Hot Yankee bats go cold in Game 1
New York couldn't get a handle on Phillies starter Cliff Lee in 6-1 Game 1 loss
NEW YORK -- The Yankees were shut out once all season at their palatial new ballpark in the Bronx. The blanking came on June 18, in a 3-0 loss to the lovable and terminally beleaguered Washington Nationals.
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In a 6-1 loss to Philadelphia in Game 1 of the World Series, New York avoided a shutout with an unearned run against Cliff Lee in the bottom of the ninth inning. But judging from the awkward swings, broken bats and forlorn looks emanating from Yankees hitters on their way back to the dugout, that lone run made for scant and fleeting consolation.
How impressed were the Yankees with Lee's performance Wednesday? One by one, they trooped into the home clubhouse, dispensed the obligatory superlatives, and instantly lapsed into "turn the page" mode.
"He's been their ace for a reason," Derek Jeter said. "He knows what he's doing. I don't care what league he's pitching in -- he's had a lot of success. He stuck to his game plan [on Wednesday]."
Jeter produced three of the Yankees' six hits, so you can only imagine how the other eight guys in manager Joe Girardi's lineup must have felt.
The Yankees, who led the major leagues with 663 walks this year, failed to coax a base on balls off Lee. They advanced only one runner to second base until the ninth, and went down in order four times in the first eight innings.
They also struck out 10 times, and the carnage was particularly acute in the middle of the order. Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada, New York's 3-4-5 hitters, went a combined 1-for-12 with seven strikeouts.
You've probably heard by now that Rodriguez has amended his reputation as an October nonproducer. He hit .438 (14-for-32) with an otherworldly .969 slugging percentage against the Twins and Angels in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Those stats produced a lot of positive headlines and smiling Kate Hudson shots on TBS and Fox.
A-Rod made his World Series debut Wednesday after 2,166 regular-season games in search of the grail, and this was hardly the performance he was hoping for on the grandest stage. He whiffed three times, breaking the monotony with a harmless groundout to first.
As Teixeira and other Yankees have pointed out, it would be difficult for any hitter to remain as insanely hot as A-Rod has been -- particularly with all the off days built into the postseason schedule this October. But Rodriguez refused to draw any sweeping conclusions from the Series opener.
"I don't think you need to overthink [Game 1]," Rodriguez said. "That was a dominant pitcher on the mound who dominated our lineup and probably would have dominated any lineup in baseball, so I wouldn't worry about it too much."
Lee presented a challenge for the New York lineup in a variety of ways. When he's on his game, he gets into a rhythm and likes to drive in the High Occupancy Vehicle lane. Lee's businesslike demeanor was particularly evident when he sprinted to the mound while three grounds crew members were doing some upkeep with rakes and a bag of Diamond Dry. As the grounds crew did its thing, Lee seemingly couldn't wait to be alone so he could go ahead and throw the darn ball.
"He's always done that,"Johnny Damon said. "For the past four or five years that I've seen him pitch, he's always sprinted in and sprinted out. He wants to work fast. He wants to pitch to contact. He wants to let his fielders be ready. Yeah, there are times when we can slow him down. But he wasn't rushing us too much until we were actually set in the batter's box."
Talk about resourceful: In the fourth inning, Lee whiffed Teixeira on a fastball, A-Rod on a changeup and Posada on a curveball.
"He can cut the ball and he sinks the ball," Damon said. "The scoreboard was saying he was around 91-92 [mph] with his fastball, but the TV was actually saying 94 or 95, so I'm not sure what one was correct. The ball was definitely getting on us and going in different directions."
So now the Yankees turn the page. After leading the majors with 915 runs scored this season, they're capable of an outburst at any moment. But they could use a breakout performance from Teixeira, who's hitting .186 in the postseason (8-for-43) following an oh-fer Wednesday.
Girardi was noncommittal when asked if he'll consider playing Posada on Thursday and breaking up the Jose Molina-A.J. Burnett battery. If he's intent on changing things up, he might also consider moving Melky Cabrera to right field, inserting Brett Gardner in center and giving Nick Swisher a seat on the bench against Pedro Martinez.
Swisher, who's hitting .114 this month (4-for-35), was flirting with a benching against the Angels, but Girardi gave him a reprieve in the American League Championship Series finale. Swisher contributed a single and a sacrifice bunt in the Yankees' Game 6 clincher.
But Swisher continued to look lost Wednesday -- with a popup, a weak fly ball and a strikeout -- and Gardner would at least give the Yankees a dose of energy and a stolen-base threat.
The Yankees showed an occasional glimpse of frustration against Lee. Robinson Cano objected to a called strike on an attempted check swing, and Cabrera threw up his hands in exasperation when he bluffed a bunt and a strike was called. But from top to bottom, Girardi didn't see his hitters pressing.
"As far as being frustrated, our guys will grind it out," he said. "I'm not concerned about that."
If Martinez comes close to the performance he put forth against the Dodgers, the Yankees will have another challenging game ahead of them. But there's some good news, too: At this point, anything other than a Cliff Lee sighting is a guaranteed day brightener.
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WORLD SERIES GAME 1: PHILLIES 6, YANKEES 1
Behind Cliff Lee's gem and Chase Utley's power, the Phillies went into the Bronx and beat the Yankees in Game 1. World Series page »