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Moreover, Lee dressed up his masterpiece with some filigree, providing three stylish fielding plays that showed off his ease. He caught one ground ball behind his back, tagged out a runner on the backside with a small windmilling of his glove and caught a pop-up as casually as a man opening his palm by his side to see if it's raining. You got the sense that if he'd had to pitch another inning, he might have broken out the old confetti-in-the-water-bucket trick.
"To be successful at this level, you've got to be confident," Lee said after Game 1. "You've got to go out there and think you're going to get everybody out. I definitely do that. I try not to go over the edge and rub things in and be cocky, but I definitely have confidence."
So in command was Lee that the Yankees missed 13 times with their first 32 swings at his assortment of cutters, curves, changeups and fastballs. Traffic aside, Lee once again made himself at home in another big spot in the Bronx. He had started the last All-Star Game at the old Yankee Stadium, won the first game at the new Yankee Stadium and six months later outpitched the same Yankees ace and friend he saw on Opening Day, Sabathia, to win the first World Series game at the new stadium.
Back in April, Lee went to Sabathia's house after the Opening Day game, where Sabathia's wife cooked a meal for the two former Cleveland teammates. They conversed often during the season and texted one another in the postseason. Lee's buddy also pitched well—Sabathia gave up just two runs on four hits over seven innings—but Chase Utley didn't allow him to match the mastery of Lee. Utley smacked two solo two-strike homers, one in the third inning that barely reached the seats in rightfield and one in the sixth that rocketed almost halfway up the bleachers in right. Sabathia had not allowed a home run to a lefthanded hitter at home all year. And only one lefthanded hitter before Utley had ever hit two homers off a lefty in the World Series: a guy named Babe Ruth.
Once Sabathia left the game, Philadelphia knocked around five Yankees relievers for another four runs that seemed superfluous, given Lee's command. New York had been 5-0 at home in the postseason. In 2009 none of the 33 lefthanders to start against them had lasted an entire game. The World Series may have been back in the Bronx for the first time in six years, but no matter how you got there, Game 1 came down to the pitching of Cliff Lee.
GAME 2 at New York
YANKEES 3, PHILLIES 1
AFTER THE YANKEES DROPPED GAME 1, BURNETT, their Game 2 starter, was walking to the kitchen in the back of the Yankees' clubhouse when he saw Lee on one of the many flat-screen televisions in their spacious accommodations. Lee, 31, and Burnett, 32, are friends who grew up in the Little Rock area. Burnett listened closely as he heard Lee interviewed on the field.
"He talked about confidence, and he talked about belief in his stuff," Burnett said after Game 2. "And all I told myself last night and today was the same thing. I went out tonight with confidence, and just...you know, the game just rolled by. I was in a good rhythm."
As Lee controlled Game 1, Burnett controlled Game 2. He did not throw a complete game but instead took the ball directly to Rivera for the final six outs—the Yankees' equivalent of a complete game—to carry New York to a 3-1 win. In seven innings Burnett showed almost no signs of his trademark wildness, pouring in first-pitch strikes to 22 of the 26 hitters he faced. He allowed one run on just four hits and two walks (one intentional) while striking out nine. It was the first time in 38 years in which the World Series began with back-to-back starts of nine or more strikeouts, with Dave McNally and Jim Palmer of Baltimore the last to do so, in 1971.