When the original Yankee Stadium hosted its first World Series game in 1923, the visitors came out on top. The road team won again in the first game in the renovated Stadium in 1976. The Phillies made it 3-for-3 with their 6-1 win over the Yankees in the World Series opener in the newest version in the Bronx on Wednesday night.
The Yankees rallied to beat the Giants in six games in 1923 but were swept by the Reds in '76. If the Bombers want the 2009 Fall Classic to resemble '23 more than '76, they'll need to cut down on the historical accomplishments by their opponents.
With two solo homers off Yankees starter CC Sabathia, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley became the second left-handed batter to hit two homers off a left-handed pitcher in a World Series game. The other was Babe Ruth, who did it off Bill Sherdel in Game 4 of the 1928 World Series.
"I guess that's pretty good company," Utley said.
But Utley's blasts were only part of the story. Cliff Lee became the first lefty to throw a World Series complete game since Randy Johnson shut out the Yankees in Game 2 in 2001. Lee's 10 strikeouts were the most by a pitcher since Josh Beckett fanned 10 Yankees in his Game 6 shutout that clinched the 2003 World Series. Lee's effort was more than enough to outdo Sabathia, who gave up only Utley's homers in seven innings.
"His swing, he has tremendous balance and rhythm," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Utley. "His swing produces a lot of bat speed, and he's got real quick hands to the ball. But he gets that from the fact of his balance and his rhythm, his push off his back side."
The Yankees have now lost the opener of the past three World Series they have played in. They also fell at Arizona in 2001 and at home against Florida in '03. Both of those previous series ended in losses. With three consecutive losses in '03, the Yankees have lost four successive World Series games overall.
"He's pitched well here before," Sabathia said of Lee, a former Indians teammate. "He pitched well here Opening Day. He's a good pitcher, and he showed it tonight."
"At worst, we can split here in New York and go back home and really have the home-field advantage," Lee said. "Yeah, winning at least one of these first two is huge, the first one especially."
The Yankees trailed the 2001 World Series, 0-2, but both of those losses came on the road. In 1996, they dropped the first two games at home to the Braves and ended up winning the World Series in six.
"He can only pitch every four or five days," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said of Lee. "You want to go out there and score some runs of Pedro. Cliff Lee pitched really well tonight. When you face a Cy Young winner like that and he's on, you're not going to score many runs, and that was the case tonight."
Wednesday's loss was the Yankees' first at home of the 2009 postseason. The team has lost only nine times in the Bronx since the All-Star break. Their only back-to-back losses during that time span came Sept. 11-12 against the Orioles.
"We know he's very good, and we like the way our guy is throwing the ball, too," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Cliff Lee has been tough on us this year, we know that. I mean, he's pitching extremely well. But one thing is he can't pitch every day."
Thomas Boorstein is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less