NEW YORK -- All postseason, the Phillies have been hounded by questions about their bullpen. Could Brad Lidge close a big game in the World Series? Could Ryan Madson be a sturdy bridge to the Philadelphia closer? Could Scott Eyre and J.A. Happ get important outs against lefties?
For one night, however, all those questions were put to rest -- not by the bullpen itself but rather by a luminescent performance by Cliff Lee.
Only Madson even got loose in the Phillies' bullpen Wednesday night, since Lee required nary a visit to the mound from either manager Charlie Manuel or pitching coach Rich Dubee. By the time the Yankees got multiple runners on base at the same time, it was the ninth inning and Philadelphia had established a six-run lead. So even when New York put its first two runners on in the frame, Manuel was comfortable sticking with his ace.
"He was absolutely still good," Manuel said. "There would have been a time when he would have got up into a pitch count where I would have had to take him. But at the same time that didn't happen."
Lee finished the night with 122 pitches -- the most he's ever thrown in a playoff game. Neither Manuel nor Lee would say whether the pitcher would come back in Game 4 on three days' rest.
"We'll see where it goes," Manuel said. "We'll see where we're at. We've got time."
"I really haven't looked forward to whatever," Lee said. "I'm ready to pitch whenever they'll let me."
It was a relaxing night for the Philadelphia relievers, with Lee in cruise control from the first inning.
Going the distance
Cliff Lee recorded the first Game 1 complete-game victory in 14 years.
"We looked up in the sixth or seventh inning and he had like 69 pitches," said Eyre. "If we didn't have a DH, he was going deep, too. It was that kind of game."
Lee's most taxing inning was a 17-pitch sixth, where he still allowed only a single baserunner. By keeping his pitch count low, the southpaw gave his manager the luxury of sending him back out for the ninth.
"That's what you want to do every time you take the mound," Lee said. "I want to go out there and pitch until the game is over. I've never been happy coming out of the game early. That's just competitive nature, and that's me having confidence in what I do and expecting to be that successful."
Lee has now rendered the bullpen completely unnecessary in two of his four postseason starts. Philadelphia relievers have only needed to record eight outs in Lee's quartet of starts -- and three of those outs were with an 11-run lead. The other five outs were trickier. After Lee departed his Game 4 start against the Rockies in the Division Series, Colorado grabbed the lead with back-to-back hits off Madson. Luckily, Philadelphia responded an inning later to earn the win.
That was one of two games this postseason where the Phillies' relief issues came to the fore. The other was the last game started by Pedro Martinez, who goes in Game 2 for Philadelphia on Thursday night. After Martinez departed following seven innings of two-hit ball, Manuel needed five relievers to get through an eighth inning that saw his team cough up the lead and, thus, the game.
It's safe to say the bullpen will be a bigger part of Game 2. The 38-year-old Martinez lasted seven innings or more just twice in nine starts this season, and he has never pitched through the eighth inning in 12 career postseason starts.
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.