Bodley: Gem among Fall Classic's best
Relaxed ace completely dominates powerful Yanks lineup
NEW YORK -- Cliff Lee punched out Derek Jeter on three pitches, threw out Johnny Damon on a weak grounder, fanned Mark Teixeira and did the same thing to Alex Rodriquez.
That's how the Phillies' steel-cool left-hander started Wednesday night's work at the $1.5 billion palace that is the new Yankee Stadium.
I can't imagine a better way to send a message to the Yankees that winning their 27th World Series will be no easy task -- if it's possible at all.
Lee's 6-1 complete-game victory ranks as one of the greatest World Series pitching performances I've seen. Only an unearned run in the ninth inning, when many in the sellout crowd of 50,207 had already given up and left, deprived him of a shutout.
It was only fitting that this superb victory would be at the expense of his buddy CC Sabathia, a former Indians teammate, who gave up two home runs to Chase Utley and left after seven innings.
I believe Jack Morris' 10-inning 1-0 victory over Atlanta in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series is No. 1 on my list.
Others that stand out:
The first World Series I attended (as a fan) was the 1950 match between the Yankees and Phillies. In Game 1, New York's Vic Raschi outpitched Philadelphia's Jim Konstanty and won 1-0.
In Game 5 of the 1996 Fall Classic, the Yanks' Andy Pettitte outdueled the Braves' John Smoltz in a 1-0 New York victory.
I'll never forget 23-year-old Josh Beckett's superb 2-0 Game 6 win over the Yanks in 2003, a complete-game effort over Pettitte that gave Jack McKeon and the Florida Marlins their unexpected title.
And let's not forget the brilliant 6-0 three-hit, complete-game shutout by the Dodgers' Orel Hershiser against Oakland in the second game of the 1988 World Series. That came the day after Kirk Gibson's historic walk-off homer in Game 1. Hershiser, who also won the Game 5 clincher, was MVP of that Series.
Going the distance
|C. Lee||10/28/09||PHI||@ NYY||6-1|
|J. Morris||10/9/84||DET||@ SD||3-2|
|M. Caldwell||10/12/82||MIL||@ STL||10-0|
|B. Gibson||10/4/67||STL||@ BOS||2-1|
|S. Koufax||10/2/63||LA||@ NYY||5-2|
|W. Ford||10/4/62||NYY||@ SF||6-2|
Lee is making a habit of memorable moments on the New York stage. He started the 2008 All-Star Game, the last at old Yankee Stadium, was the winning pitcher as Cleveland defeated the Yankees in April's first game at this new park, and Wednesday night, in damp and drizzly conditions, he won the first World Series contest in the magnificent stadium.
"I think that's just ironic," Lee said. "It was my first All-Star Game. It's not like I was going to every one and all of a sudden we had one in New York. It was my turn to pitch when [the Indians] came to New York for the first game here. I just think it's ironic I had two firsts here and one last at the old Yankee Stadium."
Lee, who came to the Phillies from Cleveland in a July trade, struck out 10, walked none and made three defensive plays -- one a basket catch on Damon's popup in the sixth inning. Lee fanned the side in the fourth.
Lee struck out Rodriguez, who's been on a postseason tear, three times and also got him to ground out to third base.
Lee says he really doesn't know any one way to get A-Rod out.
"Really, with this whole lineup, you got to be unpredictable," he said, "you've got to show them stuff they haven't seen before and just kind of be unpredictable -- mix speeds, mix locations and don't get in patterns."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Lee "kept us off balance. He got us to chase some pitches when we were down in the count, up in the zone. He used his cutter very well. He used his curveball really well."
Almost from the moment Lee arrived, he became the Phillies' ace, bringing back memories of Hall of Famer Steve Carlton, who was one of the most dominant pitchers of his era.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he knew Lee, the 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner, was good when he joined the team.
"But if you want to know the truth, I didn't know that he was as good as he's been," said Manuel. "When you see him pitch tonight, he had all of his pitches going. He had a fastball, cutter, curveball, changeup -- and he used every one of them. He went through a good lineup -- a tremendous lineup."
Lee could have been pitching for a beer softball league, as relaxed as he looked on the mound in the biggest start of his career.
"Not nervous at all," Lee said. "It's been a long time since I've been nervous playing the game. It's what I've been doing my whole life. Like I said, I put all the work in. You do everything you need to do to prepare, and I try not to leave anything to chance.
But don't for a minute think this wasn't a special night for Lee.
"It's surreal," he admitted. "I mean, like I said, this is what you dream of as a baseball player growing up as a kid. This is the stage you want to play on. You want to pitch in the World Series."
Lee says he and the Phillies have a long way to go before they can celebrate.
"I'll pat myself on the back when it's over, hopefully," he said, "but until then, I'm going to keep grinding and do everything I do each day to prepare for my next outing and leave it at that."
But for one shining moment in World Series history, Lee was about as good as he could be.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.