Yankees flex their muscle

The first instant replay call in World Series history did more than turn a double into a home run. It changed the whole game for Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees.

New York Yankee Nick Swisher slide home safely on Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz Saturday. The Yankees won 8-5.

Yankees 8 Phillies 5

PHILADELPHIA — The first instant replay call in World Series history did more than turn a double into a home run. It changed the whole game for Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees.

Rodriguez’s disputed shot started a big comeback and those dangerous Yankees bats finally broke loose, backing Andy Pettitte in a rain-delayed 8-5 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night that gave New York a 2-1 Series lead.

“It was a big hit. I think it woke our offence up a little bit,” Rodriguez said.

After pitching dominated the first two games in the Bronx, the Yankees and defending champion Phillies flexed their muscles, combining for six home runs at cozy Citizens Bank Park. Jayson Werth connected twice for Philadelphia.

Rain affected the Series schedule in Philly for the second consecutive year, delaying the start by one hour 20 minutes. Once they hit the field in front of their boisterous fans, the Phillies took a 3-0 lead — but it was squandered by a struggling Cole Hamels, last year’s World Series MVP.

Game 4 is Sunday night. Joe Blanton pitches against Yankees ace CC Sabathia, who goes on three days’ rest for the second time this post-season.

A slumping Nick Swisher and pinch-hitter Hideki Matsui also went deep for New York. Johnny Damon hit a tiebreaking, two-run double.

“This was my first time coming to this ballpark. It just seems like you’re going to have a slugfest a lot,” Swisher said. “It was a great day for us.”

Pettitte settled down after a shaky start and even helped himself at the plate with a tying single. His six-inning outing was enough to earn his 17th post-season win, extending his major-league record.

“He closed off our left-handed hitters,” Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said.

Especially slugger Ryan Howard. The NL championship series MVP is 2-for-13 with nine strikeouts in the Series.

Some fans were dressed in Phillies red — others in full costume for the second-ever World Series game on Halloween. They whipped around white rally towels, but the trick was on them — their team got whipped when the Yankees rallied.

Carlos Ruiz homered for the Phillies in the ninth off Phil Hughes. Mariano Rivera finished up at 12:42 a.m. in a non-save situation.

“It was an absolute grind tonight, that’s for sure,” Pettitte said. “I can’t remember winning a game where I’ve struggled like I did tonight. So it’s very gratifying.”

With the Yankees down three runs, Mark Teixeira walked in the fourth and Rodriguez hit an opposite-field drive deep into the right-field corner. He cruised into second base with an apparent double after the ball ricocheted back onto the field.

Video replays, however, showed the ball struck the lens of a television camera positioned just above the fence at the 330-foot sign. New York manager Joe Girardi came out to talk with right-field umpire Jeff Nelson as Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee visited the mound.

While Rodriguez chatted with Howard at second base, umpires huddled in the infield. Four of the six went under the stands for a look at the replay and emerged about a minute later.

The signal: home run.

“I couldn’t see it,” A-Rod said. “When we got the call I was happy.”

Baseball adopted instant replay for boundary calls during the 2008 season and Rodriguez homered the first time it was used last year.

“It’s only fitting, right?” he said.

Rodriguez’s first hit in nine World Series at-bats was his sixth homer this post-season, tying Bernie Williams’ club record from 1996. It also was the 17th post-season homer this year for the Yankees, setting a franchise mark.

The call seemed to give the Yankees a boost and help them break out of their Series slump — the team that led the majors in runs (915) and homers (244) during the regular season scored only four times in the first two games at home.

“It was much more like myself,” Rodriguez said. “Tonight I was a lot more disciplined, and better results.”

New York kept hitting in the fifth and chased Hamels. Benched in Game 2 at home, Swisher opened with a double and slid home with the tying run when Pettitte looped a one-out single to centre on a first-pitch breaking ball.

It was Pettitte’s third hit in 18 career post-season at-bats, second in World Series play.

Who needs a designated hitter?

The Fox broadcast caught Derek Jeter saying to plate umpire Brian Gorman: “We’re going to have to listen to Pettitte now. He’s been bragging about his hitting all year.”

Jeter fisted a soft single and Damon cracked a two-run double to right-centre for a 5-3 lead. Hamels was lifted after another walk to Teixeira and walked off the mound to a mix of boos and cheers.

The lanky left-hander, who was 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in the post-season last year, fell to 1-2 with a 7.58 ERA in four outings this time around.

Swisher homered off rookie J.A. Happ in the sixth and took a long look at his solo shot to left, which made it 6-3.

Werth answered leading off the bottom half with a mammoth drive off the facing of the second deck in left. After connecting, he slammed his bat to the ground and glared into the Philadelphia dugout as if to urge on his teammates.

It was Werth’s seventh home run this post-season, one shy of the major-league record held by Carlos Beltran (2004) and Barry Bonds (2002).

Jorge Posada’s RBI single in the seventh gave New York a three-run cushion. Matsui added an opposite-field solo shot to left in the eighth, his second homer in two games.

Matsui was on the bench because World Series rules don’t permit a DH in National League parks.

Pettitte fell behind 3-0 in the second. Werth reached down for a breaking ball and hit a leadoff homer to left, setting off fireworks and lighting up the Liberty Bell in right-centre.

Pedro Feliz doubled off the right-field wall, Ruiz walked and Hamels’ bunt single loaded the bases. Jimmy Rollins walked to force in a run and Shane Victorino added a sacrifice fly.

Pettitte avoided further damage by striking out Chase Utley, then settled in and held Philadelphia in check. That gave the Yankees a chance to come back.

The Phillie Phanatic was wearing a rain-slicker and fisherman’s hat when he high-fived Mike Schmidt as the Hall of Famer walked to the mound to throw out the first pitch to Howard.

The grounds crew was still drying puddles on the warning track as the Phillies took the field.

Last season, Game 5 of the World Series between the Phillies and Tampa Bay was suspended for two days because of rain. Once it resumed — in the sixth inning — the Phillies went on to a 4-3 victory that clinched the championship.

Last year’s Game 3 started at 10:06 p.m. because of rain and didn’t end until 1:47 a.m. It was the latest start in Series history.

Notes: The Phillies dropped to 11-2 at home the past two post-seasons. … Nine of the past 10 teams to win Game 3 when the World Series was tied 1-all went on to take the title. The exception was the 2003 Yankees, who lost the next three games to Florida.

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