Apr 4, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee (33) reacts after striking out Atlanta Braves center fielder B.J. Upton (not shown) to end the seventh inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
This year, Cliff Lee didn’t have to wait until the 4th of July to earn his first win of the season.
Lee pitched eight brilliant innings last night against a hot-hitting Atlanta team, leading the way as the Phillies beat the Braves 2-0 at Turner Field.
Sometimes, the best deals are the ones you don’t make. And after watching Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay struggle in their first starts of the season, having Lee around and not in Los Angeles or Arizona or one of the other myriad of places he’s been rumored to land over the last year, having ‘ol Clifton feels very comforting right now.
Lee absolutely dominated last night from the very first pitch, giving up just two singles while striking out eight before giving way to Jonathan Papelbon, who pitched a breezy 1-2-3 ninth for his first save of the year.
Essentially, this is the way Ruben Amaro set this team up to win. Strong starting effort, solid bullpen work, and just enough offense to get by. And even though the Phils only scored two runs on Thursday night, those runs came early enough in the game to give Lee a little bit of cushion in the early going.
What made Lee’s effort even better was the conditions in which he had to pitch. It was a nasty, raw, cold night in Atlanta, the kind of night everyone is going to wish they had this summer when the temperatures go up into the mid-90s with 100% humidity and the air so suffocating it feels like you’re being smothered by a warm wet towel.
"“It was cold, but as a pitcher, I don’t mind it,” Lee said. “I just tried to attack the strike zone, throw strikes, get ahead and make them swing their way on base. I tried to locate my fastball and when they got on the fastball, throw something else.” (quotes per CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury)"
And even though to us, a pitcher’s win totals don’t mean diddly-poo, to a pitcher they mean a lot. Which is why it must have felt good to Lee to get that first win out of the way early this time around.
"“Last year I got the first win on the Fourth of July,” Lee said. “It’s nice to get it out of the way on the first one, no doubt.” (quotes per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki)"
The even better news is, thanks to their win last night, the Phillies season has been saved.
"“We’ve got hope now,” Charlie Manuel said sarcastically last night. (per Zolecki)"
Yes, there has been a fair amount of panic after the first two games. The team did not look good on Monday and Wednesday night, so last night’s performance was definitely a sigh of relief for many. But at the same time, this was just Game #3 of a 162-game season. The time for panic has not even come close to arriving.
That won’t happen until Roy Halladay goes on the disabled list next month (just kidding… I think…).
And while the offense didn’t do a whole lot last night (0 for 4 with runners in scoring position, 8 baserunners stranded in the first four innings alone), most of the lineup was taking great at bats early in the game, drawing walks, loading the bases, and being aggressive on the base paths. Jimmy Rollins stole third base in the two-run second inning as the catcher lollygagged a throw back to the pitcher, Ben Revere stole another bag, and the Phils hit into some tough luck too, with both Utley and Howard ripping line drives that were caught by Atlanta defenders with runners on base.
If the Phillies can continue to draw walks, get on base, and create some havoc on the base paths, they WILL score runs.
The team now takes on the Kansas City Royals for their home opener on Friday afternoon with Kyle Kendrick set to make his first start of the season.
For the first time this year, one of the Phils’ aces actually pitched like one.
Just like they drew it up.
When It All Went Right
When Cliff Lee woke up this morning and decided he was going to be all boss and stuff. He was in control from the very first pitch and, after the offense gave him a couple runs to work with in the 2nd inning, it became apparent the Phils were going to get their first win of the season.
Clifton Phifer Lee, for reasons stated above numerous times.
Scott Barry strikes again. The umpire who drew the ire of Phillies fans a few years ago for this nuttiness…
Last night, Barry struck again, this time ridiculously ruling Erik Kratz safe on a play where he was clearly tagged out by Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman. Eventually, the umpires got together and correctly reversed the call, ruling Kratz out. The best part is when Barry pointed at the runner, traditionally the sign that a batter was tagged out, and then ruled him safe.
Just checking… these umpires still have to go umpiring school and do a couple games here and there in the minor leagues, right?