By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
If Cliff Lee were to toss his hat in Philadelphia mayor’s race, he would wins hands down. Shucks, Gov. Tom Corbett would be downright unelectable against Lee. During the starting lineups, he received the loudest cheer from the crowd.
“I could definitely hear the volume when I was walking in,” Lee said. “When they announced the lineup with me hitting ninth and I heard them get loud, that’s a good thing. It makes you feel good, but you don’t want to sit there and dwell on that and think too much about it, you focus on getting hitters out.”
That’s exactly what he did.
The way he pitched Saturday night, Lee was definitely worthy of the crowd’s adoration. The fans even cheered when he struck out at the plate. On the mound, he had 11 strikeouts in seven innings of work. He gave up three runs on just four hits while tossing 111 pitches in the Phillies 9-4 win over the Houston Astros in front of 45, 455 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.
“It was awesome,” said left fielder Raul Ibanez, who went 2-for-3 with two runs batted in. “That was a great atmosphere to play in. It was a great welcome back for him and I’m sure he appreciates and I’m sure our entire team appreciates it. It’s a lot of fun to play in that atmosphere.”
Lee also contributed on the offensive end with a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the fourth that put Ibanez and Carlos Ruiz on second third. They eventually scored on a single by Shane Victorino.
Outside of a two-run homer and a run-scoring triple by Houston left fielder Carlos Lee, Cliff Lee simply dominated the Astros. Considering all the pre-season hype surrounding the Phillies pitching staff, Lee’s performance certainly justified the optimism of their fans.
“It went good. Take away the mistake I made to Carlos Lee with the homerun, things went well,” Lee said.
And if Lee and the rest of the Phillies vaunted pitching staff can get run production from the Phillies offense on a consistent basis, they are going to be extremely dangerous to their National League opponents.
“We swung the bats well and we pitched well,” Lee said. “It’s a classic example of what happens when we score early and keep adding on and make them swing their way on base. When you got a six or seven run lead, you’re not as worried about giving up a homerun or giving up a couple of hits. It’s more of just don’t walk guys and make them swing their way on base. I was able to do that tonight.”
Every position player in the Phillies starting lineup had a hit. Phils batters from two through seven had at least two hits.
“The middle of our lineup did a very good job. Actually our whole lineup did pretty good,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.
Oddly enough, the Phillies, who have been a big homerun hitting team over the last four years, haven’t had a homerun in their first two games.
“It’s great to know that we can score runs without hitting the long ball,” Ibanez said. “I think that’s a very important thing to have, especially when you hit the postseason. You don’t want to become overly dependent on the long ball.”
The Phillies jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI single by first baseman Ryan Howard that scored Placido Polanco who singled and went to second a base hit by Jimmy Rollins. Ibanez drove home Rollins with a double to left center to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead.
After holding Houston without a hit for the first three innings, Lee gave up a single to Angel Sanchez to open the fourth inning and Lee drove him with a triple to the gap in center to cut the Phillies lead to 2-1.
But in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Phillies added two more runs on an RBI single by Victorino that scored Ibanez and catcher Carlos Ruiz. Lee’s sacrifice bunt put Ibanez and Ruiz in scoring position.
In the sixth, the Phillies offense ended Houston starter Wandy Rodriguez’s by touching him for three more runs. The Phillies got runs batted in from Ben Francisco, Ibanez and Wilson Valdez. At that point, the Phillies took a 7- l lead and never looked back.
Notes—Victorino left the game after the fourth inning with a sore left calf. He told reporters he expected to be in the lineup for Sunday’s game.