A Cliff Lee catch doesn’t usually make more headlines than his strikeouts. But two Cliff Lee catches dominated headlines after Game 1 last night. The first Cliff Lee catch was a routine popup – yet was more notable because of how lazy and easy he made it. But the second Cliff Lee catch was a shocking behind-the-back grab in the eighth inning, which showed even further that it wasn’t the Yankees night. Whichever Cliff Lee catch was most memorable didn’t matter, as they both served as powerful symbols for his World Series Game 1 conquest.
The Cliff Lee catch in the sixth inning was off a lazy Johnny Damon popup. For that one, all Lee did was move his right arm over to catch the ball, while the rest of him stayed still and stonefaced. If the relative ease of that Cliff Lee catch made the Yankees upset, it didn’t come through in their performance the rest of the night.
The next Cliff Lee catch came after the Phillies really put Game 1 out of reach, having gone up 4-0 in the eighth. The Yankees were desperate to get some kind of rally going, and chase Lee from the game. But instead, Robinson Cano hit a grounder that Lee somehow caught behind his back, which was the final emotional dagger.
These Cliff Lee catches were pretty much the last highlight reel moments that Lee hadn’t given to the Phillies yet. It wasn’t enough that he took a shutout into the ninth inning, and hasn’t given up an earned run in two straight starts against the Dodgers and Yankees. Cliff Lee catch 1 and 2 just made things look even easier than they already were, if that was humanly possible.
Those catches are now the top highlights in Cliff Lee’s growing legend in Philadelphia. But now the question is whether Charlie Manuel will risk sending Lee on short rest in Game 4, or wait for Game 5. The answer likely depends on where the Phillies are by Game 4.
If the Phillies split the next two games and go up 2-1, they might be best served saving Lee for Game 5, since a Game 4 win would then give Lee the chance to wrap up the World Series at home. Given how Game 1 went, that would be the worst case scenario for New York.
While the Cliff Lee catches are replayed in Philadelphia for the next few days, Lee still isn’t finished with his 2009 postseason legend yet. It could have the perfect ending, if he next goes out with a chance to clinch a second straight Phillies championship. But the rest of the rotation, starting with Pedro Martinez in Game 2, has to give Lee that chance.
Gawker- “Phillies Pitcher Cliff Lee Catch…Ho Humm and Behind the Back”
CS Monitor- “Cliff Lee beats Yankees with one hand behind his back”