Coming into the 2013 season, the Phillies had what they thought were three aces.
Of course, things have not gone according to the best-laid plans through the first two months of the season. Halladay’s struggles from 2012 carried into this year, and now it looks as if he’ll miss most of this season after shoulder surgery. Hamels has pitched well at times and has gotten no run support this year. But control issues mixed with a 4.43 ERA has left the lanky lefty with a 1-8 record and the team with a 1-10 record in his 11 starts this year.
So, that leaves Lee as the de facto “stopper” and ace of the staff. And once again, last night, Lee delivered.
Clifton Phifer pitched eight innings on four-hit, one-run ball, giving the Phils a split in their brief two-game series at Fenway. The two teams now travel to Philadelphia for two at Citizens Bank Park.
Lee was in control throughout, retiring 23 of the last 25 batters he faced, and left after throwing just 95 pitches? Why?
Theater, that’s why.
Jonathan Papelbon, in his return to the city where he won a world title and pitched seven seasons as the team’s closer, was brought into the ninth inning to pick up a save that everyone knew was purely for the drama. So, even with Lee in complete control and a low pitch count, and the Phillies desperately needing an easy win, Charlie Manuel decided to bring in his closer.
“Pap likes drama,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said after the game. “I might as well like it with him.” – quote per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki
Thankfully, “Pap” made Manuel look good by throwing a powerful 1-2-3 ninth, humping the fastball up to the plate at 95 mph at times, getting David Ortiz to ground out to second for the game’s final out.
(By the way, Boston fans booing Papelbon upon entering the 9th inning last night was pretty egregious, but Phils fans should probably keep their mouths shut about it. After all, this is the fanbase that continues to boo Jayson Werth into oblivion every time he comes to Philly, and is also the fanbase that booed Cole Hamels – WHO WAS STILL ON THE DAMN TEAM – in 2009 JUST ONE YEAR AFTER HE ALMOST SINGLE-HANDEDLY WON A WORLD SERIES FOR THE CITY!!! This still bothers me quite a bit as you can see.)
Still, Tuesday night was all about Cliff Lee, who once again showed that if the Phillies do decide to put him on the trading block this summer, a couple of things will be true.
One, Lee will draw a ton of interest from other teams and, despite the salary, will demand a top flight prospect in return. If the Phils are not able to secure a Top 50 prospect, Lee shouldn’t go anywhere.
Two, the Phils will sorely miss Lee if he is dealt elsewhere.
Watching Lee attack hitters while ahead in the count is something other Phils’ pitchers could take a cue from. Halladay used to do the same thing when he was healthy, and Hamels has shown the ability to do it at times, but not lately. Lee doesn’t mess around with garbage pitches when ahead in the count 0-2. He works fast and tries to get the out in as few pitches as possible.
Offensively, the Phils got homers from… wait, this can’t be right… I’m double-checking… holy crap this information is correct… MICHAEL YOUNG???!!! and reigning NL Player of the Week Domonic Brown, who launched his 11th home run of the season in the top of the 9th, giving the Phils a much-needed insurance run and a 3-1 lead.
That would be all Lee and Papelbon would need, as the Great Lee Talent Audition of 2013 continued last night.
Where It All Went Right
When Kratz hit his RBI single up the middle in the 7th, plating Mayberry with the go-ahead run. While it was still just a one-run game heading into the 9th, Lee was in such control it never really felt like the Sox had much of a chance to come back.
Cliff Lee, for being totally awesome. Enjoy him now, guys. There’s a real good chance he could be gone in a month. This would make all the villagers weep.
Ryan Dempster, yet another middling starter (2-6, 4.45 ERA) the Phillies had trouble scoring runs against. Fortunately, the miracle of Cliff Lee kept the Phils in the game until the offense was able to scratch out a go-ahead run in the 7th. But Dempster made the most of his mediocre stuff and kept the Phils at bay for most of the game.
Cliff Lee is the kind of pitcher who needs to make his pitches. This has been the baseball news show.
— Justin Klugh (@TBOHblog) May 28, 2013
What’s worse? Boston fans booing Papelbon tonight, or Phils fans booing Hamels in 2009. Here’s a hint. HAMELS!!!
— John Stolnis (@FelskeFiles) May 29, 2013