Paul Hagen: 1993 Phillies veterans say this World Series looks familiar

Phillies line up to celebrate their victory in Game 5 of the World Series.
Phillies line up to celebrate their victory in Game 5 of the World Series.
Posted: November 03, 2009

THE OUTLOOK was bleak. It always is when a team is down by three games to one in a best-of-seven series. Coming off two straight losses at home, including a heartbreaker in Game 4. Listening to all the statistics about how few teams have dug themselves out of such a hole.

That was the situation the Phillies found themselves in . . . against the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series.

It was then, on the night of Oct. 21 at Veterans Stadium, that Curt Schilling did several things. Pitched the first Phillies shutout in World Series history, holding the Jays to five singles in a 2-0 win. Had his coming-out party as a Big Game Pitcher. And showed how true the old cliche about momentum being only as good as your next-game starter really is.

Next door to where that all took place 16 years ago, at Citizens Bank Park, a somewhat reminiscent scene played out last night.

The Phillies, once again, were on the brink of elimination at home after splitting the first two games on the road. Once again, they had their ace on the mound. And Cliff Lee held the powerful Yankees to two runs through seven innings before tiring in the eighth, helping the Phils to an 8-6 win, forcing a return to New York.

John Kruk was the Phillies' first baseman then. Last night, he was at the game as an ESPN analyst. The parallels struck him.

"There are a lot of similarities," he said. "The problem was that we weren't going back to their place to face pitchers who are going to be on 3 days' rest, like the Yankees will be. I think that gives this year's team a big advantage."

Larry Andersen was a Phillies setup reliever then. Now, he's a Phillies announcer and watched last night's game from the radio booth.

"Right guy, right place, right time when you have to win," he said. "[Lee] didn't have his best stuff, but he gave you what you need from your ace. Stop the bleeding and put everybody back in a positive frame of mind.

"I don't think the Yankees are going to get rattled, but at least you've put in their minds that these guys aren't going to go away. That's crucial."

Two nights later at SkyDome, the '93 team had a 6-5 lead with two outs to go in Game 6. They were ever so close to pushing the series to the limit before Joe Carter, well, everybody knows how that story ended.

Still, this year's Phillies have survived to play another day after a distant echo of that long ago game. The point is that their plight suddenly seems considerably less daunting.

Kruk noted how difficult it is to beat the Yankees three straight. Of course, thanks to Lee and the reappearance of their offense, these Phillies now only have to win two in a row to repeat as world champions.

Hero

Chase Utley continues to be the man. After the Phillies fell behind, 1-0, in the top of the first, it threatened to take the crowd out of the game almost before it got started. Utley's three-run homer against Yankees starter A.J. Burnett in the bottom of the inning got his team right back in it.

Goat

A.J. Burnett. With a chance to help his team nail down its first world championship since 2000, he faced only 15 batters. Nine of them reached base and six scored.

The stat

Chase Utley hit only three home runs between Aug. 30 and the beginning of the World Series. That's a span that covered 40 games and 172 plate appearances, including the first two rounds of the playoffs.

After going deep twice last night, he's hit five homers in his first five games and 21 plate appearances of the World Series.

That, by the way, ties the all-time World Series set by the Yankees' Reggie Jackson against the Dodgers in 1977.

The quote

Manager Charlie Manuel, laughingly responding to a question about Larry Bowa's assertion on a local radio show that the Phillies are well known for stealing signs: "I didn't know anything about this until right before the game. I can tell you this: If I can steal signs, I will. I mean, if I can . . . We don't have their signs and we're not stealing their signs. But we are trying."

Did you notice

That Phillies pitchers had hit five Yankees batters with pitches while New York pitchers hadn't hit a single Philadelphia batter . . . until A.J. Burnett drilled Shane Victorino in the first?

Numerology

18: Postseason RBI for Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez after driving in three last night. That's a Yankees franchise record.

42: Teams that have fallen behind, three games to one, since the World Series went to a best-of-seven format in 1905. Only five have come back to win the world championship, most recently the Kansas City Royals over St. Louis in 1985.

12: Strikeouts by Ryan Howard, equaling the World Series record set by Kansas City's Willie Wilson against the Phillies in 1980.

South of the border

Panama has been divided by more than a canal during this World Series. The Central American nation that produced Hall of Famer Rod Carew has loyalties to both Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz.

Said Rivera, who is almost certain to be voted into Cooperstown on the first ballot: "Panama [has been] split in two, I think, between Carlos and myself. I know him, but not well. I have seen his work and I think he's great. Is he big there? I think so. I hope so, because he's done a tremendous job for himself and for Panama."

Ruiz said he idolized Rivera while growing up in David Chiriqui, the city in which he still lives. "In Panama, everybody likes the Phillies and the Yankees with Mariano. So it [is special] for me. It's very special," he said.

Phillies Central American scout Allan Lewis is also a native of the country. In fact, he was known as "The Panamanian Express" when he was a pinch-running specialist for Charlie Finley's Oakland A's in the 1970s. And he said that even though Rivera has accomplished far more in his career to this point, Ruiz has broader support in his homeland.

"Most are rooting for Ruiz, because he still lives in Panama and Mariano doesn't," Lewis said in a brief phone interview, also noting that Ruiz twice represented Panama in the World Baseball Classic, while Rivera has declined to participate.

Miscellany

This is the first time a World Series has gone past five games since the Marlins clinched their second world championship at the old Yankee Stadium in Game 6 in 2003. *

Send e-mail to hagenp@phillynews.com.

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