Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Phillies blow another one at home

PHILADELPHIA – For the last month, as Cliff Lee went one effective start after another without collecting a win, his half-is-glass-full manager kept reassuring the public that all was well, to remain calm.
“He’ll win quite a few for us before it’s all over,” Manuel said Tuesday afternoon, echoing sentiments he made five days earlier and five days before that, too.
Lee entered his ninth start of the season with a 3.00 ERA and no wins. But he looked well on his way to getting his first victory on a cool, June night at Citizens Bank Park Tuesday.

Lee was reminiscent of the $120 million ace that mowed down all comers last June, when he allowed one earned run in five starts. From the third inning through the seventh, Lee retired 15 of 16 of the Dodgers hitters, 11 one strikeouts.
But eventually he was doomed by the same elements that have crept up for Phillies starting pitchers throughout the first two months of the season: one shaky inning and a lack of offensive support from his teammates.
Lee gave up a go-ahead, two-run double to Elian Herrera in the eighth inning and the Phils offense went to sleep after scoring in their first at-bat in a 2-1 defeat to the Dodgers.
The Phillies (28-29) have lost four straight. They are back under the .500 mark for the first time since May 23.
Lee remains winless.
“I think he’ll be fine,” Manuel said afterward. “He’ll be more determined. That’s hard to explain. I can’t explain it.”
The lack of offense explains it perfectly. The Phils have scored two runs or less in 20 of their 57 games this season and in five of Lee’s nine starts. Despite lowering his ERA to 2.92 Tuesday, Lee saw the Phils lose for the sixth time in his nine starts.
“I’m not really frustrated, I’m not,” Lee said. “All I can do is throw pitches. I don’t set goals that I got to have this many wins or whatever. I just want to put as many zeroes as I can, go deep, throw strikes, don’t walk guys, and give a team a chance to win. That’s all I can do and that’s what I’m going to try to continue to do. Would I like to have a better record or have some wins, yeah, but what can I do about that?”
The night appeared to begin with a good omen for the offense.
Prior to the game, Manuel was asked about Hunter Pence’s struggles with runners in scoring position. Pence entered the night hitting .203 (14-for-69) with 12 strikeouts with runners in scoring position; he is a career .292 hitter with RISP.
“I think if I had to pick one guy, I’d say Hunter is really the one who’s definitely trying too hard to help us and make sure we win the game,” Manuel said, admitting that Pence was pressing to carry an offense with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
But Pence came through Tuesday.
Jimmy Rollins led off the first inning with a double. Two batters later, Pence punched a single through the left side of the infield to bring Rollins home and give the Phils a 1-0 lead.
Although it was one run, Lee took the lead and ran with it.
With runners on first and second and one out in the second, Lee struck out his first batter of the game, Los Angeles catcher Matt Treanor, to get into a roll. Beginning with the Treanor strikeout, Lee retired 17 of 18, including 12 on strikeouts.
But that run ended with the same player it began with: Treanor.
The Dodgers catcher doubled to begin the eighth inning. Lee made up for it when the next batter, Tony Gwynn Jr., bunted and Lee twirled and caught Treanor at third base.
When pinch hitter Bobby Abreu followed with a single, it was Pence’s turn to nab the lead runner at third. The right fielder fired a strike to Placido Polanco, nailing Gwynn for the second out of the inning.
But Lee never reconnected with his mid-game groove. Dee Gordon followed with the Dodgers’ third hit of the inning, a single to right, to put runners on first and second.
Lee came one strike away from escaping the inning unscathed, with a 1-0 lead and ready to hand the ball over to Jonathan Papelbon. But Elian Herrera launched a 2-2 pitch – the 122nd pitch Lee threw Tuesday – over Juan Pierre’s head at the left field fence for a two-run double.
With one swing, Lee’s shutout and bid for his first win went up in flames.
“I felt I could locate the whole game; I wasn’t tired,” Lee said. “I made a mistake to the last guy. I made a bad pitch and he put a good swing on it.”
Lee allowed two runs on six hits while striking out 12 and walking one in 7 2/3 innings. On most nights, for most teams, it would have been enough for an easy win.
But the offensive-challenged Phillies, who have three All-Stars rehabbing in Clearwater, Fla., were limited to four singles in the final eight innings of Tuesday’s game. Los Angeles right-hander Chad Billingsley, who had a 12.96 in three rough starts against the Phillies in the 2008 and ’09 postseasons, allowed one run on six hits in seven innings.
“I thought we were going to score runs and hit him, if you want to know the truth,” Manuel said. “And we didn’t hit him at all.”
NOTES: Polanco came out of the game in the ninth inning with a minor abrasion on his left hand. Polanco was spiked in the hand when Treanor slid into third base in the eighth inning. His hand did not require stitches.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home