Lee's Game 1 dominance casts a pall over Yankees' Series chances
NEW YORK -- With
It was a nice sentiment but an inaccurate one. When Lee left his team's midtown hotel on Wednesday afternoon, Jaxon was there to bid him farewell in his replica Phillies jersey with his dad's name on it. Jaxon may have also been a key to his father's calm persona as game time approached, which involved little more than hanging out in his hotel room and playing video games. Jaxon survived leukemia as an infant, and his struggle helped his father realize that nothing he'd ever face would ever be that tough again, not even the Yankees and not even the World Series. Jaxon certainly didn't seem nervous, either. When he was asked if he was looking forward to going to the game, he shook his head no.
The Yankees must be equally unenthusiastic about having to watch Lee again after he overwhelmed them in a series-changing Game 1. The Yankees didn't put more than one runner on base in any inning until the ninth, scored only one unearned run and struck out 10 times against Lee. Afterward, there was only one word to describe Lee's gem.
"That was a dominant pitcher on the mound who dominated our lineup and probably would have dominated any lineup," said
Rodriguez is right, of course, and he and his teammates are entitled to their confidence born from having led the major leagues in runs scored and victories this season but it's clear that this Series looks very different after Game 1 than it did beforehand. The Yankees had home-field advantage, and it is gone. They had a Cy Young-winning ace to lean on to get them off to an early Series lead, and now that is gone. And they had an offense prolific enough to keep them in games all year long, but for one day at least, that was gone as well. And now so too is much of the aura that the Yankees brought into the Series as decided favorites.
Of course, in the World Series, the Yankees are all about aura, but it is telling that on this night the only connection to
Losing their historical mojo wasn't the Yankees' only problem on this night. Much like
Those numbers are indicative of a Yankees offense that has rarely, if ever, looked so flustered as it did on this blustery Bronx night. "I tried to do my best to square the ball up but it was moving all over the place," said Yankees outfielder
While Lee cruised, his friend and former teammate
Despite his shaky command, it wasn't the walks but a pair of wayward fastballs that were his true undoing, both of which were turned into solo home runs by Phillies second baseman
The day before the Series started, Sabathia talked at length about his friendship with Lee, and recounted how the two had had dinner at Sabathia's house back in April after the first game at Yankee Stadium, when Lee shut down the Yankees and beat Sabathia much the same way as he did on this night. Those two performances are enough to give the Phillies a decided edge in any remaining Lee vs. Sabathia matchups. Indeed, the Yankees had great comfort in the knowledge that they could pitch Sabathia three times in this series, but now it is the slender Lee who is the Yankees' biggest roadblock to a title.
At least Sabathia kept the Yankees in the game, which is more than could be said of the bullpen. Once considered a Yankees strength, their relief corps continued its curious demise in Game 1, with five relievers combining to allow five hits, three walks and four runs. Most troubling of all for the Yankees was the non-relief offered by
Getting Hughes, the rest of the bullpen and their offense straightened out now becomes top priority for the Yankees as they head into Game 2. After the game, Jeter was asked if there would be more importance on winning Thursday. Before the question could even be finished, Jeter interrupted with his most confident and insistent remark of the night. "Nope, he said, "You handle every game the same."
Jeter's confidence is admirable, and a large part of why he is so lionized both inside and outside of the Yankees clubhouse. It also is somewhat misleading. No, the Yankees do not need to panic. But neither should they feel as comfortable as they did when the Series began. Their ace has been beaten. Their Game 2 starter,
"One thing we know," said Girardi, looking for the silver lining in a dreary, rain-soaked evening, "[Lee] can't pitch every game."
For the Yankees, that's the only good news they got all night.