Game 1

October 29, 2009

There was no pressure on the Phillies going into the World Series.  The Fightin’s won the World Series last year and Philadelphia is still enjoying that orgasm.  Repeating as champions would be like morning sex for a city that doesn’t expect to win every year and is happy when they do.

No, all the pressure was on the Yankees even before Game 1 started.  They’re married to a cranky elementary schoolteacher that hasn’t put out since 2000.  New York spends every morning like Kevin Spacey in the shower in American Beauty, closing their eyes and imaging what it will be like when they finally get a little postseason nookie.

This year, it even seems like the pressure is off Alex Rodriguez’s shoulders.  Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira both had MVP years and Yankees fans talk about them as much as A-Rod.  The third baseman’s heroics in the Division and League Championship Series also seem to have placated Yankees fans for at least this October.

Besides, when Cliff Lee pitches as he did last night, it’s unjust to blame anyone.

This Yankees team has excited fans like none has since 2004 and people are calling it their favorite since the Gang of 25 finished up in 2000.  The 2005-2008 Yankees teams grew stale as Joe Torre wore out his welcome, all the while suffering from Carl Pavano syndrome.  But with Joe Girardi getting his sea legs in his sophomore voyage and Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett making courageous debuts in pinstripes, the team that threw pies at one another after walkoffs suddenly became the city’s darlings.  Unexpected.

For some reason, it feels like there’s some magic with this year’s team, a joie de vivre that they’ve never exhibited.  Even a bit of irreverence.  But now they’re in a hole, having lost the first game at home but worse, losing one of Sabathia’s starts that they’d booked as two, maybe three guaranteed wins in the series.  Now, AJ Burnett, who gave up six runs in his ALCS start in Anaheim, takes the mound with the new Yankee Stadium breathing down his neck and the Legends Club staring indifferently into their Blue Label.  “God help us if we lose both at home.”  “Is this a blended or a single malt?”

The Phillies, meanwhile, cruised.  They put pressure on Sabathia, making him throw 113 pitches and loading the bases in the first inning.  Chase Utley, who has received zero attention in the buildup with Lee and Ryan Howard stealing the spotlight, hit two solo home runs.  He got a little of that short-porch love in the third inning and hit a no-doubter in the sixth.  Lee, insolent, Hollywooded a fly ball and no-look-snagged a chopper behind his back while slicing through the Yankees with LASIK-precision.

Jimmy Rollins told Jay Leno that the Phillies would win it in five games, six if they were being friendly.  Not the words of a player afraid to lose . . . because he won last year.

The Yankees still have an immense lineup.  But just as the Bombers needed to win every one of Sabathia’s starts, the Phillies needed to win every one of Lee’s starts.  They just happened to get the first one.

Things get uncertain when Pedro Martinez takes the mound to an inevitable chorus of jeers and pressure on Thursday; Cole Hamels has not been his postseason-MVP self this year.  The Yankees are a very good team.  But people might be ignoring just how good the Phillies are.  Only two of ESPN’s 23 expert analysts picked the Phillies, despite Philadelphia arguably having advantages at every lineup position but shortstop and third base.

And they’re playing with no pressure.  Philadelphia is still going to throw a warm arm around the Phillies even if they lose.  New York is going to steal the covers and send the Yankees to the couch if they come home empty handed.

But then you realize there are no losers in this World Series, because there are Mets fans.

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One Response to “Game 1”

  1. Brian said

    Blue Label – as all Johnny Walker is – are blended.

    As a neutral baseball fan stranded in the crossfire, I’ll need a lot of it.

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