I’m not sure what the breaking point is for a professional athlete, but I’ve gotta believe Cliff Lee is rapidly reaching that point.
If he hasn’t already.
Tuesday night’s 5-4 loss to the Reds at Citizens Bank Park was almost a carbon copy of every single frustrating game Lee has pitched so far this year.
The offense didn’t do much to support him early, staking him to just a 1-0 lead through six innings. Lee wiggled out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth, thanks to a brilliant play by third baseman Kevin Frandsen as well as a key double play off the bat of Jay Bruce. But in the seventh, it all unraveled for tough-luck lefty.
Lee gave up three seventh inning runs, two of them earned, failing to make it out of the inning and leaving the Phils in a 3-1 hole. After the game, Lee pointed the finger at himself.
“I don’t remember what I said in the dugout, I was just kind of mad just in the fact that we had a one-run lead and I gave them a two-run lead,” Lee said. “I was pretty frustrated about that.”
Of course, once Lee left the game, Phillies hitters were allowed to actually hit once again, adhering to a team-wide policy that they only score runs once Cliff Lee has left a baseball game. They rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the 7th at 3-3, thanks to a Jimmy Rollins 2-run double.
Unfortunately, with Lee out, the game was in the hands of the bullpen. And that’s never a good thing.
Antonio Bastardo, who was in the witness protection program until Tuesday night, gave up a solo homer in the top of the 8th to Todd Frazier, giving the Reds a 4-3 lead. The Phillies then tied it again on an RBI triple by Frandsen in the bottom of the inning, sending the game to the 9th tied at four.
Enter Jonathan Papelbon, who promptly gave up a solo homer to Zack Cozart.
It was just yet another frustrating game in the midst of one of the most frustrating seasons in recent Phillies history.
When It All Went Wrong
In the ill-fated seventh inning, when Lee gave up three runs to blow a 1-0 lead. Now, a 1-0 lead isn’t exactly as secure as Fort Knox, but it was a one-run lead all the same and Lee couldn’t hold onto it. Ryan Howard’s inability to cut a ball off and hold runners at 1st and 2nd with less than two out in the 7th resulted in both runners being in scoring position when Cozart hit a sacrifice fly to give Cincinnati a one-run lead. Drew Stubbs’ RBI single gave the Reds a 3-1 cushion and yet another frustrating start for Lee was finished.
Most Attractive Play
The unbelievable play by Frandsen at third with the bases loaded and no one out in the 6th, diving to his left and throwing a laser home to cut off a run. A few pitches later, the Phillies were out of the jam altogether. In years previous, an inning like that would have propelled the Phils to yet another victory in a season destined for the playoffs. However, in 2012, it was just yet another cruel set-up, designed to crush the spirits of everyone watching.
In fact, perhaps that should be the name of the Phillies’ 2012 video yearbook. “Crushed Spirits.” Yeah, I like that.
Kevin Frandsen, who also had a productive night at the plate, going 3-4 with the game-tying triple in the 8th that once again led fans watching to think momentum was on the Phils’ side. Foolish children.
Lee, Bastardo and Papelbon, all pitchers who were expected to be huge contributors to a first-place team, continued their struggles. Lee’s trend of pitching brilliantly for most of a game only to have one disastrous inning do him in, Bastardo’s complete inability to have any kind of consistency on the mound, and Papelbon’s continued difficulties protecting tie games, were all on display last night. Two of those guys are making a ton of money, by the way, and the Phillies are currently not getting their money’s worth.