NEW YORK - For the first seven innings, Raul Ibanez seemed destined to back up the statistics that show the disadvantages of a National League designated hitter against the hometown American League.
Playing in his first World Series - in the town in which he was born - Ibanez looked like a deer in the large, neon New York lights last night.
He had a chance to be the hero in his very first World Series at-bat in the bottom of the first, with the bases drunk. Ibanez worked a 3-1 count before grounding a ball right into the glove of second baseman Robinson Cano, ending the inning.
Ibanez then struck out swinging and looking. But manager Charlie Manuel stuck with Ibanez, even though he chose to take the glove away from his All-Star leftfielder in favor of a more mobile Ben Francisco.
His confidence paid off in the eighth inning. At the dish for another shot with the bases juiced, Ibanez pounded a David Robertson breaking ball between Cano and first baseman Mark Teixeira - just a few feet to the right of where his first-inning ball was gobbled up - sending Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino home. Those two runs gave the Phillies some padding for their scant, 2-0 lead.
"It was a breaking ball that just found a hole," Ibanez said. "It's always gratifying to drive in runs.
"It's nice to come in and win against a great team like the Yankees. To win the first one, in their home, that's definitely the goal.''
Prior to last year's World Series, the NL's designated hitters batted just .088 in the previous five World Series - with no extra-base hits. The home team's DH went 10-for-36 over that same stretch.
Last year, Manuel wasn't afraid to make a move in the DH from Games 1 to 2 against Tampa Bay. Chris Coste went 0-for-4 as the DH in Game 1, a path that Ibanez looked like he was heading down.
Rather than stick with someone in Game 2 who didn't produce, Manuel found success with a Greg Dobbs and Eric Bruntlett one-two punch.
Dobbs was the first Phillie to break that NL designated hitter can't-hit trend. He went 1-for-3 with a single before Bruntlett came in and hit a pinch-hit home run in the DH hole against David Price.
Ibanez made it a forgettable stat, outproducing the Yankees' Hideki Matsui (1-for-3 with a single). The cushion Ibanez provided made it easier for Manuel to let Cliff Lee go the distance.
Ibanez said it wasn't tough for him to slide into the DH role, despite not having done it with any regularity since he was in Seattle last season. He spent his first 13 years before coming to the Phillies in the American League.
"You're getting to play," Ibanez said. "That's what's important. It was just one game that I was DHing. You're getting your at-bats and you're just looking to help the team any way you can."
Manuel enjoys playing around with the DH role, especially when it works. He has a knack for putting players in a position to succeed.
"I like a DH at times," Manuel was saying before the game. "I like managing in the National League better because your bench comes into play more and who you've got . . . plays a big role in it."
Don't be surprised if you see Manuel mix it up tonight. Giving Ibanez his glove for Game 2 seems to make sense. Manuel hasn't tipped his hand, but may slide Matt Stairs into the DH role against righty A.J. Burnett. Stairs, unlike Dobbs or Francisco - who never have faced Burnett - is 1-for-3 off the Yankees' fiery and highly paid Game 2 arm.
"He'll get to play some of the field in this series," Manuel said of Ibanez. "It's not like he's a bad outfielder."
Last year, the Phillies made the DH irrelevant in the World Series. But it wasn't because of Dobbs and Bruntlett. The series never shifted back to Tampa Bay for Game 6 to put it in play, aided by a Game 1 victory on the road.
Ibanez' hit - which helped capture 2009's Game 1 in the brightest of lights - may do the same thing.