Kneejerk Reactions: Game 1

October, 28, 2009
10/28/09
11:51
PM ET
Quick first take on the (slow) first game ...

Hero: How do you choose between Cliff Lee and Chase Utley? But I'll go with Utley, because while everyone expected Lee to pitch well -- if not quite this well -- who thought that Utley could hit two homers against CC Sabathia, who hadn't given up a home run to a left-handed hitter in nearly three months? And even if Lee had given up three runs rather than one, the Phillies still would have won.

 
 Chris McGrath/Getty Images
 Chase Utley homered twice in Game 1 Wednesday.
Goat: Rob Neyer. How could that idiot predict an easy World Series for the Yankees?

Turning Point: In the bottom of the sixth with a runner on first base, Lee not only caught Johnny Damon's little pop-up, he caught it so nonchalantly that the Yankees may have guessed that tonight just wasn't their night. (And they might have guessed it doubly in the eighth, when Lee went behind his back to snag Robinson Cano's one-hopper up the middle.)

Costly Move: In his short career, Phil Coke has held left-handed hitters to a .197 batting average. So why didn't Joe Girardi summon Coke to face Raul Ibanez with the bases loaded in the eighth inning? Granted, David Robertson did induce a ground ball from Ibanez, but it was a hard grounder and it got through and it scored two runs, making a Yankee comeback close to impossible.

Best Call by an Unfairly Maligned Arbiter: Well, it wasn't exactly a great call. And it took them way, way too long to get it right. But after what we've seen this month, we should simply be grateful that the umpires got together and, after talking about it for five minutes, declared both runners out in the bottom of the fifth. Brian Gorman correctly ruled Jimmy Rollins' catch a catch, and eventually everyone else figured out the rest. (If they hadn't, a mob from Philadelphia might have stormed Bud Selig's secret lair and demanded more video review in Game 2.)

Revealing Statistic: Phil Hughes has now faced 27 batters in October and retired only 14 of them. With Joba Chamberlain, Brian Bruney, Robertson, and Alfredo Aceves available, Girardi's patience with Hughes may be wearing a bit thin.

History Lesson: If not for Rollins' error in the ninth, Lee might well have become the first pitcher in 40 tries to shut out the Yankees in a World Series opener. Among the dozens who tried and failed were Hall of Famers Carl Hubbell (twice), Warren Spahn (twice), Sandy Koufax, Don Sutton, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, and Curt Schilling.

For more ... Check out It's About the Money (Stupid!) and, for instant analysis of Lee's brilliance, Crashburn Alley.

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