Games 1 and 2 of the 2009 World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees are in the books. The highly anticipated matchup (or the worst possible nightmare for a certain fan base) hasn’t quite delivered the ultimate in baseball dramatics as many people have expected. There haven’t been any walk-off home runs, unassisted triple plays by Derek Jeter or Ryan Howard destroying the flood lights in right-field… in slow motion with a bleeding gun wound. What we have seen is stellar pitching performances for both teams in each game. The two best offenses in their respective leagues, ready to send baseballs soaring through the Stadium Jetstream, have remained relatively silent. What we have is a World Series heading back to Philadelphia all notched up at one.
Game 1 was primed to be the ultimate table-setter for this marquee matchup. The last two American League Cy Young award winners, friends and former teammates, squaring off in late October in the Bronx. When the game ended, fans on both sides sat stunned, with mouths agape.
Phillies starter Cliff Lee pitched one of the most masterful performances in World Series history. The Yankees forgot to show up. Phillies won 6-1.
Lee did everything right. He mowed down 10 Yankee batters, five coming right from the heart of the batting order in Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez. He baffled the Bombers all night with wicked off-speed pitches and devastating cut fastballs. El Capitan Jeter was the only Yank to find a way to get good wood on the bat, going 3 for 4.
When Lee wasn’t throwing, he was catching. A routine 15-foot pop-up from Johnny Damon, turned in to one of the more unlikely, yet memorable catches in recent World Series memory. Barely twitching a muscle, he nonchalantly stuck his glove out to the side for a lazy basket catch… all while still chomping on his wad of gum. Later in the game, he made an incredible no look, behind-the-back stab of a Robinson Cano shot up the middle, and in one fluid motion, turned and threw to Ryan Howard for the out. Lee just shrugged in his usual cool, laid back, Arkansas way.
The Phillies didn’t just have their pitching working on all cylinders. Their offense was their usual selves. Yankees’ ace CC Sabathia pitched a very good game himself, going seven innings and striking out six. From the outset however, his command was suspect. The Phillies patient batters worked long counts. He and Posada could not seem to get together on pitch selection and location. Chase Utley made him pay with two solo home runs. The first one just cleared the right-field wall. The second knocked out a window on a passing 6 train.
Yanks’ manager Joe Girardi went to his bullpen and it just got worse. The Phils tacked on four more runs and caused the fans to leave the park early. The victory gave the Phillies a huge boost of confidence and quickly achieved their goal of leaving New York with at least one win. While the series was far from over, the Yankees realized Game 2 was an absolute “must-win”.
Much like the first game, this one also had a wonderful plot line. The Phillies’ Pedro Martinez was making his return to Yankee Stadium, the site of many postseason heavyweight fights when he was a member of the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees fans, apparently still thinking it was 2004, pulled out the tiredly outdated “Who’s Your Daddy” chants. If you are not familiar with this reference, please visit your local library and scan through some dusty microfiche.
(OK, that was my Yankees dig of the day. I’m finished.)
The Yankees were throwing out their “other” big pitching free agent acquisition, A.J. Burnett. Much like the rest of the season, big questions marks were surrounding his start. Which Burnett will show up tonight? Unfortunately for the Phillies, the got Good A.J. With nasty curveballs, Burnett froze and fooled Phillies hitters all night, going seven innings and striking out nine to lead the Yankees to a 3-1 victory.
The Phillies struck first with a Matt Stairs single to drive in Raul Ibanez in the second inning. That’s all the Phils could muster. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard went a combined 0-7 with four strikeouts.
Much like Game 2 of the National League Championship Series against the L.A. Dodgers, Martinez came out and pitched a solid outing. He also had the Yanks baffled, striking out eight. His two mistakes resulted in two solo home runs off the bats of Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui. It unraveled in the seventh when Martinez put men on first and third with no outs. The Phillies bullpen was called in to limit the damage. Chan Ho Park gave up a single to Jorge Posada to extend the Yanks lead to 3-1. The Phils caught a break when Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins turned a double play, which, “after further review” showed quite the contrary. The first-base umpire ruled Howard caught a Johnny Damon line drive, but in fact he snagged the hit on a very short hop, then throwing to Rollins to “double up” Posada at second, thus ending the threat.
But as the saying goes, what goes around, comes around.
Closer Mariano Rivera was called on for a six-out save to start the eighth. The Phillies did a wonderful job working his pitch count up and had first and second with one out. Chase Utley grounded to Cano for, what seemed to be an inning-ending double play. Ah, but again, another incorrect call as Utley was clearly safe after looking at the slo-mo replays.
(A lot has been said about the umpiring in this postseason, and I will agree that there have been some atrocious calls, but I must admit, these two plays were very close. I think if you put ten different experienced umps at first and have them call these plays, I would bet half of them would have come to the same conclusions.)
Rivera was his usual self for the ninth inning… striking out Howard for the fourth, then dispatching Jayson Werth in the same manner. Things all of a sudden got very interesting with Raul Ibanez smacking a double with last year’s Paul Bunyon-esque hero, Matt Stairs, as the Phils’ last hope. He provided the only run for the Phillies this night. Would he be able to add another chapter in Phillies postseason lore?! Would he do the unthinkable and blow the save of the unstoppable Rivera?! Would this be the moment that will make this series legendary?!
Back to Philadelphia they go…
About the Author
Written by Bryan Sargent
Bryan Sargent is a lifelong Phillies fan, currently residing in the least hospitable city for such a person as himself, New York City. This coming January he will be attending Phillies Phantasy Camp in Clearwater, FL. He is currently documenting the entire process on his blog (http://www.bryansargent.com). You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @BTSargent.