Top Moment #4: Lee Shuts Down Yankees in WS Opener
Before the start of the 2009 World Series, Phillies fans were peering through rose-colored glasses. There was a certain sense of entitlement that this team, this city, belonged on this grand stage. The Phils were the defending champions, after all. Who did these punks from the Bronx think they were?
With optimism at an all-time high prior to the start of the Fall Classic, the Phillies seemed to use their relatively easy road to the World Series, along with the fabled left arm of Cliff Lee, to take Game 1 over the New York Yankees, 6-1. It was a monumental matchup, a Clash of the Titans, if you will, with Lee going up against the $160 million man, CC Sabathia. For the first seven frames, it lived up to it’s billing.
Lee settled into the new Yankee Stadium instantly by striking out Derek Jeter on three pitches, inducing a ground out by Johnny Damon, and then fanning Mark Teixeira. Cliff tossed just 10 pitches in the first inning, and never looked back. His location was precise from the first pitch, something we’d seen throughout his five playoff starts.
The offense finally got involved in the third inning as Chase Utley blasted one of his two homers on the day, en route to a series-record-tying five, as he joined Mr. October, Reggie Jackson at the top of the sacred list. Utley gave the Phils a 1-0 lead, then struck again in the sixth with another solo shot to right-center field, which doubled as the game winner. The Phils would tack on two in the eighth and two more in the ninth off of five different Yankee relievers to lock it up. Don’t read much into the lopsided score, however, because this was an old-fashioned pitchers duel for the first seven.
Lee and Sabathia went toe to toe, with Chase Utley taking full advantage of the only two mistakes CC made. Cliff would win the battle with a stat line that had never been witnessed before in a World Series. His complete-game, zero earned run performance, to go with 10 strikeouts and no walks, was the first of its kind. Koufax never did it. Gibson never did. Maddux didn’t either. Cliff Lee holds one of the most dominating performances in the history of MLB’s postseason. Unfortunately for the Phillies, it did not translate into another title, but for Game 1, the Phillies were still kings.