On Saturday, the unthinkable happened.
Cliff Lee won his second start in a row, beating the Braves 5-1 in Atlanta.
I know, I know. Please remain calm. The world is not ending. There is no asteroid hurtling toward Earth. We’re all going to be fine.
It’s the first time this year Lee has won two in a row, and on Saturday, he was dominant. Lee went seven innings, giving up five hits and no runs in picking up his fourth win of the season. He also struck out five and lowered his ERA to 3.52. However, he had to leave the game after throwing just 93 pitches due to a cramped hamstring. He is not expected to miss any time.
Lee’s season has been one of the weirdest since Cole Hamels’ inexplicably bad 2009 campaign. For much of that year Hamels pitched well, but would frequently run into one bad inning that would torpedo an otherwise good start. Much the same thing has been happening to Lee this season. But not so on Saturday.
Lee was sharp throughout, and for the second day in a row, the Phils played spoiler against an Atlanta team that could have pulled to within 5 1/2 games of the Nationals, who lost 10-9 to the Cardinals in Washington.
Isn’t that just the worst thing you’ve ever heard?
The win pulled the Phillies to withing 5 games of .500 at 64-69, and left them still with the tiniest of pulses in the Wild Card race, now just eight games behind St. Louis for the final spot.
I wouldn’t start ordering playoff tickets, though.
Offensively, the Phils got a big day from the embattled Jimmy Rollins, who started his second game in a row since being benched on Thursday for not hustling against the Mets. Rollins played through his embattlement well, going 3-5 with a solo homer and a run scored, while Chase Utley and John Mayberry Jr. contributed RBI hits as well.
Especially encouraging was Antonio Bastardo’s performance. The struggling lefty pitched 1 2/3 innings, with four of his five outs coming via strikeout. I’ll take some more of that, please.
Where It All Went Right
When the Phils offense got Lee a couple early runs. Lee has pitched without much run support all year, and in many of the starts where he did get some early offense, he has given it up. But not so on Saturday. The offense chipped in early and Lee made that lead stand up throughout.
Most Attractive Play
This running grab by third baseman Kevin Frandsen who, despite this excellent catch in foul ground, failed to collect three or more hits on Saturday. He got just one lousy hit on Saturday and is hitting a lowly .353. Clearly, this guy is not ready for prime time.
Cliff Lee. Who would have thought winning two games in a row would be such a big story? But the fact that it’s early September and it’s the first time it’s happened in 2012 just proves how utterly bizarre this year has been.
Brian McCann who, for the second straight game, failed to hit a grand slam against Phillies pitching. How much longer can the Braves allow their catcher to continue killing them? Seriously, Atlanta. If you’re thinking about trading him, I’d do it right away. Without a moment to spare.