You’ll Be Seeing Cliff Lee in Your Nightmares For a While

Tired of this guy yet?

The Yankees were only down by two runs – on two solo homers, to the same dude, no less – for most of tonight’s game, but it never felt that close. When Raul Ibanez singled in two runs in the endless eighth inning to make the score 4-0, it felt like a forfeit. Cliff Lee was so nonchalantly dominant tonight that he could have thrown four or five more shutout innings past the ninth inning. In fact, if you listen close as you nestle in your bed tonight, you can probably hear him shutting someone out right now. CC Sabathia was very good in Game 1. Cliff Lee was inhuman. The Yankees couldn’t have slowed him down tonight if they’d had a gun.

Lee’s line, until the ninth inning, was Larsen-esque: Four hits, no walks, seven strikeouts and one Johnny Damon pop-up Lee could have caught in his hat. (He looked like he wanted to, too.) Only one runner reached second base, and none reached third. With a six-run lead going into the bottom of the ninth, technically, it made no sense for manager Charlie Manuel to bring Lee back. But you knew he had to: Lee had to sign his masterpiece. Two hits and an error later, the opus had a tiny one-run smudge, nothing that would depreciate its value.

The Yankees never knew what hit them. Chase Utley hit two homers, one cheap, one quite far from cheap, and that, friends, was that. 6-1 Phillies. Zow.

So. The Yankees, before the record crowd even had time to make any noise (Yankee Stadium was a crypt all evening), find themselves down 1-0 in the Series, and Thursday’s game suddenly means everything. Remember before the playoffs, when we said A.J. Burnett would be vital this series? (Note: We were hardly the only people saying this.) Now he’s all that matters. If the Yankees head to Philadelphia down 0-2 … well, we don’t have to tell you. It’d be bad. Pedro Martinez – of all people – could make it happen. As scary as that might be to contemplate … it has to be more appealing to Yankees than reflecting on what happened tonight.

All night, Section 407 in the upper deck was full of Phillies phans, all swaddled up in red on a chilly night. It looked like the section the team reserved for the players’ families and friends. (To tell you how much the Yankees value the opposing team’s fans, they put them next to the auxillary press box, as far away from home plate as you can get without actually being in Philadelphia.) In the top of the ninth inning, the section, that section, after an RBI single by Shane Victorino made the score 5-0, began chanting “Yankees Suck! Yankees Suck!” The Stadium crowd, with half the crowd gone and the other half depressed, didn’t even respond. For a few seconds, it was all you could hear.

And that was how the first World Series game at the new ballpark went.

Other notes from Game 1:

*** We’ve generally agreed with Girardi’s resistance to replacing the slumping Nick Swisher with Brett Gardner, with the logical reasoning that one of those humans is Nick Swisher, and the other is Brett Gardner. But man, we’re starting to wonder. Swisher is just terrible right now, and it’s terrible in a slumped-shoulders, horrible-body-language way, rather than a random-statistical-happenstance way. He looks lost. He’s now 3-for-32 this postseason, and his perpetual look-at-me-guys-look-at-me! smile has vanished. Even if Girardi does decide to sit him tomorrow – which is still unlikely – he’ll need Swisher’s offense when the series heads to Philly. The Yankees lose the designated hitter, and Hideki Matsui will be on the bench. Swisher needs to turn that frown upside down, and fast. By the way, can we do something about that mohawk? This is the Yankees, for cripes sake. Somewhere in south Brooklyn, a seventy-year-old man shakes his head and sighs.

*** The way Phil Hughes is pitching right now (and the way David Robertson pitched tonght), the eighth-inning bridge to Mariano Rivera is starting to look a lot like Mariano Riveira.

You’ll Be Seeing Cliff Lee in Your Nightmares For a While