By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA—With injuries to players like Roy Halladay, Carlos Ruiz, and Chase Utley coupled with an inconsistent offense and a suspect bullpen, you have to wonder how really bad things would be if the Philllies didn’t have Cliff Lee and Domonic Brown.
So far this year, Lee and Brown have both carried an aging, injury-riddled team that would like to believe it still has fighting chance to be a contender. They have been the most consistent element for an otherwise inconsistent team.
The Phillies ended a three-game losing streak thanks to another outstanding effort by Brown and a stellar performance by Lee and came away with a 7-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in front of 40, 613 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.
Of course, the Phillies, especially the bullpen, did not get this win without drama. Lee (7-2) was pitching shutout baseball for seven and two-thirds innings. But in the eighth, Lee said he felt cramps in his legs, hips and his arms. Before departing the game, he gave up an RBI single to Norichika Aoki that scored Rickie Weeks, who singled to begin the inning.
“I guess I was a little dehydrated. I don’t know what the deal was,” Lee said. “It happened in Texas. Obviously, the heat is part of it. I tried to do everything I could to stay hydrated between yesterday and today. It didn’t seem to matter. It just happened.”
Meanwhile, things got even more crucial for the Phillies much-maligned bullpen when catcher Jonathan Lucroy hit what looked to be a grand-slam home run off Phils reliever Justin De Fratus to turn a 7-1 game into a 7-5 game. The ball bounced off the second railing of the left-field wall and rolled on the warning track.
Third base umpire Tom Hallion initially ruled the play a homerun, but after the umpires reviewed the play on videotape at Charlie Manuel’s request, they ruled the play a triple, allowing three runs to score. It was a 7-4 game after the ruling.
“It hit the top of that wire fence and kicked hard to the right and back into play,” Hallion said. “So once we realized it was not a home run, we each put together where the ball went to, who picked it up and then we just placed the runners where they should be.”
With closer Jonathan Papelbon not available to pitch because of illness, Antonio Bastardo closed out the game, but allowed one run and got the final out with the bases loaded when pinch-hitter Mark Maldonado.
Between Bastardo and De Fratus, there were three walks and that seemed to bother Manuel more than anything else.
“The walks in a game like today and late like that gives them a chance to win and brings them back in the game,” Manuel said. “Yeah that bothered me.”
The Phillies jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first two innings thanks to Brown, who has been out- of-this- world hot. He was 3-for-3 with a home run, a triple a single. He was a double short of the cycle. He drove in four runs. In the first inning, Brown hit a three-run homer off Brewers starter Mike Fiers. In the second, he had a run-scoring triple.
To his credit, Brown said he wasn’t really thinking about the cycle until he heard fans buzzing about it. In his fourth at bat of the day in the seventh, Brown walked.
“I thought about it, but if had a chance to go for three and a ball was in the gap, I’m going for three for sure,” Brown said.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Brown has been tearing the cover off the ball via the home run route. He has homered in eight of his last nine games. He leads the majors in home runs with 16.
“I’m just trying to keep it going and just trying to continue to improve,” Brown said. “Just trying to keep my stroke small and not try to do too much. I think I’ll be fine.”
For seven and two-thirds innings, Lee struck out 11 Brewers and seemed to be on cruise control until cramps settled in along with some anxiety with the Phils shaky bullpen. He allowed three runs on seven hits.
“It was a little bit frustrating, but what can you do,” Lee said. “I’d rather be in control every game from the first inning to the last inning.”