By Chris Murray
For the CM Report
You have to wonder if Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee did something wrong to offend the baseball gods with all the bad luck he’s been having this season.
He has pitched well even though he is 0-3, but the team doesn’t give him any run support. In Tuesday’ s 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Lee had 12 strikeouts in seven and two-thirds innings. He had just one bad inning and that was the top of the eighth when Dodgers third baseman Elian Herrera hit a two-run double off the left field wall that missed Juan Pierre’s glove by inches.
Things looked promising for the Phillies. They scored the game’s first run in their half of the first on an RBI-single by Hunter Pence that scored Jimmy Rollins, who doubled to lead off the inning.
But for the rest of the night that was it. Only two Phillies runners got as far as second base after that first inning. Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley (3-4) put the Phillies bats on lockdown. He pitched seven innings and allowed the one run on six hits.
Of course, most folks would second-guess Charlie Manuel keeping Lee, who threw 122 pitches, in the game when it appeared he was tiring, but it wouldn’t be so bad if the offense would just score runs. There was a certain radio talk show host who suggested that Manuel should have put closer Jonathan Papelbon in for a four-out save.
If you want to make that argument, fine. It’s an easy one to make But don’t get mad at Manuel for this one because Lee should have had some help tonight. When you don’t score runs, you can leave yourself vulnerable to one bad inning, one mistake over the plate by your pitcher or the hitter gets lucky and crushes your best pitch to kingdom come. The offense has to got to do something at some point.
“What happens, you just sit there and it only takes one swing at the bat to beat you, especially when you have somebody on,” Manuel said. “All it takes is one swing of the bat and that’s what happened here (Tuesday) night and that can beat you when you let them stay around like that. We didn’t add on and of course, it came back and got us.”
Watching Lee tonight reminded me of something that former Temple basketball head coach John Chaney once told me about good defense and no offense: “It’s like working hard all day and not making no money. We played good defense, but we haven’t scored.”
That’s probably the best way to describe Lee’s recent outings on the mound. Even in the eighth inning, he got some stellar defenive plays, including a throw he made to third base to throw out Dodgers catch Matt Treanor when Tony Gwynn Jr. tried to bunt him from second to third base.
Pence made another brilliant defensive play when he threw out Gwynn trying to go from first to third base on a Bobby Abreu pinch-hit single.
All that hard work and Lee has nothing to show for it. That’s just wrong.
“He’s pitched well enough to win four or five games,” Pierre said. “We haven’t hit the ball when he’s pitched, we haven’t scored any runs and we haven’t made the plays behind him. It’s always one guy on the pitching that gets it and you just feel for that guy as well as he pitched.
“(Lee) didn’t deserve to lose that game tonight. Hopefully, it will be water under a bridge in August or September and he runs off 12 straight wins or something.”
And by that time maybe Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are back or better yet the players they have will get hot and start tearing the cover off the ball before those guys come back.
Meanwhile, you have to admire Lee for at least keeping a stiff upper lip through all this.
“I’m not really frustrated, I’m not,” Lee said. “All I can do is throw pitches. I don’t set goals that I have to have this many wins or whatever. I just want to put up as many zeroes as I can and throw strikes, don’t walk guys and give the team a chance to win. That’s all I can do and continue to try to do.”