Lee Strikes Out 16, but Gets No Run Support in Phils Shutout Loss to Atlanta

7 May

Oswalt Goes on 15-day disabled list

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

On most occasions when a pitcher has double-digit strikeouts, he should come away with the win, right?

Nope, not tonight and not when your offense is not hitting.

In Friday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves, Phillies starter Cliff Lee had a career-high 16 strikeouts in seven innings of work. But one bad inning and the deafening silence of the Phillies bats on offense put a huge damper on what was a pretty good outing for the Phils lefthander.

The Braves came away with a 5-0 shutout in front of a sellout crowd of 45, 495 disappointed fans at Citizens Banks Park who were no doubt frustrated at their team’s inability to hit and score runs.

“I think it was amazing the way (Lee) was pitching and then after two outs (in the third inning) all of sudden they get four straight hits on four straight first pitches,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.

With the exception of the third inning, Lee kept Braves hitters off balance. He threw 117 pitches, 87 for strikes—48 of those strikes retired Braves hitters. Lee got the frustrating loss in a game where he got no run support.

“It’s a neat accomplishment, but it really doesn’t matter, we still lost the game,” Lee said. “Whether they get out by strikeout, ground out or flyout, it doesn’t really matter as long as they get out.”

In that pivotal third inning, Lee got the first two outs of the inning, but couldn’t stop Braves bats from whacking the ball all over the field. He gave up a double to shortstop Alex Gonzales, who scored on an RBI single by Braves third baseman Chipper Jones that jumped inches past the outstretched glove of shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

“They got three two-out hits there,” Lee said. “They were aggressive, they didn’t see that many pitches in that series where they scored scored runs. I made some mistakes over the plate and they hit him. I got the first two outs and they got four hits in a row.”

Lee then proceeded to give up a double to catcher Brian McCann that scored Jones from first base to make it a 2-0 game. Another double by second baseman Dan Uggla brought McCann home to increase the Atlanta lead to 3-0 .

After that troublesome inning, Lee was brutally efficient in mowing down Atlanta batters and allowed just two hits after the third inning. Fourteen of Lee’s last 15 outs were strikeouts.

As good as Lee was, Atlanta pitcher Derek Lowe was even better. He kept the Phillies hitless for six innings until he gave up a single to left by Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino and a ground -ruled double to center by third baseman Placido Polanco to open the bottom of the seventh inning.

“(Lowe) used his changeup very effectively tonight, kept his ball down, he kept it way and got guys to ground out,” Victoriono said. “Derek pitched very well.He was able to get outs.”

Those two hits ended Lowe’s evening. He was replaced by left-handed reliever Eric O’Flaherty who promptly struckout Ryan Howard, Ben Francisco, and Raul Ibanez in succession to end the Phillies threat in the seventh.

“They were playing the infield back and we didn’t put the ball in play,” Manuel said. “If you can knock a run in and move a runner, you’re getting back in the ball game. We couldn’t do that.”

Victorino, who was taken aback when reporters mentioned Lee’s 16 strikeouts, said it was frustrating for the offense not to provide Lee with run support.

“It just seems to be what happens when Cliff pitches right now. It was the same thing in Arizona where we didn’t score any runs and got shutout. Hopefully, we won’t let it happen anymore,” Victorino said. “I knew he was dealing, but that was unbelievable and it makes it an even more frustrating thing.”

The Phillies never came that close to scoring or getting a hit again for the remainder of the game. Lowe picked up the win for the Braves.

“Flaherty came in and did what he had to do. You tip your hat to him in that situation,” Victorino said.

The Braves added a pair of insurance runs in their half of the ninth inning to complete the scoring for the game.Polanco left the game in the seventh inning with a bruised right toe.

Notes—Phils starting pitcher Roy Oswalt was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a sore lower back shortly after the Phillies loss to the Braves.

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