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The Philadelphia Phillies began their defense of their World Series championship Wednesday night with a dominating 6-1 victory over the New York Yankees at windy, rainy Yankee Stadium.
The visiting National League champions got a stellar pitching performance from Cliff Lee, who finished off a complete game by striking out Yankee catcher Jorge Posada.
Two solo home runs from slugging second baseman Chase Utley staked Philadelphia to an early 2-0 lead. The Phils took advantage of several bases on balls from Yankee relief pitchers to extend their lead to 6-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Yankee captain Derek Jeter briefly excited the damp home crowd by singling to lead the ninth and then scoring on a Phillie throwing error. But Lee settled down and struck out Alex Rodriguez and Posada to wrap up an increasingly rare complete-game victory.
Even before the first pitch, this World Series seems souped up.
Stocked full of honed home run hitters, powerful pitchers and frenzied fans — plus a fast-talking shortstop fond of forecasting future results — the Yankees and Phillies generated a Fall Classic of talk ahead of Wednesday night's opener.
"I think we mirror each other," Yankees star Rodriguez said Tuesday. "They have switch-hitters, just like us. They have power, just like us."
Philadelphia is defending just its second World Series title against the moneyed, much-admired and much-hated team that often sets baseball's standards for success and excess.
"Obviously they have a lot of the star power in their lineup and all the hype that goes along with being Yankees," Ryan Howard said. "We're from Philadelphia."
New York may be a heavy favorite in Las Vegas, but players on both sides predict a close Series, perhaps ending a record run of five straight that have ended in sweeps or five games.
It may be a cold Series, too, played in the Northeast with winter coming on and with games at night for prime-time TV viewing.
Both teams worked out Tuesday in the mist of $1.5 billion new Yankee Stadium, where two freshly painted logos were in foul territory in honor of the ballpark's first World Series. Still standing across the street, covered in black mesh as if a ghost, is its 86-year-old predecessor, awaiting demolition after hosting a record 100 Series games.
CC Sabathia, 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA in his first postseason with the Yankees, started Wednesday night for New York against former Cleveland teammate Lee, 2-0 with an 0.74 ERA for the Phillies. The latest-opening World Series ever, one that will stretch into November for only the second time, began with a rematch of the April 16 ballpark opener, won by the Indians 10-2.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," Sabathia said before the game — and before he was touched twice for long balls by Utley. Sabathia left after seven innings. He could be back to start Game Four.
George Steinbrenner, New York's 79-year-old owner appeared at the stadium he built for the first time since opening day. First Lady Michelle Obama was on hand in a celebrity-filled crowd wondering if the Yankees are on the way to a 27th title — and first since 2000.
Teammates 16 months ago, Lee and Sabathia texted each other often in the runup. Sabathia won the 2007 AL Cy Young Award with the Indians, and was followed by Lee last year.
"I think we made each other better," Lee said. "We helped each other out as far as how we thought we should approach certain teams and just what's the best frame of mind to have on the mound and stuff."
Pedro Martinez — the former Red Sox star — starts Game 2 for the Phillies against A.J. Burnett, and that should really juice up the crowd. Ever since he said "I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy" following a 2004 loss at Fenway Park, chants of "Who's your daddy?" have boomed through the Bronx whenever he's pitched.
While most players practiced protestations of humility, Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins attracted attention with a brash boast.
"Of course we're going to win," the 2007 NL MVP said on The Jay Leno Show on Monday night. "If we're nice we'll let it go six, but I'm thinking five. Close it out at home."
The Yankees responded with a verbal pie to the face.
"He's been Nostradamus, that's what I heard," catcher Jorge Posada said. "He's been (making) a lot of good predictions, so we've got to take that away from him."
Rollins had forecast the Yankees and Phillies would meet in the Series. Before the 2007 season, he said the Phillies and not the Mets were the team to beat in the NL East.
"That's just Jimmy," Howard said. "Obviously, with those comments, you know here in Yankee Stadium, you know they're going to be all over him. And you know what? He wants that. He relishes that moment."
With Howard and Rodriguez, this will be only the second Series with two former season home-run leaders since 1975's faceoff between Cincinnati's Johnny Bench and Boston's Carl Yastrzemski, according to STATS LLC. The other was in 1989's Earthquake Series, when Oakland's Bash Brothers of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire swept San Francisco and Kevin Mitchell.
No player in the major leagues has been scrutinized more than A-Rod, a postseason star following a scandalous spring training that included a steroid admission and hip surgery.
And Howard has carried the defending champion Phillies every bit as much as Rodriguez has propelled the Yankees to their first Series appearance since 2003 — and the first of his career.
"Ryan, along with his power, he's also become a great hitter," Rodriguez said. "And that's bad news for the National League and bad news for us."
The 34-year-old Rodriguez already has succeeded Reggie Jackson as the favorite Yankees target of wannabe amateur psychologists, who try to analyze past playoff flops and his relationships with Madonna last year and Kate Hudson this season. Now he wants to follow Mr. October as a champion.
There's a new twist on the traditional bet between governors of states with World Series teams this year.
If the Philadelphia Phillies win, an essay winner and a guest will get a night on the town in Manhattan. If the New York Yankees win, a state resident and guest chosen by lottery will get a VIP weekend in the City of Brotherly Love.
The bet between New York Gov. David Paterson and Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell aims to promote tourism in the states.
The matchup has its attraction for baseball history buffs, too.
The Yanks and Phils last met in the post-season in the 1950 Fall Classic. While many of the heroes of that era are gone, some live to tell the tale.
Bobby Brown remembers that his Yankee teammates included all-time greats like DiMaggio, Ford and Berra. The underdog Phillies, known as the Whiz Kids, had the benefit of an undertaker.
"I remember the pitching guru for them was a mortician," Brown said by phone this week from his home in Texas. "Really, it's true."
Maje McDonnell, a coach for the 1950 Phillies, confirmed the story, noting that Philadelphia pitcher Jim Konstanty liked to rely on the advice of an old pal from home, who helped Konstanty with his assortment of junk balls.
It didn't really help, come Series time. New York swept Philly in four games, wrapping it up on Oct. 7. On the other hand, you could have seen those games from a box seat for $8.75, or just a buck for general admission.
This program aired on October 29, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
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