NEW YORK — The grand return of the World Series to New York after a six-year absence turned out to not be so special.
At least not for the home team.
As they did last year at Tropicana Field to the Rays, the Phillies crashed the party, snatching the homefield advantage by taking the opener, this time 6-1.
And befitting their role as the other team given all the hype and hyperbole accorded the hosts in their quest for a 27th championship in honor of ailing owner George Steinbrenner, their stars were two of the other guys.
Cliff Lee, the other left-handed ace traded away by Cleveland, not CC Sabathia, threw a dazzling six-hit complete game. And Chase Utley, the other guy coming off hip surgery, not Alex Rodriguez, hit a pair of home runs.
"Winning Game 1 is huge," Lee said. "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."
It was the first Series game in New York since 2003, as well as the first in the $1.5 billion new Yankee Stadium, and featured the requisite pomp and circumstance, including an appearance by first lady Michelle Obama (and the accompanying snipers around the stadium) and glimpses of celebrities of various degree (Kurt Russell?) among the crowd of 50,207, which shrunk rapidly in the later innings.
And, with Steinbrenner making a rare trip up from Tampa to watch, it turned out not to be much fun.
"They kicked our butts," Yankees leftfielder Johnny Damon.
"It's disappointing," captain Derek Jeter said. "They played better than us, and they deserved to win. Hopefully we can play a lot better (tonight)."
With a 2-0 lead on Utley's homers and Sabathia, who is being considered to make three starts, gone after seven, the Phillies had the Yankees exactly where they wanted them — reaching into their bullpen.
Facing the not exactly fear-inducing foursome of Phil Hughes, Damaso Marte, David Robertson and Brian Bruney over the eighth and ninth innings, the Phillies broke out for four more runs.
Lee made it look easy, working quickly, changing speeds and attacking the strike zone, throwing the first Series complete game in six years. Even easier when he put his glove behind his back to snare Robinson Cano's shot at the start of the eighth. "I don't know how I caught that ball,'' he said.
Lee, now 3-0 with a 0.54 ERA in four postseason starts held the high-scoring Yankees to just four hits over the first eight innings, struck out 10 and allowed only three runners past first base.
"We really didn't get him in trouble much at all," Jeter said. Sabathia, who had zipped through his first three postseason starts (3-0, 1.19) loaded the bases in a 25-pitch first inning and escaped then, but made the two costly mistakes to Utley. "Just missed location both times," Sabathia said.
He allowed the two runs on four hits over seven innings. But more important going forward might be the 113 pitches he threw as the Yankees decide whether to bring him back on three days' rest for Game 4.
Utley— who hit a tone-setting first-inning homer in the opener against the Rays last year - had a memorable night.
His first at-bat was historic as he walked to set a postseason record by reaching base in 26 consecutive games, breaking a tie with Boog Powell.
The next two were a bit more significant.
In the third, with two outs, Utley, who hit just .211 with one RBI in the NLCS, worked a nine-pitch at-bat and looped a full-count pitch high and just over the rightfield fence. With one out in the sixth, he turned on an 0-and-2 pitch and drove it deep into the right-centerfield seats. They were the first homers by a visitor in the six postseason games at Yankee Stadium and the first allowed to a lefty at home by Sabathia the entire season (18 starts).
"Utley can hit," Jeter said.
"You hear everyone talking about Jimmy (Rollins) and (Ryan) Howard," Phillies closer Brad Lidge said. "You know you've got a pretty good lineup when people forget about Chase Utley."
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com.