a sure force out at second base for the chance at a double play, and the result was two Yankees on base and nobody out. As things played out, Utley's errant glove flip cost the Phillies a run that would eventually seem quite precious.

Another Costly Move: Potentially costly, anyway. As a friend notes, Joe Girardi lost a one-run lead in the eighth inning without using either of his two best relievers. This is -- or should be -- what they teach you not to do on the first day of Managing 101. (What's more, if the Yankees hadn't scored in the ninth, Girardi apparently was going to bring in Phil Coke rather than Mariano Rivera, echoing a similar mistake made by Joe Torre six years ago, also in Game 4 of the World Series).

Good Move: With Howard representing the tying run in the seventh inning and CC Sabathia having thrown 102 pitches, Girardi summoned Damaso Marte from the bullpen, and Marte got ahead of Howard quickly before retiring him on an easy fly to left field.

Telling Statistic: At the single most important moment of the Phillies' 2009 season, Charlie Manuel relied on a relief pitcher who finished the regular season with zero wins, eight losses, and a 7.21 ERA. Should anyone really be surprised that this didn't work out particularly well?

History Lesson: Eight times before this year, the Yankees have won three of their first four World Series games. Eight times, the Yankees eventually won the World Series.

For more: Crashburn Alley's brutal (but fair) postmortem and It's About the Money (Stupid!)'s own kneejerk reactions.