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October 30, 2009

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Lee, Utley silence Yankee fans

THE first World Series game played at the new Yankee Stadium was turned into a somber affair by Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee.

Lee gave the crowd of 50,207 little to cheer about while leading the 2008 World Series champions to a 6-1 victory over the New York Yankees in the first game of the 2009 Fall Classic on Wednesday, with Chase Utley piling on two home runs.

On a chilly night with a consistent drizzle, the powerful Yankee hitters were kept off-balance by Lee's ability to mix his fastball with an array of off-speed pitches.

"That was the key," said Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz. "If you're the pitcher, you've got to mix it up. He did it very good. His curve and change-up was great all night."

Lee, a mid-season acquisition by the Phillies, struck out 10 while giving up only six hits and an unearned run in the ninth. By that time, most of the fans had headed for the exits.

"Winning Game One is huge," said Lee, who won the 2008 Cy Young Award with the Cleveland Indians.

"You want to get off to a good start. It's a seven-game series, getting that first one out of the way is big for us.

"At worst we can split here in New York and go back home and really have the home-field advantage."

Game Two, with the Phillies starting Pedro Martinez against A J Burnett of the Yankees today (Shanghai time), has turned into a crucial test for the Yankees, who do not want to head to Philadelphia for the next three games in a 0-2 hole.

New York manager Joe Girardi praised Lee for keeping the Yankees guessing.

"He was great," said Girardi. "He kept us off balance.

"He's pitching extremely well. But one thing is he can't pitch every day."

An unearned run in the ninth was the only blemish on Lee's pitching line as he humbled the American League champions.

Lee also played superb defense, making a behind-the-back stab of Robinson Cano's grounder up the middle, and nonchalantly making a basket catch off a pop fly from Johnny Damon.

Second baseman Utley gave Lee all the run support he needed.

Utley hit a high fly off Yankees starter C C Sabathia that just cleared the right-field fence for a homer with two outs in the third inning, and crushed an 0-2 fastball into the second deck of bleachers in right-center in the sixth.

Utley, who also walked in the game, has now reached base safely in each of his last 26 postseason games to surpass Baltimore's Boog Powell for the consecutive streak record.

The Phillies tacked on two insurance runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth off Yankees relievers.

Raul Ibanez singled two runs home in the eighth after the New York bullpen loaded the bases with walks. An RBI single by Shane Victorino followed by a run-scoring double by Ryan Howard accounted for the last two runs.

"Those runs that we got late definitely played a huge role in the game," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "Those are big runs. That's what it takes."

Yankees captain Derek Jeter, who collected three of the team's six hits, said there was no need to panic.

"We've just got to win a game, it's nothing more complicated than that," the shortstop said.


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