Phils win NLDS Game 1 in Lee complete game

October 8, 2009 8:34:30 AM PDT
Cliff Lee was so focused and intent on doing his job he didn't notice the gusty wind - or recognize jokes about it.

Lee dominated the Colorado Rockies, tossing a six-hitter, and the Philadelphia Phillies began their World Series title defense with a 5-1 victory in their playoff opener Wednesday.

Raul Ibanez had two hits and two RBIs, and Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth drove in runs with key extra-base hits off 15-game winner Ubaldo Jimenez.

Lee, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, struck out five and had no walks in his first career playoff start. He retired 16 straight batters during one stretch until Garrett Atkins hit a wind-blown double in the seventh. Lee lost his shutout when Troy Tulowitzki doubled in a run with two outs in the ninth.

Asked by a newspaper columnist how difficult it was to pitch on a day when he was almost getting blown off the mound, Lee replied: "Did I get blown off the mound?"

He paused for a second before realizing the questioner actually meant it literally.

"Oh, the wind," he said. "I thought you were talking about them stroking (the ball) off me."

No one who watched Lee stifle Colorado's potent lineup could've meant anything else.

"He got really, really good as the game went on," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "To the point where by the third inning, I don't know if he missed a spot."

Game 2 of the best-of-five NL division series is set for Thursday with Cole Hamels, last year's World Series and NLCS MVP, on the mound for the Phillies against Colorado's Aaron Cook.

Some questioned manager Charlie Manuel's decision to give Lee the ball over the playoff-tested Hamels for the first game. But Lee made his manager look brilliant with a masterful performance. He mixed a deceptive fastball with off-speed pitches, had pinpoint accuracy and threw 113 pitches.

"He was aggressive, he had good tempo and rhythm and he handled the whole flow of the game real good," Manuel said.

The hard-throwing Jimenez was equally impressive against the league's No. 1-scoring offense for four innings, but ran out of gas in the fifth. He got chased with no outs in the sixth after allowing nine hits and five runs in five-plus innings.

"Up until the fifth, it was one of the better games he had pitched over the course of the month," Tracy said. "He was really, really on his game into the fifth. He had all his stuff."

A sellout crowd of 46,452 - the largest in the six-year history of Citizens Bank Park - rocked the ballpark, waving their white-and-red "Fightin' Phils" towels. The Phillies were 7-0 at home last October and set a franchise attendance record this season.

Werth, one of five All-Stars in Philadelphia's lineup, got it started with a walk in the fifth. He scored when Ibanez ripped a double into the right-field corner. Ibanez's hit fired up the fans, who screamed "Rauuuuuuuul!" Carlos Ruiz followed with a single to right to make it 2-0.

The Phillies got insurance runs in the sixth. Howard lined a run-scoring double to left that mixed up Carlos Gonzalez, who fell backward into the wall.

Werth followed with a drive that hit high off the left-center field wall. Werth may have had a chance for an inside-the-park homer, but he trotted slowly to first before turning it on and settling for a triple after the wind kept the ball in the park.

Joe Beimel came in to face Ibanez after Werth's hit, and allowed an RBI single that made it 5-0.

That was plenty of support for Lee, who made sure everyone has to wait another day to see if Brad Lidge gets the chance to be Philadelphia's closer.

Just two years ago, Lee watched from the bench as the Cleveland Indians reached the ALCS. He was left off the postseason roster after a poor season in which he was demoted to the minors and relegated to the bullpen.

But he went 22-3 last year and was shipped to Philadelphia on July 29 when the cost-cutting Indians purged their roster.

"I tried to treat it as much as a regular game as I could," Lee said. "Obviously, there's more excitement with a playoff game but it's still 60 feet, 6 inches to the plate and it's the same strike zone."

NOTES: The Rockies are making their third postseason appearance in the franchise's 17 years. They swept the Phillies and Arizona in the 2007 playoffs before getting swept by Boston in the World Series. ... Lee singled and stole second base with two outs in the third. It was the first-ever steal by a Phillies pitcher in the postseason.

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