Thursday, October 8, 2009

Phillies Game 1, A Beautiful Thing

The Phillies victory in game 1 of the NLDS was a beautiful thing. Their 5-1 win over the Rockies was reminiscent of their championship run a year ago and conjured up optimism that the team could make a strong title defense in 2009. The game was played before a highly charged, record crowd at Citizen's Bank Park in less than ideal conditions with strong winds whipping through the stadium all day long.

Cliff Lee, in particular, bolstered confidence by looking like the dominant version displayed over his first five games in a Phillies uniform. He went the distance, and if not for a two out, 9th inning run scoring double by Troy Tulowitzki, he would have tossed a shut out in his first post season performance. The fans, who coaxed the team on with raucous noise and gyrating rally towels, may have actually caused Werth to miss a chance to catch the ball as it got lost in a sea of white terry cloth. Phillies players are surely willing to deal with that occupational hazard in exchange for the energy and inspiration provided by their rabid fans.

Although it took them until the 5th to get on the board, the Phillies got contributions from everyone in their line-up, including Lee. All nine players (and that is all the Phillies used on Wednesday) hit safely, while the 4-5-6 hitters provided the big hits.

Raul Ibanez drove in two with a double and a single. Ryan Howard cracked a pair of hits, including a run scoring double. And, Jayson Werth was 2-3 with a walk. In the 6th, he crushed a towering drive to center that was held up by the gusting wind, but it banged high off the wall for an RBI triple.

Lee erased any concern about being named the game 1 starter over Cole Hamels and his drop in effectiveness down the stretch. He pitched with precision throughout the game, retiring 16 straight at one point.  Lee struck out 5 and walked no one while scattering 6 hits.

Overall, it was a great start for the Phillies in the NLDS. Lee's and Ibanez's return to form, along with the team's overall offensive performance, had fans buzzing about the possibilities for 2009. If the team plays to its potential like in game 1, defending their title is well within their grasp.

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