NEW YORK - Look out for Cliff Lee, Chase Utley and this New Red Machine.
Lee outdueled CC Sabathia, Utley homered twice and the Philadelphia Phillies kept rolling through October, beating the New York Yankees, 6-1, on a misty Wednesday night in the World Series opener.
The defending champion Phillies shut down Alex Rodriguez & Co. in the first Series game at the new billion-dollar Yankee Stadium. Trying to become the first National League team to repeat since Cincinnati in 1975-76, the Phils’ 17-4 postseason run is the best in league history.
Big Red Machine, meet your match.
“We have confidence. We know we have a good team,” Utley said.
Game 2 is tonight, with Pedro Martinez pitching for the Phillies against A.J. Burnett.
Ryan Howard reprised his MVP performance, doubling twice and driving in the final run for the Phillies.
Rodriguez, however, went hitless and struck out three times in his Series debut.
Hardly looking like the 2-to-1 underdogs they are, the Phillies were in such control that many fans left before the final out.
Lee bamboozled the Yankees with a spiked curveball, deceptive change-up and his usual pinpoint fastball, pitching a six-hitter while striking out 10 without a walk.
Lee blanked the Yankees until a run scored on shortstop Jimmy Rollins’ throwing error in the ninth inning. The lefty improved to 3-0 with an 0.54 ERA this postseason.
If Lee felt any anxiety in his Series debut, facing the team that led the majors in wins, homers and runs, it didn’t show.
And if the Phillies were supposed to be intimidated by the pictures of Babe Ruth and all the Yankees greats on the giant videoboard, it didn’t happen.
“To be honest, I really never have been nervous in the big leagues. This is what I wanted to do my whole life. This is what I take pride in. For me, there is no reason to be nervous,” Lee said.
“Game time is the time go out there and have fun and let your skills take over. It’s kind of weird. Boils down to confidence and trusting your teammates,” he added.
Pitching in short sleeves on a blustery evening, Lee worked a wad of gum while he worked his spell over the Yanks.
He stuck out his glove hand for a ho-hum catch on Johnny Damon’s popup that left the Phillies chuckling, shrugged after a nifty, behind-the-back stop on Robinson Cano’s one-hopper and casually tagged out Jorge Posada on a comebacker.
Lee beat his good friend and former Cy Young teammate Carsten Charles Sabathia in the first game at this ballpark back in April, and got this chance after the Phillies traded four minor leaguers to Cleveland in July to get him.
So Game 1 went to the Phils. But as Yankees manager Joe Girardi observed, “One thing, he can’t pitch every day.”
Playing in their 40th World Series, and first in six years, the Yankees went quietly.
Utley’s solo home runs in the third and sixth innings gave Lee all the support he needed.
Former Mariner Raul Ibañez hit a two-run single in the eighth and Shane Victorino added an RBI single in the ninth.
The Phillies’ may have been a bit overdue — in their only other October meeting, the Whiz Kids from Philadelphia got swept by the Yankees in the 1950 World Series.
Even though he’s an All-Star, Utley was an unlikely candidate to rock Sabathia, the MVP of the ALCS. Utley was 0-for-7 with five strikeouts against the big Yankees lefty going into the game.
Utley won a nine-pitch duel with Sabathia in the third, pulling a 95 mph fastball over the right-field wall. The shot was the first by a left-hander allowed by Sabathia at home this year.
Utley struck again in the sixth, sending another 95 mph heater deep into the right-center field bleachers.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel had little to do except watch from the top step of the dugout.
Girardi was more busy, bringing in five relievers after Sabathia left following the seventh inning.
First lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden were among the crowd of 50,207, as were a few specks of fans dressed in Phillies red. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner watched from an upstairs box — he has yet to see his team win in the palace he built.
After a rocky postseason, umpires faced just one tricky call and got it right.
They huddled after Rollins trapped a popup and threw to first, and correctly ruled it a double play.
Neither team got a lot of good swings in the early innings. Lee and Sabathia had a lot to do with that, and maybe a light drizzle hurt the hitters.
So did the fact that each club had played only 10 games in 31/2 weeks because of the scattered postseason scheduling.
There was plenty of postseason bunting for the opener. Red, white and blue decorations adorned the upper decks, and both Rollins and Damon bunted into outs in the first inning.
The Phillies loaded the bases with two outs in the first inning on two walks sandwiched around Howard’s double. Ibañez got ahead in the count 3-1 and swung away, hitting a routine grounder.