Until March 27, we’ll be counting down the 50 greatest Phillies games of the last 50 years. This is 50 of 50.
And this is No. 14.
THE DATE: Oct. 28, 2009
THE GAME: Phillies vs. New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium II, Bronx, New York
THE STAKES: Game 1, World Series
THE GREAT: The Phils had to travel for games one and two of the 2009 World Series, similar to ‘08. The only difference? This time, they were playing under the bright lights in New York against an offensive juggernaut Yankees squad.
My dad had the thrill of experiencing the 1980 world championship. Steve Carlton was on the mound for the clincher in Game 6 and he told me, “We just knew they were winning the World Series that night.”
We also had a left-hander on the mound for Game 1, and you know what? He turned out to be a lot like “Lefty.” When the Phils traded for Cliff Lee at the deadline, his first five starts in a Phils uniform resulted in an astounding 0.68 ERA. In his three playoff starts before Game 1 in 2009, Lee compiled an eye-popping 0.74 ERA. When this guy was on his game, there was no stopping him.
The Yankees were the clear favorites to capture their 27th World Championship. With a lineup featuring Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui and Mark Teixeira in the new Yankee Stadium with the short porches down the lines? Yeah, very little thought the Phils could hang.
But Cliff Lee didn’t get that memo.
With the odds stacked against them, it was Lee and the Phillies that went into the bright lights of new Yankee Stadium and reminded all New Yorkers (and the world for that matter) that the defending champs were not to be toyed with. In fact, it was the lack of fear that Lee showed that had him toying with the Bombers bats – moving pitches in and out, up and down. The Yanks couldn’t touch him.
Chase Utley took old friend CC Sabathia deep not once, but twice, giving Lee all he needed. Posada was the victim of Lee’s 10th strikeout of night, completing the game allowing just one run on six hits.
Though the Phillies were defeated by the Yankees in the 2009 World Series, this game was the most accurate representation of how that team played and approached the game. Entering baseball’s biggest stage and quietly handling their business.
To this day, I still say that was most masterful pitching performance I have ever seen. Point being, every time Cliff Lee took the mound in 2009, we knew the Phillies were going to win.