For Opener, Lee Was Right Move

(Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Charlie Manuel took a little heat when he named Cliff Lee the starter for Game One of the NLDS, but it proved to work well for the defending World Champions. Lee and a strong Phillies offense opened with an impressive win.

There was a moment, with two outs in the ninth inning Wednesday, when Cliff Lee stepped off the rubber, looked around sold-out Citizens Bank Park, and took a deep breath.

It was the only mistake he made all day.

"I wanted to give myself a chance to really absorb it, take it all in," Lee said. "But then I threw three straight balls and one down the middle that went in the gap (for an RBI double). So I wish I wouldn't have done that."

Otherwise, Lee had no regrets about his postseason debut. Facing the Colorado Rockies in Game One of the National League Division Series, Lee was masterful, tossing a 113-pitch complete game and carrying the Phillies to a 5-1 victory, the first on their October journey for another World Series championship.

Lee, who wasn't informed he'd be the starter until Monday, became the eighth pitcher in team history to throw a complete game in the postseason and the first since Curt Schilling in Game Five of the 1993 World Series. It was precisely the sort of performance the Phillies envisioned when they acquired Lee from Cleveland in a blockbuster trade July 29.

Really, though, it was just Cliff being Cliff.

"You can put it that way, that it was his first-ever postseason appearance or whatever," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said, "but it was just another baseball game for him. He still had to pitch the ball, hit his spots. Today, he was dominating. He just never let off the gas."

"To be honest with you," left fielder Raul Ibanez added, "he just looked like Cliff Lee. That's kind of what he does. He's aggressive. He throws strikes. He comes after guys. It just looked like Cliff Lee."

With a 25-mph wind whipping toward right field and the largest crowd in the six-year history of Citizens Bank Park - 46,452 strong - waving white rally towels, Lee threw his fastball and cutter, mixed in his changeup and curveball, and retired 23 of 26 batters after Yorvit Torrealba's leadoff single in the second inning.

And although Ryan Madson and J.A. Happ were warming in the ninth inning, and Lee lost his shutout on a one-out single by Carlos Gonzalez and a two-out RBI double by Troy Tulowitzki, he struck out Garrett Atkins on a 94-mph fastball with the crowd chanting "Let's go, Lee!" and guaranteed the Phillies wouldn't need to dip into their unreliable bullpen.

"I knew there was going to be more adrenaline with it being a playoff game," Lee said. "But it's still 60 feet, 6 inches to home plate, still the same strike zone. For the most part, I tried to treat it like a normal start."

Notes and Quotes

  • Cole Hamels feels the pain of all the Phillies fans who were unable to watch Game One and will miss Game two as well, because of the 2:37 p.m. start times. "I don't think it's fair. I definitely don't think it's fair for the fans because this is all about home-field advantage," said Hamels. "I understand TV ratings, but I think, at the end of the day, most players would rather play when they're both comfortable and that's kind of what we're trained at, either one o'clock or seven o'clock. That's more fair for us than the TV ratings because I don't think we mind as much for TV ratings. We want to get ourselves to the World Series and win it, and that's all that matters. It's not how much money we can make in the process of playing this game because being a world champ, that's what we really live for."
  • Jayson Werth has played plenty of games in right field at Citizens Bank Park over the last three seasons, but he never experienced anything like Wednesday. Wind gusts were reported at 25 to 35 mph, with occasional 40-mph readings. Food wrappers and other debris often landed on the field, while dirt and chalk kicked up from the infield, like a sand storm. "Between wind and sun in right field, it was probably the toughest day defensively in Philly that I've seen," said Werth, who struggled to catch a Dexter Fowler flyball in the first inning. "It was pretty intense as far as the sun bearing down on you, and the wind, not only was it blowing, it was swirling. So it wasn't always doing the same thing."
  • Raul Ibanez had a memorable playoff debut with the Phillies. In his first postseason game since 2000 with Seattle, he went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI. In the fifth inning, he ripped a double off Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez to score Jayson Werth and give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. He again drove in Werth with a sixth-inning single to open a 5-0 advantage. "It definitely feels good to help out the team and be a part of it and contribute," said Ibanez, who had a stellar first half of the season before slumping in the second half after returning from a groin strain that sidelined him for nearly a month. "You feel thankful for the opportunity, but at the same time, you stay focused on what you've got to do."
  • Left-hander Antonio Bastardo has pitched just once for the Phillies since June 25. But he's on their 25-man roster for the NL Division Series because the Phillies wanted an extra left-hander against the Colorado Rockies' lefty-leaning lineup. And if the need arises, manager Charlie Manuel said he won't hesitate to use Bastardo, especially in the sixth inning or earlier. Beyond this postseason, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said Bastardo's future likely will be in the bullpen. Several members of the Phillies' organization envision Bastardo as a potential successor to J.C. Romero, who has one season left on his contract. "One, it's probably need," Amaro said, explaining why the Phillies like Bastardo in the bullpen. "Two, just having observed him over the past couple years at the big-league level, that might where he is most valuable."
  • J.C. Romero underwent surgery Wednesday to fix a torn flexor tendon in his elbow. According to GM Ruben Amaro Jr., there wasn't any damage to the ulnar collateral ligament. Thus, Romero's recovery time is expected to be closer to five months than 12, the typical recovery time from "Tommy John" surgery. Romero has been sidelined since July 19. He made one appearance September 28 after coming off the disabled list, but his arm didn't respond well. A visit with New York Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek revealed that he needed surgery. Altchek performed the procedure at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

The Numbers Game: 1 Blown save for Brad Lidge at Citizens Bank Park this season. Lidge led the majors with 11 blown saves, but he went 16-for-17 at home.

He said what?

"Knowing that we're going to be here for the first round, it's a settling feeling. Now we know we've got a couple days off. We don't have to travel anywhere." - Brad Lidge, on the Phillies securing home-field advantage in the NL Division Series.


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