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Yanks have found ways to answer the Phillies PAUL SOKOLOSKI OPINION

The tables not only turned on Philadelphia, they landed right on top of the Phillies.

And if their spirit wasn’t crushed in the upheaval, then Philadelphia’s hopes of repeating as World Series champions certainly were.

That became perfectly clear Sunday when the New York Yankees took all the steam out of an exciting Philadelphia comeback with a late-inning rally of their own.

And it not only beat the Phillies, it left them flabbergasted.

“Usually, we’re the ones doing it to other teams,” Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. “This time, it happened to us.”

It’s happened over and over in this World Series, as the Yankees keep taking Philadelphia’s best shots before answering with knockout blows of their own.

And if the Phillies weren’t down for the count just yet, they were at least backed against the ropes trying to fend off New York’s knockout punch. The Yankees confidently jogged into Citizens Bank Park after winning two straight games there, which gave them a 3-1 World Series lead and three chances to wrap up the title with a victory.

“They get one little hit, or we’ll walk a guy and next thing you know they’ll make it a big inning,” Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino said. “For them, that’s the way things have gone.”

It’s like the fickle hand of fate has forsaken the Phillies and began patting the Yankees on their backs.

“I look at (Sunday) night’s game, for instance,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “They got the big hit, (closer Mariano) Rivera came in and shut us down, and they got the win. They’ve been doing that to us.”

Anything the Phillies can do, the Yankees can do better. That’s the way most of the World Series has played out so far.

“We’ll score one run or two runs when we get guys on base,” Manuel said. “Seems like they put up a three- or four-spot on us.”

That’s been the Phillies game plan the past two postseasons, until the Yankees stole it.

Those late-inning rallies, the perfect closer, the strong starting pitching the Phillies have used to win last year’s World Series and return to this one are all ganging up against them now instead of working for them.

How does it feel when your best shoes are now on someone else’s feet?

“Frustrating,” said Phillies closer Brad Lidge, who took the loss Sunday after recording two quick outs before allowing a three-run rally in the ninth inning as the Yankees took command of the series. “I was real close to getting out of the inning. It happened really fast.”

It usually does.

When you’re as talented and self-certain as the Phillies are, you never see such reversal of fortune coming. Especially after all the games that magically turned your way.

But the worm began turning on the Phillies just after they wriggled the series opener from New York.

A well-pitched game by Pedro Martinez that was tied 1-1 turned into a 3-1 victory for the Yankees in Game 2. A 3-0 Phillies lead in Game 3 wound up as an 8-5 defeat for the Phillies at home – where they were nearly invincible in the postseason. An inspiring, game-tying rally on the strength of solo home runs by Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz in the late innings of Game 4 weren’t enough to stop the Yankees from mustering up a game-winning rally of their own.

“When it got down to it, they outplayed us,” Manuel said. “Because they got the big hit at the big moment, they got the pitching at the big moment, and they made all the big plays.”

Big surprise for a Phillies team that was carried its own reputation for pulling off big victories in the clutch.

Maybe that old saying is true. As good as you believe you are, there’s always somebody a little bit better.

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