Johnny Damon steals a pair
It was Game 4 of the 2009 World Series, and the New York Yankees held a 2-1 series lead over the Philadelphia Phillies. The Yankees allowed a solo home run to Pedro Feliz in the bottom of the eighth inning, tying the score at four.
To preserve the tied score, the Phillies chose to bring in closer Brad Lidge in the top of the ninth to face the top of New York’s batting order. After recording the first two outs rather easily, Lidge’s next task was Johnny Damon. After making Lidge throw eight pitches, Damon – who fouled off five of the pitches – ended his at-bat with a single on the ninth, keeping the inning alive for first baseman Mark Teixeira.
The Phillies shifted for the left-handed hitting Teixeira, setting up a full Ted Williams shift by placing three infielders on the first base side of second. Damon took note of Philadelphia’s defensive alignment was ready to capitalize on it.
Damon took off for second base on Lidge’s first delivery to Teixeira, drawing a throw from catcher Carlos Ruiz. Feliz, the third baseman, was the only fielder on the third base side of second and was in charge of receiving Ruiz’s throw. Damon slid into second as Feliz caught the throw. It was as Damon was hopping up from his slide that he noticed that the throw had pulled Feliz off the bag, leaving no one to cover third.
“I know I still have some decent speed left in the tank,” admitted Damon. “I knew Pedro’s speed also. I just went on instinct.” So Damon took off again, and he safely advanced to third. He had just robbed two bases on one pitch.
With Damon on third, Lidge refrained from throwing arguably his best pitch, his slider, due to the imposing risk of a wild pitch that would allow Damon to score. Lidge hit Teixeira with a pitch, and then Alex Rodriguez doubled in Damon. Jorge Posada added two more runs with a single that allowed Teixeira and Rodriguez to score.
A 7-4 lead meant a save situation for the Yankees, so manager Joe Girardi brought in closer Mariano Rivera. Rivera recorded his second save of the series on eight pitches, giving the Yankees a 3-1 series lead and edging them closer to the 2009 World Series title, which New York would ultimately win in six games.