By Chris Murray
For the Sunday Sun
There will be no doubt that fans of both the Boston Red Sox and the Phillies will see the outcome of this series as some sort of referendum of how they might fare against each other in a possible World Series matchup.
Of course, it’s only June and there’s way too much baseball left to make that kind of judgment. Both teams in spite of their records have players on the disabled list. The Phillies just placed pitcher Ryan Madson on the DL along with Roy Oswalt. The Red Sox have pitcher Clay Buchholz and left fielder Carl Crawford is also on the DL because of injury.
What makes this series intriguing is in the contrast in styles. The Red Sox lead the majors in runs scored per game and the Phillies are allowing the fewest runs in the game. Boston also leads baseball in batting average ande runs batted in. The Phillies are tops in the majors in earned run average.
In Tuesday’s opener at Citizen’s Bank Park, the Phillies proved it was more than capable of shutting down the Red Sox offensive machine. Left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee (9-5) continued his hot hand over opposing hitters with a devastating 5-0 complete-game shut out in front of 45, 715 fans.
“(Lee) was aggressive, but they were trying to work the count on him,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “He had good stuff all night and he changed speeds good. When he’s locked in, he gets the ball, he throws it and takes command of the game.”
Lee, who didn’t allow a hit until the sixth innings, it was his third straight shutout to push his total of scoreless innings to 32. He became the first Phillies pitcher to throw three straight shutouts since Robin Roberts did it back in 1950 when the Phils won their first National League pennant.
“I want to throw a shutout every time I go out there. I don’t want to give up a run,” Lee said. “Nobody’s going to go out there and have a zero ERA, you’re going to give a run. I’m not counting the innings, but I never want to give up runs.”
For the game, Lee threw 112 pitches, with just two hits allowed and five strikeouts. He changed speeds well and made good use of his curve ball.
“It’s just a matter of doing it, throwing it,” Lee said. “There’s games where I can’t command it as well and games where I can. The only way to know is to throw it more. As far as command of it, it’s probably my last pitch. I know that it’s a good pitch for me. The two pitches that separate the most for me are my fast ball and curve ball. As many fast balls and cutters I throw, it messes with their timing more than the change up. It’s a big pitch for me because of the speed variation.”
In the midst of throwing a gem on the mound, Lee contributed to his own cause at the plate with a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning that scored Domonic Brown, who doubled to open the inning and then took third when catcher Carlos Ruiz who hit a flyout to right. That gave the Phillies a 3-0 lead.
“I just think it’s fun,” Lee said. “You feel more like a baseball player in the National League versus the American League. In the American League, you’re a pitcher. Over here, you gotta pitch and hit. Anything you can do to help the team win, you should take pride in it. You should take it serious and do the best you can. I got up to the plate with a runner on third and less than two outs. You got to take advantage of those opportunities. I’m trying to hit a sac- fly and I did. It helps the team win.”
Speaking of Brown, he had a stellar performance a couple of games
after being widely criticized for not running out a ball in the fifth inning of last Saturday’s loss to the Oakland A’s. Brown was a 2-for-3 with a home run off Boston starting pitcher Josh Beckett (6-3) and a double with two runs score. It was his two-run shot in the second inning that gave the Phillies all the runs they would need.
“It was a fastball, a two-seamer that ran back over the plate” Brown said. “I know I hit it pretty good. You never know with Jacoby (Ellsbury) out there. He might climb the wall or anything. I just made sure I was coming hard out of the box.”
When Manuel and some of his veteran teammates admonished him for his transgression, Brown took it as a reason for him to get himself in gear.
“It was definitely a wake up call,” Brown said. “I wasn’t really thinking about it until I talked to Charlie about it. I was like that’s not my style of my play. I rely on everything my speed and how I go about my business the right way. Not hustling and not running balls out that’s not Domonic Brown.”
A two-run shot into the right-field seats by Shane Victorino pushed the lead to 5-0 in the sixth inning. Beckett, who picked up the loss for Boston, allowed five runs on five hits including two homers.