PHILADELPHIA – Out in the Philadelphia Phillies’ bullpen Wednesday afternoon, the flags overhead were flapping in a stiff wind, and an occasional hot dog wrapper would come blowing through.
But otherwise, for eight solid innings, nothing moved. Once in a while, a reliever would stand, stretch, maybe windmill his throwing arm for a few seconds. But then he would sit back down and gaze toward the mound, just another spectator watching Cliff Lee dominate the Colorado Rockies.
Lee, the Phillies’ lanky left-hander, threw the first pitch of the 2009 postseason, a strike that begat a flyball, the first of Lee’s 27 outs. With the Phillies’ bullpen finally warming up in the ninth, he threw his 113th and final pitch, a 94 mph, no-chance fastball for a swinging strike three, punctuating it with one understated fist-on-glove clap and a man-hug with his catcher.
As simple as that, the Phillies took Game 1 of the National League Division Series 5-1 over the Rockies at Citizens Bank Park, and Lee, with a six-hit, no-walk complete game, validated the defending champions’ decision to import him this summer from Cleveland, at a steep cost in young talent, precisely for moments such as these.
“Absolutely amazing,” Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino said of the reigning A.L. Cy Young Award winner. “That’s just what they brought him here for.”
“He got really, really good as the game went on, to the point where (beyond) the third inning, I don’t know if he missed a spot,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “We certainly didn’t get too many good pitches to swing at.”
While Lee, 31, was mowing down the Rockies, the Phillies’ unrelenting offense, which appeared helpless against Rockies flamethrower Ubaldo Jimenez his first time through their order, began battering him the second time through. Jayson Werth walked at the end of an eight-pitch at-bat leading off the fifth inning, and Raul Ibanez doubled him home. Two batters later, a Carlos Ruiz single made it 2-0.