You cannot ask for more than taking two out of three from the Yankees in the Bronx. Well, you can ask, but it won't do you much good. The Philadelphia Phillies just climbed this particular hill, winning a series from the Yanks at Yankee Stadium. All their previous struggles aside, the 8-17 stretch taken fully into consideration, the Phils did exactly what they could have reasonably hoped to do in Gotham.
The 7-1 victory Thursday night not only gave the Phillies a series victory, but it also gave them the beginnings of a winning streak. The trick, of course, would be to take this set of events and transform it into a real turning point for the 2010 season.
Winning two of three from the Yankees at their place should not be in any way minimized as an achievement. The Yankees came into this series 22-7 at home this year, the best record in the Majors. Before this series, the Yankees had lost only one other series at home, and that was a mere two-game set against Tampa Bay. Prior to Wednesday night's loss to the Phils, the Yankees had won nine straight games at home.
With the Thursday night game, the Phillies finished a six-game Interleague road trip, a difficult undertaking against two of the American League's best, the Red Sox and the Yankees. Pounded in the first two games in Boston, the Phillies came back to win the final game there. Losing the first game in the Bronx, they rebounded and won the last two.
"That's good for us, that's very good for us, [the Yankees] got a real good team," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Boston's got a good team. The Yankees have a good lineup, and a good pitching staff. They're good.
"We played Boston and the Yankees pretty good. We got blown out a couple of times in Boston, but at the same time, we came back and won the third game. Then we won two out of three here. We've got to start taking series. If we start taking two out of three consistently, we will definitely work our way to where we want to go to."
The Phillies didn't have to overpower the Yankees Thursday night. They had a four-run outburst in the ninth, but that wasn't how this contest was won. For most of the evening, this was a pitchers' duel. This was Kyle Kendrick outpitching the veteran lefty, Andy Pettitte. This was not the expected result given the numbers of the two pitchers coming in, but nothing could be taken away from Kendrick's work in this contest.
Over seven innings, Kendrick gave up one run on just four hits against the powerful New York lineup.
"I just mixed pitches, got ahead, kept the ball down," said Kendrick, making it sound routine. But his work was nothing less than outstanding.
The Phillies, short on hitting over most of the last month, had timely hitting here. Shane Victorino's two-run homer in the fifth providing a critical difference. The Phillies broke a 3-1 game open in the ninth, victimizing relievers Joba Chamberlain and Damaso Marte.
And to make the evening complete, along with the excellent pitching and the clutch hitting, was a splendid defensive play at a crucial moment. With two on and two outs in a 3-1 game in the sixth, third baseman Placido Polanco went over the rolled up tarp down the left-field line to make an improbable but brilliant play that retired Nick Swisher and took the Yankees out of an inning.
"We were in a jam," Kendrick said "For me, that was definitely the play of the game."
Winning the last two games of this series may have been even more impressive given the way this started out, with Philadelphia's ace, Roy Halladay, being roughed up by the Yankees in the opener. But the Phillies answered with two compelling pitching performances from Jamie Moyer and Kendrick.
"That's what it takes for us to win, we've got to get consistent pitching," Manuel said. "I know we've talked about when we don't score runs, we've talked about the offense and everything, but it all gets back to a game, a game like we had tonight. We had pitching, we had hitting and we played good defense. The more consistent baseball you can play that way, that's what makes for a winning team."
The signs were hopeful for the Phillies as they departed the Bronx. They needed two strong, all-around games to win the series from the Yankees, and they needed two strong, all-around games to get their own season headed in the right direction. They got what they needed.
"The Yankees are a great, great club," Polanco said. "To win two out of three games in this series, it tells you that this team is turning things around."
Winning a series from the Yankees can only be the start of a turnaround for the Phillies. But as starting points for a turnaround go, this is a fully legitimate spot.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.