Jimmy Rollins hits a lazy fly ball into the right field bleachers so he doesn't have to run hard to first. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
Cliff Lee, folks. On a sunny day in Philadelphia, he went seven strong innings, surrendering just seven hits, striking out five, walking none, and giving up just one run. And he drove a ball over Bryce Harper to plate the first run of the game. He scored the go ahead run when being driven in by a Jimmy Rollins pop-up to the right field bleachers. And he kept Adam LaRoche in the yard. More on that later.
While Lee was helped by a double play and some lucky bounces and solid defensive play, he faced 3 batters in each inning from the first through the fourth. In the fifth and sixth innings, he faced four batters in each. In his final inning, he faced 5. Twenty-five batters and 21 outs. Not bad work.
Lee reminded everyone today why he is such a valuable player. And he got a "win" for his trouble, finally. All against a pretty game Jordan Zimmermann and a Washington Nationals squad anxious to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Phillies. Zimmermann and the Nats didn't disappoint, but they couldn't buy a break today in what was a pretty good pitchers duel for five innings. Ultimately, the Phillies' bats came through and Nats' bats fell about an inch short, giving the Phillies a very gratifying sweep.
The Phillies broke through in the fifth inning when Kevin Frandsen singled and advanced on a passed ball. Lee then drilled a double over Harper's head to the deepest part of center. Frandsen easily scooted home, and Lee was placed for the Rollins homer in the next at bat. The Phillies kept pecking away in the inning, but couldn't break it open. The good work chased Zimmermann, though, and his day was over with 5 IP, 3K, 3BB, 5H (including Rollins' homer), resulting in 3 runs for the Phillies.
In the top of the seventh, things got a little hairy. Jayson Werth, striking out magnificently twice on the day, punched a single. Then Adam LaRoche hit a ball on top of the right field fence which bounced about 10 or 15 feet into the air *back toward the field of play* where it landed for a 'double." Following a sort of alert play to get it into the infield, both runners were tagged at third, and LaRoche was called out. Replays clearly showed the ball was not a homer. Werth inexplicably stopped at third, unless you are of the opinion that he is a double agent. A double to left by Tyler Moore allowed Werth to score, making it 4 - 1, but Lee wiggled off the hook with no further damage.
The eighth and ninth were pitched well by Jeremy Horst (2 batters, one out) and Josh Lindblom (the rest) who has been a whipping boy since his arrival in Philadelphia. Particularly gratifying was his whiff to end the game. He got the last five outs, taking care of each batter he faced, with three by strikeout, including Jayson Werth.
Bryce Harper's performance anxiety moment of the day was when he was watching the play as he busted his hustley little self down to first base in the sixth inning. He stepped oddly on the bag at first and fell on his duff just up the line, earning him a slo-mo slide whistle replay on the inning break.
24 - 17 since the All Star Break, if you are counting. Fangraph of moral victories: