Cliff Lee did it again for the Phillies on Wednesday, pitching a complete-game six-hitter and out-dueling Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia in a 6-1 victory in Game 1 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium.
Lee improved to 3-0 in the playoffs. He struck out 10, including three against Alex Rodriguez. Sabathia was good too, but the two solo home runs he gave up to Chase Utley were too much on this night.
Alarming for the Yankees are their relievers not named Mariano Rivera. Phil Hughes, Dave Robertson and Brian Bruney combined to give up four runs in the last two innings, squashing the Yankees’ hopes of a comeback.
A.J. Burnett has a lot of pressure on him in Game 2.
The 2009 World Series begins tonight at Yankee Stadium. And I believe the two best teams in baseball are playing for the title.
I also believe the Yankees will end up winning that title.
If the Phillies’ pitching staff were the same as last year, I’d really like their chances. But right now, they have only one reliable starting pitcher (Cliff Lee), and he’s going to be matched up against the Yankees’ best pitcher in C.C. Sabathia. In other words, a Phillies win there is anything but a sure thing. And the rest of the Phillies’ rotation? Cole Hamels has been very ordinary all season and has continued that in the postseason. Pedro Martinez was great against the Dodgers in a day game in warm Los Angeles. I doubt he’ll be nearly as effective in colder weather at night against the Yankees’ lineup. Joe Blanton certainly isn’t going to scare the Yankees’ lineup. And while the Phillies’ bullpen (especially closer Brad Lidge) has pitched better in the playoffs, it still hasn’t improved enough to make me think it can shut down Jeter, Texieira, A-Rod and company late in the game.
For the Yankees, while A.J. Burnett has also been rather ordinary in the playoffs, Andy Pettitte is solid and steady, and we all know about Sabathia. Lefty relievers Damaso Martie and Phil Coke will likely play big roles in this series – both will have to get late-inning outs against Phillies sluggers Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez.
The Phillies are no pushovers and have proven their toughness over the last three seasons. They won’t self destruct the way the Twins and Angels did in big spots. But the Yankees are a bit deeper in the starting rotation, have a much more reliable closer and will be a little too much offensively.
Yankees in 6.