NEW YORK - Minutes before the first pitch in Game 2, rap star Jay-Z performed his hit song "Empire State of Mind" with Alicia Keys in front of a roaring Yankee Stadium crowd.
"There's nothing you can't do, now you're in New York . . . Big lights will inspire you," Jay-Z spouted into the mike.
The song has been something of an anthem for both teams leading up to their World Series clash. It was often played in the Phillies' clubhouse, but in the big lights of the World Series, in baseball's new cathedral, two of its brightest stars can't seem to do one thing in New York: Hit the ball.
Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Howard are often mentioned in the conversation of baseball's best natural hitters. This year in the World Series, they are a combined 2-for-17 in the first two games.
Like Jay-Z, who didn't perform in the rain before Game 1, A-Fraud canceled. Rodriguez went 0-for-4 and followed that with another unimpressive 0-for-4 last night. He has six strikeouts in his eight at-bats.
That's a far cry from the 14-for-32 hot streak he went on in the first two rounds against Minnesota and Los Angeles, with five home runs in nine games.
Howard struggled, too, last night. He was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. But at least he carried his load in Game 1, where he was 2-for-5 with an RBI.
"They're both really good," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was saying before last night's game. "A-Rod is strong as heck. He's a tremendous hitter. There's a lot of arguments about who's the best hitter and everything. A-Rod definitely stands there somewhere in the top three or something. If he's not the best, he's very close."
Howard is a world away from last year's World Series, where he was 6-for-21 with three monster home runs in the five games against Tampa Bay.
Manuel said that Howard doesn't get the respect he deserves. People see his low batting average and look at him strictly as a power hitter, underestimating his ability to swat a clutch double like he did in the ninth inning in Game 1.
"I think he's much better than people really realize," Manuel said. "He has a way of finding RBIs from the seventh inning on. That makes him a special kind of player, if you look at his numbers"
With the Series heading back to Philly tied at 1-1, Yankees manager Joe Girardi says he isn't worried about A-Rod's struggles in the World Series. Girardi thinks he'll beat the "choker" rap that he earned prior to this postseason; he is hitting just .231 as a Yankee in October.
"There's a lot of emotions that go into these games," Girardi said. "Can players try to do too much? Absolutely. You're going to have bad days and you have to learn how to bounce back.
"I know [A-Rod] will bounce back. Obviously you want him to continue on the torrid pace that he was on. We'll get it going with him in Philly."
"I'm not concerned," Rodgriguez said. "The fact that I'm 0-fer in this Series and we're 1-1 makes me feel good."
Last night, Howard was fooled by A.J. Burnett's well-located pitches. Of the 26 batters he faced, Burnett had the Phillies playing catch-up by starting 22 hitters with a first-pitch strike. Burnett's perfectly spotted curveball posed problems for the Phillies all night.
"You've got to give it up to A.J.," Howard said. "He had a great curveball tonight. He mixed it up, he threw great. He was throwing it for strikes and throwing it enough to try and get us to chase it."
"It was on," Burnett said. "When I can throw that for strikes, it's a big difference. Once I started getting in the zone, it really opened up."
In the eighth, with runners at first and second and only one out, the Phillies failed to send Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino with Chase Utley at the plate on a 3-2 pitch. Utley grounded into a doubleplay to end the Phillies' threat, even though replays showed the he might have been safe at first base.
"Utley don't hit into many doubleplays," Manuel said. "There's a lot of things that can happen there. I definitely wanted Howard to hit."
Utley's dribbler stole Howard's chance to redeem himself. He was standing there with his bat in the on-deck circle, waiting for a crack at Mariano Rivera.
It never came. Leading off the ninth, there were no runners on base for Howard to launch. Rivera froze him with a breaking ball outside.