World Series: Phillies Take Game 1 Over Yankees

The Philadelphia Phillies won the first game of the World Series Wednesday night, behind the pitching of their ace reliever Cliff Lee. The Phillies beat the Yankees 6-1. Game 2 is in New York Thursday night.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Last night the Philadelphia Phillies looked like the World Series champions that they are. The Phillies traveled to the Bronx for the first game of the World Series this year and they beat the New York Yankees 6-1 behind the pitching of their ace, Cliff Lee, who went all the way. NPR's Mike Pesca has more.

MIKE PESCA: The Yankees have a stated game plan. They're not shy about telling you it rests on power pitching and hitting homeruns. But their implied game plan, the one they hope will present itself in every series, is this: Intimidate. Overwhelm the other team with their urbanity: a $1.2 million stadium set against skyscrapers, accessed by subway, filled with celebrities. Take it all in, opposing team. No one will blame you if it all seems a little overwhelming. But in game one of this, the Yankees 40th World Series, a dude from Benton, Arkansas, thought about being intimidated, but then Cliff Lee decided against it.

Mr. CLIFF LEE (Pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies): It's been a long time since I've been nervous playing this game. It's what I've been doing my whole life. Like I said, what's the point in being nervous?

PESCA: Oh sure, hundreds of opposing pitchers have come into the stadium swearing the Yankees championship banners and business-like pinstripes would not affect them, and many still insist it wasn't a case of nerves that led to their removal.

But Cliff Lee never came out last night. He pitched a 10 strike-out, no walk complete game. That's occurred one other time, and it happened to be in the very first World Series game ever played, in 1903. Yankee manager Joe Girardi didn't know that. He just knew that while Yankee starter CC Sabathia was good, Cliff Lee was better.

Mr. JOE GIRARDI (Manager, New York Yankees): He was great tonight. He kept us off balance. He used his curve ball very well. I mean, he was really good. And CC - I thought CC grinded it out very well tonight. And he made the two mistakes to Utley, but that was it.

PESCA: In manager-speak mistake usually means homerun. In the third inning, Chase Utley became the first lefty to homer off of CC Sabathia in Yankee Stadium this year. In the sixth inning, he did it again. Here's Philadelphia radio station WPHT with the call of the first of those solo shots.

(Soundbite of broadcast)

Unidentified Man: And a 3-2 pitch. Swing and a high fly ball right field. Going back on it, Swisher. He's at the track. He's at the wall. Leaps. Can't get it. It's gone. A homerun for Chase Utley. What an at-bat.

PESCA: With a 2-0 lead, Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee dominated. He baffled and blew away Yankees, while never betraying an emotion anymore pronounced than the faintest smirk.

For all his dazzling pitches, it was the catch of a pop fly that convinced all in the stadium that they were seeing something unusual. Lee barely moved as the ball completed its trajectory. His arm by his side, he simply opened his glove and the ball fell in.

(Soundbite of broadcast)

Mr. TIM MCCARVER (Sportscaster): That was a rather nonchalant grab. That guy's in the World Series. That's out number two here in the sixth. Get excited, will you?

PESCA: What amused Fox broadcaster Tim McCarver was the only thing that Lee did that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel found a little bit irksome.

Mr. CHARLIE MANUEL (Manager, Philadelphia Phillies): He's trying to pull a Willie Mays on us or something.

PESCA: Lee, on the other hand…

Mr. LEE: Yeah, it was pretty cool. No. I caught it and he was out, so that's really all that matters.

PESCA: Lee made the catch, continued to make his pitches, and with some tack-on runs in the eight and ninth innings the Phillies made what had been a close game more comfortable. Final score: Phillies 6, Yankees 1. Game two is tonight, and we'll see if the team feeling the strain of all the Yankee pressure is the Yankees themselves.

Mike Pesca, NPR News, New York.

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