NEW YORK -- The Game 1 starter showed up three months ago. The Game 2 starter showed up about the same time.
These are the defending champions?
Yeah, they are. And if you want to know why the Phillies actually have a chance to defend that World Series title they won last October, take a close look at the guys who are pitching for them this October.
Most teams don't do this, adding pitchers like Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez the year after they won. In fact, of the 39 defending champs that have made it back to the World Series, the Phillies are the first one to start a newcomer in each of the first two games.
It's no surprise when teams miss the playoffs and rework things, the way the Yankees did by spending nearly $250 million on CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. The Phillies added Lee and Martinez to a team that had already won because they knew that without changes they weren't going to win again.
"While I like continuity on our club, I also believe in change," general manager Ruben Amaro said Wednesday.
So here's the continuity: A year after the Phillies used a Chase Utley home run to help them to a Game 1 win over the Rays, they used a pair of Utley home runs Wednesday to help them to their 6-1 Game 1 win over the Yankees.
And here's the change: A year after Cole Hamels dominated the postseason as the Phillies' top starter, Lee is every bit as dominating this month.
Or maybe more dominating.
Hamels went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five October starts last year. Lee is already 3-0 with an 0.54 ERA in four starts this October.
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Miller: Pressure is on Bronx Bombers now
Freeman: Don't be surprised at these Phils
Series: Phillies 1, Yankees 0
Game 1: Phillies 6, Yankees 1
Hamels was outstanding in Game 1 against the Rays. Lee was better in Game 1 against the Yankees.
He took a shutout into the ninth inning. He never did allow an earned run. He made two pretty wild defensive plays.
"You know, if we didn't have a DH, he was going deep tonight, too," Phils reliever Scott Eyre said.
As it was, Lee threw the first Game 1 complete game in the World Series since Greg Maddux in 1995, the first World Series complete game by any Phillie since Curt Schilling in 1993.
The Phillies have liked Lee pretty much right from the day he showed up, but if it's possible, they like him a lot more right now.
"Oh yeah, I'd give him a full share," Jimmy Rollins said. "Hopefully this is the start of his legend. I wouldn't mind it."
The guy the Phillies are going to pitch next already has something of a legend, so much so that Wednesday, Pedro described himself as the "most influential player that ever stepped in Yankee Stadium."
I'm not too sure about that, but I am sure that if Martinez comes anywhere close in Game 2 to doing what Lee did in Game 1, the Yankees and their fans might stop thinking that a World Series title is their God-given right.
Rollins, for one, believes Pedro is ready for it.
"Another lights-out performance," he said. "I tried to joke with him a couple of days ago, and all I got was a smirk. That's not Pedro. He's ready."
It's pretty clear Lee was ready for Game 1, but then again the Phillies would never have expected anything different. They watched Lee go 5-0 with an 0.68 ERA in his first five starts after the trade with the Indians, so it's not like they haven't seen him pitch like this before.
But these were the Yankees, the highest-scoring team in the game. This was Yankee Stadium, where every fly ball is supposed to turn into a home run.
This was the World Series.
"I don't think he cares about where he pitches," Eyre said. "He just makes his pitches."
And now, after the way Lee made his pitches in Game 1, the Yankees have to think it's possible they could see him again in Game 4, and again if needed in Game 7. They know the plan, because it's been the Sabathia plan in this postseason, too.
So far, the Phillies aren't saying what they'll do in Game 4, only listing their starters for Games 2 (Martinez) and 3 (Hamels). But even the possibility of two more Lee starts, and even the possibility that he finds a way to dominate the way he did Wednesday, makes the next two games feel that much more like must-wins for the Yanks.
All four of those guys are still employed by the Phillies, but only Hamels is guaranteed a World Series start. Myers got hurt and then landed in the bullpen. Moyer got hurt and isn't available. Blanton had a nice season, but has spent most of the postseason pitching in relief.
|Charlie Manuel is glad to have Cliff Lee this time around. (AP)|
"The one thing about getting to the postseason is it's a grind," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "Sometimes, you have to retool, and our front office did a great job."
The front office signed Martinez, who spent the first half of the season waiting for an acceptable offer. The front office traded for Lee, after first talking to the Blue Jays about Roy Halladay.
They found a Game 1 starter for the World Series and a starter for Game 2. Lee and Martinez found a team that was happy to accept them.
"You put great ones together with the way we operate, and it can make them go to a higher level," closer Brad Lidge said. "Cliff was mentioning that the other day, how he noticed that when the postseason started, everyone stepped up their game."
This is how the Phillies operate, playing at their best when it counts, winning Game 1 in series after series. This is how they operate, knowing that continuity counts for a lot, but that sometimes change is needed, too.
Plenty of teams have tried to do what they're attempting, if you mean win two World Series in a row. No one has ever attempted it exactly the way they are, with such a rebuilt rotation the second year.
Right now, it looks like a good plan. Right now, after what Lee did to the Yankees, it looks like a great plan.
If Martinez can follow Lee with anything close in Game 2, it will look like a championship plan.