Cliff Lee utterly brilliant as Phils take Game 1 of the World Series 6-1

For 8 innings tonight, Cliff Lee looked poised to throw the second straight World Series shutout at Yankee Stadium. As it was, the utterly dominant Lee (complete game, 1R, 0ER, 6H, 0BB, 10K) extended the Yankees’ World Series scoreless streak to 17 straight innings until the home nine broke through in the bottom of the 9th on an unearned run. Lee was so good that the Yankees were unable to put multiple runners on base or advance a runner to third until the 9th inning, as the Phillies won Game 1 of the 2009 World Series 6-1.

On the other side of the ball, CC Sabathia pitched well (7IP, 4H, 2ER, 3BB, 6K), although labored through a good portion of his seven innings. The Phillies looked like they might break things open right away against Sabathia in the top of the 1st, but CC was able to wriggle out of trouble. The only two runs Sabathia yielded were two solo home runs by Chase Utley. It’s very hard to quibble with two runs yielded over seven full, and probably even harder to quibble with those two runs coming off the bat of the best second baseman in Major League Baseball. Even if Sabathia had been near-perfect the Yankees may not have won this game given the way Cliff Lee was dealing.

As it was, if the Yankees had any hope of mounting a late-inning comeback, those plans were dashed as the bullpen punted the game away, giving up four runs over the last two frames. Phil Hughes continued to struggle, walking the only two batters he faced to start the 8th inning, while David Robertson allowed two of his inherited runners to score. Credit goes to Damaso Marte, who continued to be quietly effective, retiring the only two men he faced.

With a 4-0 deficit coming into the top of the 9th, Girardi apparently agreed with the majority of the crowd that the game was over, going to beleaguered reliever Brian Bruney. Bruney promptly rewarded Joe by giving up three hits and two runs, one of which was scored after Phil Coke relieved Bruney and lucked into a bad baserunning play by Shane Victorino to get out of the inning.

With the exception of Derek Jeter, who went 3-4, the Yankees’ offensive woes continued. Even Alex Rodriguez finally cooled off, as the heart of the order combined to go 1-12 with seven strikeouts. Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher continued to look terrible at the plate, and are batting .211 and .114 on the postseason, respectively. Additionally, Mark Teixeria is batting .186.

The game marked the Yankees’ first loss at home and the first time the team has been down in the 2009 postseason. For what it’s worth, the last time the Yankees lost Game 1 of the World Series at home was 1996. The last team to lose the first game of the World Series at home and go on to win the championship was the 2002 Angels.

While it’s tough to lose the first game of any series, especially at home, there’s still plenty of baseball left, and as great as Cliff Lee was, the Phillies are not going to see another performance like this from any of their starters. Even if Lee comes back to pitch Game 4 and a potential Game 7, it seems highly unlikely he could be this good again, unless the Yankee bats decide to continue their World Series 2001 (.183/.240/.288) and 2003 (.261/.338/.406) reunion tours and painfully go simultaneously lifeless at the worst possible time.

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4 thoughts on “Cliff Lee utterly brilliant as Phils take Game 1 of the World Series 6-1

  1. Although i'm still optimistic about the Yankees' chances in this series, I think it's probably wishful thinking to say "it seems highly unlikely [Lee] could be THIS good again…"

    Let's look at his post-season lines thus far:

    @NYY: 9ip/6h/0er/0bb
    LA: 8ip/3h/0er/0bb
    @COL: 7.1ip/5h/1er/3bb
    COL: 9ip/6h/1er/0bb

    In other words, last night's game, as amazing as it was, was actually par for the course for Lee, nothing out of the ordinary. If he pitches three games in the World Series — which I can almost guarantee you he will — this is going to be a massively uphill climb.

  2. You know, I knew Lee had obviously been very very good, but when you look at it that way he is truly having a postseason for the ages.

    I guess what I meant to say is, Lee obviously is capable of pitching that well again, but the Yankees in theory are too good to get that thoroughly dominated by him two more times on short rest in this series. At least I hope.

  3. Actually Tea, as great as Lee was, if the Yankee bullpen doesn't blow the game open, it's not inconceivable that the Yankees could have rallied back from a 2-0 deficit, as Lee was finally looking somewhat hittable by the end of the game.

    Of course it's easy to say he may have been pitching to the score, what with a six-run lead and all, and maybe he doesn't give up those two hits to Jeter and Damon to lead the inning off, but I like the team's chances quite a bit more down only two runs with the top of the order coming up in the bottom of the 9th and Cliff Lee over 100 pitches.

    So to some degree, I think one can say the game was at least partly decided by the bullpen.