Game 1 is always the must win for Phillies

NEW YORK - Six playoff series, six Game 1 victories. Such is the Phillies' impressive ability to sprint from the firing of the gun.

"Winning Game 1 is huge," said Cliff Lee, the starting pitcher who threw the six-hit, complete game. "You want to get off to a good start. It's a seven-game series, [and] getting that first one out of the way is big for us. At worst, we can split here in New York and go back home and really have the homefield advantage. Yeah, winning at least one of these first two is huge, the first one especially, so now we've got a chance to take both of them and go into Philly in a real good spot."

Huge. It was a common word in the Phillies' clubhouse after the game. Last year, the Phillies got great Game 1 pitching performances by Cole Hamels all three times and won. This year, Lee is playing that role.

"It's huge," reliever Brad Lidge said. "We play really well on the road. We play as good on the road as we do at home. When you can get Game 1 in a scenario and a situation like this, when they have their best going - obviously, we had ours, too - it's real nice. It takes away their homefield advantage."

Lidge and the rest of the bullpen, with the night off, had plenty of time to watch and savor the consequences of this one. The signs are excellent, by the way. The last six teams that won Game 1 ended up winning the Series. And the last three teams trying to repeat as champions - the 2000 Yankees, 1999 Yankees and 1993 Blue Jays - all won their Game 1s.

Last year, Hamels was tremendous. This year, Lee has been even better.

"I wouldn't have guessed it, but Cliff right now is pitching with tremendous command and confidence," Lidge said. "He's having fun and it shows . . .

"I don't think we think too much about Game 1, or whatever game it is. We've been fortunate to have some incredible pitching performances by Cole and now Cliff in those Game 1s, and I think that's really helped things out for us.

"If you get a great pitching performance - we're going to score. I mean, our guys are going to score. And then you get a [pitcher] shutting them down like that, you're going to win Game 1. And fortunately, we've had Cole and Cliff.

"That kind of confidence, where we feel like every time he takes the ball, we're going to win - it's definitely there." *