The World Series by nature is a baseball-history-making event. On a cold November night in 2009, the Yankees made history by winning their 27th world championship, and Godzilla made some history of his own. Hideki Matsui drove in a World Series-record six runs, almost single-handedly beating the Phillies in the deciding contest.
Final Score: Yankees 7, Phillies 3
Game MVP: Hideki Matsui
The 2-3-2 format of the World Series meant the Yanks had to sit someone for the trio of games in Philadelphia, and Matsui’s swollen knees made him the odd man out. Benched for three straight games, the DH was back in play for Game 6 and returned with a vengeance. After Alex Rodriguez walked to lead off the second inning, Matsui took a familiar foe, Pedro Martinez, deep to open the scoring.
It was the second time that Matsui had taken Pedro deep in this series alone, after getting to him back in Game 2.
The next inning, with the score 2-1 thanks to Jimmy Rollins’ sac fly, Godzilla came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs, roping the 2-1 offering from Pedro into center and plating two more. Pedro’s night was over after the fourth inning, and in the home half of the fifth Matsui greeted J.A. Happ with a two-run double for his fifth and six RBI of the game.
Hideki’s performance is etched in Yankee history — he went on to win the World Series MVP for three games, batting .615 — but Andy Pettitte took the ball on three days’ rest, the third time that series a Yankee hurler skipped a rest day. This was no gimmie, as it was the first time that the old lefty had pitched on short rest since 2006. Nonetheless, No. 46 was up to the task. He threw 5.2 innings, never sharp (five walks against three strikeouts) but solid enough to turn the game over to the always-formidable Yankee bullpen.
Joba Chamberlain and Damaso Marte struck out three in 2.2 innings combined, with Marte continuing his magical postseason run with just six pitches needed to fan his two assigned men. After that, it was academic — Mariano Rivera, in the postseason, and you know the rest:
Matsui himself admitted that the whole experience was a little disassociating: “Even looking back to this day, what I did in Game 6 — I know it was me, but it didn’t feel like it was me...I felt like it was some kind of mystical powers that was behind all that performance.” Nick Swisher later said that it felt as though the ghosts of Old Yankee Stadium made the trip across the street for the final outs.
Unfortunately, despite the World Series MVP, despite the 127 wRC+ across 142 regular season games in 2009, November 4th was the last time Hideki Matsui wore Yankee pinstripes. In his own recollection, the Yankees never even made an attempt to retain the then-free agent, who quit the coast and signed for one year with the LA Angels. He virtually replicated his output with the Halos, a 126 wRC+ in 145 games out west — his last good campaign before retiring two seasons later.
If the last memory we have of the man they call Godzilla was him crushing a fly ball deep into the Bronx night, setting a World Series record along the way, that’s not a terrible legacy to leave. The Yankees haven’t played in the Fall Classic since Matsui left — at what point do we begin to refer to Hideki’s Curse?