Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lee Takes Center Stage, Phils lead Series 1-0

This was supposed to be a hitter's series. Cliff Lee was supposed to come back to Earth against the highest scoring offense in baseball. He was supposed to feel the pressure.

Well, re-write the scripts. Heck we might have to re-write the history books at this rate. Lee, once again, was absolutely brilliant in a 6-1 Phillies win, stealing homefield advantage from the Yankees.

Lee took on oneC.C. Sabathia in a match-up of former AL Cy Young Award winners, which could only be dubbed as the Thank You Cleveland game. Sabathia, of course, struggled against the Phillies last October as a member of the Brewers, but for the most part he looked solid against the Phillies tonight. He basically made two mistakes the whole night. Unfortunately for him, both were to Chase Utley, who would've been the player of the game if Lee hadn't gone Jack Morris on the Yankees. Utley belted a pair of homers, which gave the Phillies their only runs off Sabathia.

While the rest of the Phillies' bats didn't contribute on the scoreboard during Sabathia's 7-inning stint, they did their part at the plate, working counts and driving up Sabathia's pitch totals. That allowed the Phillies to get to the Yankees bullpen and add four insurance runs in the last two innings.

The insurance was certainly appreciated, but the way Lee was pitching, it wasn't necessary. He mowed down the Yankees, allowing zero earned runs in a complete game, the only Yankees run coming on a Jimmy Rollins error in the 9th. Lee's final statline: 9 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 0 ER, 10 K. Not too shabby. Especially when five of those strikeouts came against Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixiera. And while Sabathia appeared to labor at times, Lee made it all look so easy. Perhaps the play that summed up the game came in the sixth inning. Johnny Damon popped up to the mound and Lee made a ridiculously nonchalant basket catch. Nice and easy, just like every pitch he's thrown this October.

In the ninth inning, one of Lee's pitches showed up on the radar gun as 99 mph, at which point Joe Buck commented that the gun probably malfunctioned. Frankly, at this point Lee hitting triple digits wouldn't surprise me. In fact, forget the radar gun, let's get Lee's pulse up on screen.

Suffice it to say, it's an excellent start for the Phillies. They won the battle of the aces and have wrested homefield advantage from New York. The offense did what it always does, wearing down the starter and taking advantage of mistakes. The Phillies have a chance to take control of the series with a win tomorrow night.

The pitching match-up in Game 2 makes it fairly unpredictable. Pedro Martinez was brilliant against the Dodgers, but this is a more dangerous lineup and this isn't pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium. Meanwhile A.J. Burnett is erratic from start to start. The Phillies roughed up Burnett in May, scoring five runs on him in six innings in a 7-3 win, so hopefully history repeats itself.

Whatever happens tomorrow, the win tonight is a great start for the Phillies' bid to make history as the first NL team to repeat as World Champions since the Big Red Machine.

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