Off to a good start
Published 4:29 am Thursday, October 29, 2009
NEW YORK — Look out for Cliff Lee, Chase Utley and this New Red Machine.
Lee outdueled CC Sabathia, Utley homered twice and the Philadelphia Phillies kept rolling through October, beating the New York Yankees 6-1 on a misty Wednesday night in the World Series opener.
The defending champion Phillies shut down Alex Rodriguez & Co. in the first Series game at the new billion-dollar Yankee Stadium. Trying to become the first NL team to repeat since Cincinnati in 1975-76, the Phils’ 17-4 postseason run is the best in league history.
Email newsletter signup
Big Red Machine, meet your match.
‘‘We have confidence. We know we have a good team,’’ Utley said.
Game 2 is Thursday night, with wily Pedro Martinez pitching for the Phillies against jumpy A.J. Burnett.
Ryan Howard reprised his MVP performance, doubling twice and driving in the final run for the Phillies. Rodriguez, however, went hitless and struck out three times in his Series debut.
Hardly looking like the 2-to-1 underdogs they are, the Phillies were in such control that many fans left before the final out.
Lee bamboozled the Yankees with a spiked curveball, deceptive changeup and his usual pinpoint fastball, pitching a six-hitter while striking out 10 without a walk.
Lee blanked the Yankees until a run scored on shortstop Jimmy Rollins’ throwing error in the ninth inning. The lefty improved to 3-0 with an 0.54 ERA this postseason.
He really seemed to enjoy himself, too.
If Lee felt any anxiety in his Series debut, facing the team that led the majors in wins, homers and runs, it didn’t show. And if the Phillies were supposed to be intimidated of the pictures of Babe Ruth and all the Yankees greats on the giant videoboard, it didn’t happen.
‘‘To be honest I really never have been nervous in the big leagues. This is what I wanted to do my whole life. This is what I take pride in. For me there is no reason to be nervous,’’ Lee said.
‘‘Game time is the time go out there and have fun and let your skills take over. It’s kind of weird. Boils down to confidence and trusting your teammates,’’ he said.
Pitching in short sleeves on a blustery evening, Lee worked a wad of gum while he worked his spell over the Yanks. He stuck out his glove hand for a ho-hum catch on Johnny Damon’s popup that left the Phillies chuckling, shrugged after a nifty, behind-the-back stop on Robinson Cano’s one-hopper and casually tagged out Jorge Posada on a comebacker.
Lee beat his good friend and former Cy Young teammate Carsten Charles Sabathia in the first game at this ballpark back in April, and got this chance after the Phillies traded four minor leaguers to Cleveland in July to get him.
So Game 1 went to the Phils. But as Yankees manager Joe Girardi observed, ‘‘One thing, he can’t pitch every day.’’
Playing in their 40th World Series, and first in six years, the Yankees went quietly.
Utley’s solo home runs in the third and sixth innings gave Lee all the support he needed. Raul Ibanez hit a two-run single in the eighth and Shane Victorino added an RBI single in the ninth.
The Phillies’ may have been a bit overdue — in their only other October meeting, the Whiz Kids from Philadelphia got swept by the Yankees in the 1950 World Series and totaled just five runs.
Even though he’s an All-Star, Utley was an unlikely candidate to rock Sabathia, the MVP of the ALCS. Utley was 0 for 7 with five strikeouts against the big Yankees lefty going into the game.
Utley won a nine-pitch duel with Sabathia in the third, pulling a 95 mph fastball over the right-field wall. The shot was the first by a left-hander allowed by Sabathia at home this year.
Utley struck again in the sixth, sending another 95 mph heater deep into the right-center field bleachers.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel had little to do except watch from the top step of the dugout. Girardi was more busy, bringing in five relievers after Sabathia left following the seventh inning.
First lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden were among the crowd of 50,207, as were a few specks of fans dressed in Phillies red. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner watched from an upstairs box — he has yet to see his team win in the palace he built.
After a rocky postseason, umpires faced just one tricky call and got it right. They huddled after Rollins trapped a popup and threw to first, and correctly ruled it a double play.
Neither team got a lot of good swings in the early innings. Lee and Sabathia had a lot to do with that, and maybe a light drizzle hurt the hitters. So did the fact that each club had played only 10 games in 3 1/2 weeks because of the scattered postseason scheduling.
There was plenty of postseason bunting for the opener. Red, white and blue decorations adorned the upper decks, and both Rollins and Damon bunted into outs in the first inning.
The Phillies loaded the bases with two outs in the first inning on two walks sandwiched around Howard’s double. Ibanez got ahead in the count 3-1 and swung away, hitting a routine grounder.
NOTES: Utley set a postseason record by safely reaching in his 26th straight game, breaking a tie with Baltimore’s Boog Powell. … Rodriguez fanned three times in a game for the first time since July 30. … The Yankees went 64-36 in Series games at their old park…. The only previous time Cy Young winners met in the Series opener was 1995 when Cleveland’s Orel Hershiser faced Atlanta’s Greg Maddux. … The Yankees grounds crew wore T-shirts that said ‘‘Win it for the Boss.’’