Lee held the Rockies to six hits and one run in a complete-game, 5-1 Phillies victory to open the National League Division Series in front of 46,452 -- the largest crowd in the history of the stadium.
But Atkins knew he missed on a golden chance to flip the game in the Rockies' favor. With two on and two out in the bottom of the first, Lee left a 2-0 changeup over the plate. But Atkins just missed clubbing it, and instead sent a fly ball to center field.
"It was one he kind of left up a little bit," said Atkins, who struggled to a .226 regular-season batting average, but started in place of Ian Stewart because the Rockies felt he stacked up better against Lee. "You'd like to do a little bit more with that."
It was one of two early opportunities the Rockies couldn't convert. Yorvit Torrealba doubled to open the second. However, the inning ended when Torrealba, trying to advance on Clint Barmes' line drive to right, was called out at third by umpire Ron Kulpa even though replays indicated he beat right fielder Jayson Werth's throw.
Lee, who won the American League Cy Young Award with the Indians last year and was traded to the Phillies this July, retired 16 straight at one point.
"There was a little bit of vulnerability to him in getting started," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "But once he got into the third and fourth inning, he was pretty much into his game."
The defending World Series champion Phillies finally cracked Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez with two runs in the fifth and three in the sixth.
It was definitely different from two years ago. The 2007 underdog Rockies, fresh off a miracle march to the postseason, made the most of every opportunity while sweeping the Phillies in the NLDS and the D-backs in the NL Championship Series before being swept by the Red Sox in the World Series.
Now the Rockies must forget the nightmare that was Lee and attempt to turn the best-of-five series around on Thursday against left-hander Cole Hamels, the 2008 World Series Most Valuable Player.
"We're going to have to get some hits with guys on base, come up with some hits like they did," Rockies first baseman Todd Helton said. "It's one game. It's a big game, but it's one game."
Jimenenz cruised through the first four innings on 46 pitches. But he threw 35 in a fifth inning that began with a walk to Werth -- Jimenez's only walk. Raul Ibanez doubled in Werth, and scored on Carlos Ruiz's single. In the sixth, Chase Utley singled, Ryan Howard doubled -- left fielder Carlos Gonzalez had the ball in his glove, but lost it when he crashed into the wall -- and Werth tripled off the top of the wall in center. Ibanez added an RBI single off left-handed reliever Joe Beimel, who replaced Jimenez.
THE 1-0 SERIESThe advantage of winning Game 1 of a Division Series is far more pronounced in the National League than in the American League since DS play began in 1995.
Records of teams going up 1-0:
- ALDS 14-14
- NLDS 25-3
- All DS 39-17
- All Series 153-84
Teams to come back from 1-0 in NLDS:
- 2003 Marlins (won World Series)
- 2000 Mets (lost World Series)
- 1999 Braves (lost World Series)
"I pitched well the first four innings, but after that I lost my control," said Jimenez, who gave up nine hits and struck out four. "I fell behind in the count and I had to throw fastballs."
The Howard double and Werth triple were assisted by an unpredictable wind, which gave fielders fits throughout. Gonzalez said both seemed headed for home runs.
"Each ball was going to do a different thing," said center fielder Dexter Fowler, who nearly caught Werth's triple. "The higher the ball, the more it's going to move."
Lee, using a cut fastball and a sinker and spotting every pitch where he aimed, struck out five with no walks in his first postseason start.
"I knew there was going to be a little bit more adrenaline, but for the most part I tried to treat it like a normal start," Lee said.
Lee dominated the Rockies in much the same manner he did on Aug. 6, when he held them to one run and six hits in seven innings of a 3-1 Phillies victory.
"Most of the time he was throwing first-pitch strikes," said Gonzalez, who singled in the first and again in the ninth before scoring on Troy Tulowitzki's double. "And we lost our patience at the plate."
The Phillies also foreshadowed a strategy of being aggressive on the bases, going 3-for-4 on steal attempts. Even Lee had a steal to become the first pitcher in Phillies history to swipe a bag in a postseason game.
As for the Rockies, once they blew their early chance, they had little opportunity to try offensive straetegy.
"They beat us today," Tracy said. "You know, they got a base hit in every spot in their lineup, including Cliff Lee. They created opportunities for themselves to score runs, and we really didn't create any with the exception of what took place in the ninth inning. They just beat us today."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.