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Ibanez's hit gives Lee breathing room

Ibanez's hit gives Lee breathing room

NEW YORK -- As the Phillies have journeyed through this year's postseason, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley have commanded most of the offensive spotlight. But like he did during the early portion of this year's regular season, Raul Ibanez has quietly proven to be a clutch run producer.

When the Phillies look back on the 6-1 win they claimed over the Yankees in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night, they'll certainly remember Cliff Lee's mound mastery and the two CC Sabathia pitches that Utley sent over the outfield wall.

But what shouldn't be forgotten is the fact that Lee was able to cruise toward the completion of his complete-game gem with the comfort that Ibanez provided with his two-out, two-run single in the eighth inning off right-handed reliever David Robertson.

"Any time you have guys up in scoring position, you want to drive them in," Ibanez said. "Fortunately for us, it found a hole and a couple of guys scored."

Provided the assignment to serve as the designated hitter during his first career World Series game, Ibanez once again proved that he has a knack for delivering the big blow. Prior to the two-run single that he delivered through the right side of the infield, Utley's solo shots had accounted for all of Lee's support.

Ibanez's single provided a four-run cushion for Lee, who became the first pitcher since Josh Beckett in Game 6 of the 2003 World Series to toss a complete game. Beckett's masterpiece came during what had been the most recent World Series game played by the Yankees.

"It was a 2-0 game at the time," Ibanez said. "So giving Cliff a couple of extra runs of support was definitely helpful to him."

2009 World Series
Gm. 1 PHI 6, NYY 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 NYY 3, PHI 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 NYY 8, PHI 5 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 NYY 7, PHI 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 PHI 8, NYY 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 6 NYY 7, PHI 3 Wrap Video

Through the first 10 games of this postseason, Ibanez has hit just .229 (8-for-35). But his 11 RBIs rank second on the team to Howard, who has driven in 14 runs. In addition, the 37-year-old outfielder has managed to be a catalyst during the first game of each of the three rounds the Phillies have played.

In Game 1 of the National League Division Series, his fifth-inning double accounted for the first run scored against a previously dominant Ubaldo Jimenez. His three-run, eighth-inning homer off George Sherrill provided cushion in what proved to be an 8-6 victory over the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series.

"When the guys get on base in front of you, you try to do what you can and try to do whatever you can," Ibanez said.

Ibanez's contributions have erased the doubt that was raised when he returned from a groin injury in July and hit .224 with 35 RBIs in the final 75 games he played this year. Over the past couple of weeks, he's looked more like he did during this year's first 59 games, a span that saw him hit .325 and drive in 58 runs.

"We're a complete team," Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "We don't sit back and rely on one person to get it done. Everybody in the lineup has a job to do."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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