PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Alex Rodriguez delivered the biggest hit of his career, a go ahead two-out double in the ninth inning off Brad Lidge as the New York Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-4 on Sunday night for a 3-1 lead in the World Series.
Derek Jeter delivered all game and Mariano Rivera closed it out as the Yankees moved within one win of their 27th championship, and first since 2000.
Rodriguez could really savor this victory — seething after again being hit by a pitch, he struck back with his bat.
"There's no question — I've never had a bigger hit," Rodriguez said.
The Yankees will try to clinch it Monday night when A.J. Burnett faces October ace Cliff Lee.
Of the 42 teams to take a 3-1 lead in the World Series, 36 went on to win the crown. The last club to overcome such a deficit was Kansas City in 1985.
Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz hit late home runs for the Phillies that tied it at 4. Then it moved to the ninth and Phils brought in Lidge — a postseason star last year, he had struggled all season before regaining his touch this October.
But November was not so kind to him.
Lidge had been the only closer in the playoffs who hadn't allowed a run until the Yankees tagged him. With two outs, Johnny Damon capped a nine-pitch at-bat with a single. The Phillies overshifted their infield to the right side for Mark Teixeira and Damon took off.
Damon beat the one-hop throw to steal second, popped up from his slide and noticed no one was covering third. That's because Feliz had handled the throw, and Damon easily beat the third baseman to the bag for a rare double-steal?
Rattled or whatever, Lidge hit Teixeira with a pitch. So up stepped Rodriguez, 1 for 13 to that point in his first World Series and looking nothing like the feared slugger he was earlier in these playoffs.
Putting all his past postseason failures behind, Rodriguez lined a solid double into the left-field corner for a 5-4 lead.
Maybe it wasn't such a surprise — Rodriguez had homered and doubled in three prior at-bats against Lidge.
"I get a good pitch and put a good swing on it, good things usually happen," Rodriguez said. "Facing Brad Lidge, he's a great competitor. He's had a lot of success late here. Just trying to make contact there."
Rodriguez stood at second with his 15th RBI, tying the Yankees postseason record shared by Bernie Williams and Scott Brosius. A-Rod's other hit this week came in Game 3 when his double was changed to a home run after an instant replay review.
The crowd was silent when Jorge Posada followed with a two-run single. And just like that, the Yankees were on the verge of celebrating and the defending champion Phillies were on the brink of losing the series.
Feliz rocked Yankees setup man Joba Chamberlain with a two-out, solo home run in the eighth that tied it at 4.
Utley homered again off CC Sabathia, finishing the New York starter in the seventh. It was Utley's third shot off Sabathia in this Series and closed the Phillies to 4-3.