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Phils rise to occasion Hamels delivers with pitching gem Utley homer helps send Rays to defeat in front of packed house

The Philadelphia Phillies didn't get much done at the plate when they needed to Wednesday night. Maybe they were rusty after their week off. But there was no problem on the mound, so their wait for the World Series opener was worth it.

Lefty Cole Hamels worked seven innings and Chase Utley's two-run homer in the top of the first gave the Phillies a lead they would not relinquish in a 3-2 Game One victory over the upstart Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

The series continues here tonight at 8:29 with Philadelphia's Brett Myers, an Opening Day starter who spent a couple weeks in Triple-A in July, facing Tampa Bay's James Shields.

A cowbell-clanging crowd of 40,783 jammed every corner of the domed ballpark and created a festive atmosphere. It was the first World Series game in the 11-year history of a franchise that had never had a winning season until this year.

The Rays went 57-24 at home this season but this is the second straight series in which they've dropped the opener under the dome. And here's more bad news for them: Ten of the last 11 Game One winners have taken the title.

Hamels used his vaunted change-up to keep Tampa Bay hitters off balance and improve to 4-0 with a 1.55 ERA this postseason. He went seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits while striking out five and walking two.

"He was on top of his game. He's a very impressive young man," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "He didn't make any mistakes, didn't hang any change-ups. They were where he wanted to throw them. More power to him. He threw a great game."

Hamels joins Boston's Josh Beckett (2007), the Yankees' David Wells (1998) and Oakland's Dave Stewart ('89) as the only pitchers to post four wins in four starts in a single postseason.

Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge followed Hamels with an inning each of perfect relief, with Lidge improving to a perfect 47 for 47 in save opportunities combining the regular season and postseason.

"Coming into a place like this, you want to make sure you get the first game, especially because you got your ace on the mound," Lidge said. "It's really important to do that."

The Phillies left 11 men on base and were 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position but Utley's blast to right off Tampa Bay starter Scott Kazmir proved to be the difference.

"Being able to score runs early helps my game out and makes it easier," Hamels said. "It lessens the pressure and put me at a point where I can't do much else but allow myself to go out and keep pitching."

Jayson Werth walked with one out in the first and the Rays' infield moved into an exaggerated shift against the left-handed Utley. He initially tried to bunt his way on base. That went foul and later in the at-bat he pulled a 2-2 fastball from Kazmir over the wall in right to become the 34th player in Series history to homer in his first at-bat.

"I guess it turned out pretty well," said Utley, a 32-homer man in the regular season. "Their third baseman [Evan Longoria] was playing shortstop and I figured I try to create something at that point [with the bunt]. It was foul but it ended up turning pretty good for us.

"Our goal was to score some runs early and take the crowd out of it because they are intense and loud. We did a good job of that."

"You want to shut the cowbells up, that's the way you do it -- by hitting some home runs," Phils manager Charlie Manuel said.

The Phils made it 3-0 in the fourth as Shane Victorino and Pedro Feliz opened with singles, moved up on Chris Coste's grounder and Victorino scored on Carlos Ruiz's grounder.

Tampa got on the board with two out in the bottom of the inning as Carl Crawford, the most senior Ray, homered to right. And the Rays crept closer in the fifth as Akinori Iwamura stroked a full-count pitch the opposite way to left-center for a two-out double that scored Jason Bartlett.

Iwamura had two singles and a double in his first three at-bats and finished the night 3 for 4. It was a stark contrast to No. 2 hitter B.J. Upton, who went 0 for 4 and bounced into double plays in his first two at-bats.

His second one came with the bases loaded and one out in the third as Feliz speared his hot grounder at third and went around the horn.

Upton became the first player since the Yankees' Derek Jeter (2003 at Florida) to bounce into two double plays in a Series game; San Francisco catcher Benito Santiago was the last to do it in a nine-inning game, in 2002 against Anaheim.

It was a dubious performance by Upton, who had tied the ALCS record with four home runs against the Red Sox. Maybe there was an odd reason for it though -- prior to the game, Upton donated the bat he hit the home runs with to the Hall of Fame.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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