PHILADELPHIA -- No team boasts more about its history than the New York Yankees, yet that same history has taught the Yankees there are no certainties in baseball. A flick of a wrist, a steal of a base, a mistimed pitch can change fate in an instant. And yet the Yankees appear to be in an enviable position entering Game 4 of the 2009 World Series.
"Nothing is written yet, but we now have a good chance," Yankees closer Mariano Rivera said.
In beating the Phillies 8-5 in Saturday's Game 3, the Yankees likely captured yet another World Series. Here are five reasons New York may have won the World Series with a Game 3 victory.
1. Game 3s often decide series
Only five teams that have lost Game 3 have come back to win the World Series in the past 20 years. Curiously, the Yankees won Game 3 in both 2003 and 2001, then lost the Series. Other Game 3 winners that have ended up losers include the Mets (2000), Indians (1995) and Braves (1991).
"Game 3 is really important, it really is," Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said.
Game 3 was especially crucial in this series because Yankees ace CC Sabathia is scheduled to pitch twice more should the series reach Game 7.
So far, Sabathia is 3-1 with a 1.52 ERA this postseason.
2. Sabathia, Burnett excel on three days' rest
In six career starts on three days' rest, Sabathia is 4-2 with a 2.11 ERA.
"I got used to doing it last year," Sabathia said.
Yes, it's true that Sabathia gave up five runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Phillies in last year's National League Division Series as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers while pitching on three days' rest. But last year, Sabathia had thrown 23 more innings and 228 more pitches than he did this year during the regular season. Already this postseason, Sabathia was fantastic on three days' rest in his Game 4 outing against the Los Angeles Angels when he allowed just one run in eight innings.
A.J. Burnett, who'll most likely start Game 5, is 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA in three career starts on three days' rest. To win the World Series, the Phillies will have to beat both Burnett, who already shut down the Phillies in Game 2, and Sabathia.
3. The Yankees' bullpen may be formidable once again
Forget the nonsense about how the Phillies have figured Rivera out. In a five-pitch, two-out performance Saturday, Rivera easily disposed of the Phillies, including a two-pitch out on shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who had boasted on Thursday and Friday that the team had found Rivera vulnerable. Perhaps the Phillies would have been better served by making Rivera, who threw 39 pitches in a two-inning stint in Game 2, work harder. By throwing just five pitches Saturday, Rivera should be fine to throw in Games 4 and 5.
"Mo has done things nobody has ever done and quite honestly probably won't do again," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said after Game 3.
Most encouraging for the Yankees were the performances of Joba Chamberlain, who threw a perfect inning, and Damaso Marte, who also had a perfect inning while striking out two. Even with the struggles of shaky reliever Phil Hughes -- he gave up a solo home run in the ninth inning of Game 3 and has allowed three runs in just one-third of an inning in the series -- the Yankees may now be able to rely on Chamberlain to pitch the eighth and Marte to face the Phillies' tough left-handed hitters in the seventh or eighth.
"We just wanted to go out there and continue to have fun," Chamberlain said. "Let's go back to being ourselves. We can't doubt our abilities, since we've been doing it all season."
4. The Yankees' offense is back
"We were very patient tonight and put ourselves in good hitting counts," Posada said.
The Yankees made Phillies starter Cole Hamels throw 69 pitches in just 4 1/3 innings.
With no designated hitter in Philadelphia, Hideki Matsui's omission from the lineup hurts the Yankees' offense overall, but it does provide Yankees manager Joe Girardi with a formidable pinch hitter in the late innings. Matsui's pinch-hit home run in the eighth sealed Game 3. By contrast, Philadelphia's pinch hitters on Saturday were Eric Bruntlett (.462 OPS this year) and Matt Stairs (.735).
5. Some important Phillies are slumping at the wrong time
Phillies slugger Ryan Howard already has struck out nine times in three games, putting him three short of the World Series record. Hamels has allowed 16 runs in 19 innings in this postseason. Game 4 starter Joe Blanton has allowed 15 runs in 21 1/3 innings in his past five outings.
Perhaps most daunting for Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is that he may have to start Hamels in a possible Game 7, although he wouldn't commit to it after Saturday's game.
"You know something, I wouldn't be hesitant to start him, but at the same time we'll see how the series goes," Manuel said.
Phillies third baseman Pedro Feliz is only 6-for-42 in the postseason, and top-of-the-order guys Rollins and Shane Victorino are a combined 4-for-21.
Jorge Arangure Jr. is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.