Yankees take lead in World Series

Alex Rodriguez breaks a slump with a historic home run and the New York Yankees find their slugging power to beat Philadelphia 8-5.

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Alex Rodriguez broke a slump with a historic home run and the New York Yankees found their slugging power to beat Philadelphia 8-5 yesterday and seize the lead in the World Series. Hideki Matsui and Nick Swisher added solo homers and winning pitcher Andy Pettitte helped his cause with a run-scoring single as the Yankees took a 2-1 edge in Major League Baseball's best-of-seven final that continues today.

The Yankees, best in the major leagues this season at comeback victories with 51, rallied from an early 3-0 deficit for their seventh come-from-behind triumph in nine playoff wins. Rodriguez and Pettitte were each heckled with "You took steroids" chants from supporters of the defending champion Phillies after admissions early this year of past doping. Each responded with on-field heroics. "A-Rod", who was 0-for-8 in his first World Series, blasted a two-run homer off a television camera that was first ruled a double but overturned for a homer in the first video review during a major-league baseball playoff game.

Pettitte, a 37-year-old left-hander who has helped the Yankees to four World Series titles, improved to 4-4 in Series decisions and together with two relievers combined to allow only one Phillies hit over 6 2/3 innings. The Yankee ace, playing in his eighth Series, also hit a run-scoring single in the fifth. Unlike the Yankees' usual American League games, where designated hitters bat for pitchers, National League rules used here mandate pitchers bat.

Swisher belted a solo homer in the sixth but Jayson Werth answered in the same inning with his second homer off Pettitte to pull the Phillies within 6-4. Jorge Posada hit a run-scoring single in the seventh and Japan's Hideki Matsui, a designated hitter forced into a pinch-hit role, blasted a solo homer to left field in the eighth to squelch the rally bid. Philadelphia's Carlos Ruiz belted a solo homer in the ninth but Yankee closing relief ace Mariano Rivera entered and induced the final two outs to secure the victory.

The Yankees, who led the major leagues this year with 103 triumphs, are trying to stretch their all-time record of World Series titles to 27 by taking their first crown since 2000. The Phillies, the all-time "losingest" club in major league history, are trying to become the first National League champion to win back-to-back Series crowns since 1976. * AFP