In a hostile environment, against the toughest lineup they've seen in two Octobers, the Phillies took a long step toward a second straight World Series title behind a man who was nowhere near Citizens Bank Park last October. Cliff Lee continued his superb October run with his best playoff start yet: a complete-game six-hitter, allowing no earned runs and striking out ten. Lee not only dominated the vaunted Yankee lineup--he did it in style, nonchalantly catching a popup with one hand in the sixth and fielding a grounder behind his back in the eighth. If the lefty ace felt any nervousness at his first Fall Classic appearance, he gave an Oscar-worthy performance in hiding it.
On the offensive side, Chase Utley--a big question mark coming into the Series, with whispers that he might be hiding an injury that had sapped his power and compromised his defense--was the hero. Facing CC Sabathia, untouchable in three previous wins through the 2009 postseason, Utley broke a scoreless tie with a solo home run with two outs in the third inning--battling back from behind in the count, working it full, then taking Sabathia out just over the wall in right field on the ninth pitch. Three innings later--after Sabathia had set down the intervening eight hitters--Utley got Sabathia again for another solo shot, this time a no-doubter to right.
Meanwhile, Lee cruised. He started the night by striking out Derek Jeter, and went on to hold Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Jorge Posada--the Yankees' 3-4-5 hitters--to a collective 0 1 for 12 with seven strikeouts. Jeter, who had three hits after the first-inning K, notched the Yankees' only extra-base hit of the night, a two-out double in the third. The Yankees wouldn't get another runner into scoring position until the ninth.
Sabathia left after seven mostly superb innings, a hard-luck loser after allowing four hits, three walks and two runs and striking out six. But the New York bullpen couldn't hold the line: Phil Hughes started the eighth and walked Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, the only two hitters he faced. Then Damaso Marte got a gift strikeout of Utley and a flyout of Howard that moved Rollins to third. David Robertson came on and walked Jayson Werth, loading the bases. Then Raul Ibanez delivered the knockout punch, a two-run seeing-eye single to the right side that made it 4-0. An inning later, the Phils added two more on a Carlos Ruiz double, a Rollins infield single, a Victorino single that scored Ruiz and, after an Utley flyout, a Howard double that scored Rollins on which Victorino was out at the plate.
Lee came back out for the ninth despite a six-run lead and a pitch count over 100. He gave up a squib single to Jeter and a harder-hit knock to Damon, then the Yankees finally got on the scoreboard with a Mark Teixiera grounder back through the middle that Utley fielded and flipped to Rollins for an out before the Gold Glove shortstop airmailed the relay throw, allowing Jeter to cross the plate. But Lee ended it with swinging strikeouts of Rodriguez and Posada, putting the Phils up 1-0 in the Series and finishing another chapter in his burgeoning postseason legend.
Pedro Martinez takes the mound tomorrow as the Phillies seek a 2-0 lead in the Series. A.J. Burnett goes for the Yankees.