Thursday, October 29, 2009

UtLEE lead the Phils to Game 1 victory

Cliff Lee was spectacular last night, out-dueling former teammates and Cy Young award winner CC Sabathia as he twirled a complete game gem over the Yankees in Game 1, 6-1. It was one of the best pitching performances in World Series history.

Just a year removed from the addition of Brad Lidge putting the Phillies over the top to grab a World Championship, Lee made the Phils' brass look brilliant last night. If he pitches three games in the series and even comes close to emulating last night's start, this series is over.

Raul Ibanez had the opportunity to play hero early with the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning after two walks and a Ryan Howard double. He worked ahead in the count to 3-1 but bounced out to second to end the disappointing inning. After the Phillies threatened but didn't score, they needed a statement from Lee and they got it. Lee struck out Derek Jeter to start the inning, easily fielded Johnny Damon's bunt attempt and threw him out and fanned Mark Teixiera to end the frame. But Lee wasn't done.

He'd go on to strike out Alex (A-Roids) Rodriguez three times, part of this ten K's, while walking none and not allowing an earned run. His halfhearted pop-up catch was hilarious; we'll be seeing that for a long time.

Chase Utley rose to the occasion with two solo home runs off Sabathia, the only runs he'd allow. His first dinger seemed more like a pop-up, he got under it and had only one hand on the bat, but it carried out of Yankee Stadium and just cleared the right field wall as many balls do in that park, putting the Phils ahead 1-0 in the third. But Chase was at it again in the sixth, this time with a line drive blast deep into the seats, once again with two strikes in the count.

The offense got to the bullpen, forcing walks and getting big hits from Ibanez, Shane Victorino and Howard.

Jimmy Rollins made the heads up play of the night, dekeing Hideki Matsui on a hump back pop-up, a play the umpires would confer and eventually get right. With no outs and Matsui on first, Robinson Cano hit a small pop-up to short that Jimmy appeared he was going to field on a short hop to turn a double play. Instead, with his glove about an inch from the ground, J-Roll caught the ball but pretended it bounced, stepped on second and threw to first. The play was clearly intentional, as he immediately started pointing to Howard that he should tag Matsui, who was well off the first base bag and headed back to the dugout. It was a caught pop-up so Cano was out, and when Howard tagged Matsui off the bag it was a bases clearing double play. Great heads up play from Rollins; a play that a champion makes.

The Phillies, once again, take Game 1 of a postseason series. They haven't dropped a Game 1 since the NLDS in 2007 against Colorado. The Yankees were dealt their first Game 1 defeat of this postseason. Now, home field advantage belongs to the Phillies again, and tonight's game gives them a huge opportunity to head back to Philadelphia in complete control. AJ Burnett is New York's question mark in the rotation, and the Phillies should score some runs. With Pedro on the mound in Yankee Stadium tonight, Game 2 could be a battle of the bullpens after last night's Game 1 was all Cliff Lee.

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