PHILADELPHIA -- It was surely past his bedtime, but as midnight approached on Sunday night in Citizen's Bank Park, there was a little boy in a
After the first two hitters of the game flied out, the Dodgers got only three more balls out of the infield against Lee. At no point did the Dodgers put more than one runner on base in any inning, and Lee pitched out of the stretch so infrequently (just eight times all game) that he wound up taking his warmup pitches from the stretch, just in case. Only one Dodger reached second base against Lee, and he promptly responded with perhaps his two best at-bats of the night. First, he struck out
On the Phillies bench, his teammates watched in awe, when they weren't shaking their heads and smiling at Lee's latest gem. "He was impressive to watch," said Phillies lefty
If anyone can relate to what Lee is doing this October, it's Hamels. Only a year ago, it was he who was the lefty ace, a shutdown presence with intimidating stuff who represented as close to a sure thing as baseball had seen in the postseason in some time. This year, that person is Lee. He was acquired from the Indians in late July to complement Hamels but he has wound up supplanting him as the team's go-to ace in this postseason. In three playoff starts, he has a 2-0 record and a 0.74 ERA in 24 1/3 innings pitched. He is holding opponents to a .165 average and has 20 strikeouts against just three walks.
When Dodgers manager
That he was, and he didn't take long to show it, either. He retired the side in order in the first inning, striking out a red-hot
If the Dodgers weren't beaten when Lee started the game, they were before he went back out for the top of the second. Four of the first five Phillies scored, two on a triple into the right field corner by Howard, who said he had "full-out panic" as he made the turn for third and a rare three-bagger, and two more on a Jayson Werth home run. By the time it was over, it was the largest margin of victory in Phillies postseason history and equaled the biggest defeat in Dodgers' history.
It did for the Phillies, who had hit for the cycle before Lee came to the plate for his first at-bat of the game. By the time he returned to the plate for his last at-bat, it seemed certain he would be allowed to finish the game, having thrown only 114 pitches. Lee singled to center, and after
No chance of that. Like a giant investment bank, Lee was simply too big to fail on this night. For the fans who rocked Citizen's Bank and showed off the predictable puns on placards throughout the stands -- LeePeat, We Be-Lee-ve, and at least two that read City of Brother-Lee Love -- they must hope it's always Sunday in Philadelphia. Lee has made three postseason starts, and he has been brilliant in each of them.
It may be extremely premature to speculate about a Yankees-Phillies World Series (though that didn't stop one reporter from asking Ryan Howard about facing Sabathia after Game 3), but it's clear that Lee has given the Phillies what Sabathia has given the Yankees, and what both the Angels and the Dodgers are desperately seeking right now: an ace capable of dominating a lineup and all but assuring a victory. Although the Yankees have a more sizable advantage than does Philadelphia, this series has looked even more one-sided than the ALCS. The Phillies have outplayed the Dodgers so badly that they are only one bad half-inning away from being on the verge of a sweep, and still have two more games in their own ballpark with which to wrap it up.
Still, the Dodgers aren't quite as dead as they looked on Sunday. They need only win one game to send the series back to Los Angeles, and with
In other words, it has looked like child's play.