Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lee, Utley Spur Phils To Victory

Through the first seven innings, Game One unfolded like the pitchers' duel it promised to be. CC Sabathia needed just five pitches to retire the game's first two batters. The next two plate appearances however would foreshadow things to come. Sabathia got ahead of Chase Utley 1-2, but continued to pitch carefully to the Phillies' dangerous number three hitter. Utley worked a walk, then moved to third when Ryan Howard ripped a double on a fastball that was supposed to be outside, but caught too much of the plate. With first base open, Sabathia elected to be cautious with Jayson Werth, issuing a free pass to him as well. The Big Fella escaped the jam by getting Raul Ibanez to ground out, but the heart of the Phillies' order forced Sabathia to throw 19 pitches between the second and third outs.

CC cruised through the bottom of the Philadelphia order in the second, retiring the side on seven pitches. In the third, eleven more pitches got him two outs against the top of the order. Then Utley stepped to the plate for the second time. Again Sabathia jumped ahead 1-2, but Utley fought off three tough pitcher's pitches and worked the count full. On the ninth pitch of the at bat, a Sabathia fastball ticketed for the outside corner caught too much plate, just like against Howard in the first. This time Utley lofted it into the right field stands to give the Phils a one run lead.

Meanwhile, Cliff Lee was dealing. He surrendered only a single to Jorge Posada the first time through the order, and stranded Derek Jeter after his two out double in the third. After a perfect fourth, Lee faced the minimum in the fifth. Hideki Matsui led off with a single, but thanks a bit of a baserunning blunder on his part and an astute play by Jimmy Rollins at short, he was erased on a double play.

Heading into the sixth, Sabathia had retired seven consecutive Phillies following the Utley HR, four by strikeout. Shane Victorino flew out to lead off the sixth, running Sabathia's streak to eight batters as Utley stepped back into the box. Once again CC got ahead, this time 0-2. Once again, Utley fought off a tough pitch, fouling away a 94 MPH fastball coming up and in on him. Sabathia came back with another heater, but left it over the heart of the plate and Utley absolutely destroyed it, depositing the ball in the right field bleachers for his second solo shot of the night.

By the time Sabathia exited the game following the seventh inning, he had surrendered just four hits and three walks while striking out six. But the two Utley home runs left CC and the Yanks down 2-0. They were still in the game, but Lee's continued dominance and a shaky pair of innings from the Yankee pen dug the hole deeper.

Phil Hughes began the eighth. Facing the top of the Phillies' order he issued back-to-back free passes to Rollins and Victorino. With the two big lefties due and Damaso Marte ready that was it for Hughes. As he departed he had a few choice words for home plate umpire Gerry Davis, and Pitch FX seems to indicate he had a legitimate gripe. Marte did his job, using a K to finally retire Utley then getting Howard to fly out. Marte gave way to David Robertson, who walked Jayson Werth with the aid of more questionable calls. With two outs and the bases loaded, Ibanez put a seeing eye single between Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira, making it 4-0.

Inexplicably, Brian Bruney was on the mound to begin the ninth. In his first appearance in twenty six days Bruney got a quick out, gave up a double, an infield single, and an RBI single to run it to 5-0. With Chase Utley coming up again Joe Girardi decided to either A). get Phil Coke some work or B). go back to matching up despite allowing the designated mop up man to start the inning. Coke got Utley to fly out, but a Ryan Howard double played the sixth run before Victorino got gunned down at the plate to end the inning.

The poor relief pitching and a few questionable calls from Davis didn't really matter. Cliff Lee was that good. He went the distance on just 122 pitches, scattered six hits - just one for extra bases, walked no one, and stuck out nine - eight swinging. He never threw more than 16 pitches in an inning, went to a three ball count on just three batters, and the only run he allowed was unearned thanks to an error on a would-be double play ball in the ninth.

The Yankee bats have been prone to periods of silence this post-season; the bullpen hasn't pitched the way most thought it would, and the Phillies have just captured home field advantage. Before anyone starts claiming the sky is falling, let's give credit where it's due. The Phillies are a good team. Chase Utley is one of the top hitters in baseball; Cliff Lee is one of the top pitchers. Sometimes you just get it handed to you. The good news is it's only one game, the first game at that, and that the Yankees are just as capable of doing tomorrow what the Phillies did today. We'll see you then.

No comments:

Post a Comment