So much for worrying about who the Game 1 starter should be. Charlie Manuel made a wise decision as Cliff Lee tossed a complete game to open the Phillies 2009 postseason.
Lee absolutely dumbfounded the Rockies lineup over nine innings, leading the Phillies to a 5-1 victory. There were butterflies to start the game, as the Rockies put two men on base, only to watch Lee finagle his way out of the jam. The tall lefty then settled in, calming his nerves in the second on an inning-ending double play by Clint Barmes. It was smooth sailing from then until the ninth.
In the final frame, just when it appeared a shutout was in order, a clearly amped-up Lee allowed a single by Carlos Gonzalez, who then scored on a gap-double by Troy Tulowitzki.
For the Fightin’s, the fun began in the fifth inning when Ubaldo Jimenez lost all control. Jayson Werth kicked off the frame with a walk and Raul Ibanez doubled him home, shooting it past first baseman Todd Helton into the corner. Two batters later, Carlos Ruiz hit a liner to right field that skipped past right fielder Brad Hawpe to score Ibanez, making it 2-0. The floodgates would then open.
The Phillies would score three more in the sixth, chasing the starter Jimenez, who had been virtually un-hittable through four innings. Chase Utley led things off with a single, after two awful previous plate appearances. Ryan Howard then smashed one into the wind to the opposite field, only to have the wind play tricks with it, and drop off of the glove of the backpedaling Carlos Gonzalez in left. Gonzalez himself smashed against the wall, and Utley easily crossed home plate to make it a three run advantage.
Jayson Werth then annihilated a pitch that headed toward the left-center field seats and would have easily been a bomb had the jet stream not be present above CBP. It barely stayed in play, and hit off of the top of the wall, just above the reach of Dexter Fowler. Werth ended up at third base, sending Howard home. 4-0. After a pitching change, Raul Ibanez singled to right, bringing Werth home and putting the Phils up by a five spot.
Offensively, you just never know when this team will strike, and they did quickly and efficiently on this beautiful afternoon. And although the festivities began with an anxious sigh as Jimenez pumped 100 m.p.h. fastballs through the zone, the Phils pounced at the perfect moment and sent the Rockies starter into tizzy. As is customary by this group, they put together back-to-back big innings and it was more than enough for the dazzling Cliff Lee.
He was brought here for one reason: to win big games. The fans looked slightly disheveled early on, but they stuck with the mid-season acquisition through the bumps. All-in-all, it was a powerful performance by all involved. The lineup from top to bottom came up large (every player got a hit for the Phils) and the defense was just as steady. Several routine plays were anything but due to the whipping winds, but that’s why the Phils as a unit are one of the best with the leather.
Phillies Nation can now breathe a little easier with a Game 1 win in the books.