Why is Cliff Lee pitching for the Phillies right now? My guess is that Phillies fans probably would feel a little alienated if the team started a free agent from the recently concluded Atlantic League regular season. Whether Lee got a win or entertained Phillies fans tonight may be less relevant than preventing him from injuring himself or from acquiring additional wear and tear in 2013 when his performances are no longer meaningful.
A Ryan Howard-like NLDS injury to Lee, Rollins, Utley, or anyone with nothing to prove would be a bitter pill to swallow this week, but perhaps this whining on my part should start next Monday when the Phillies are on the road for the rest of the year. Just send Lehigh Valley on the road for the last six games, maybe. "Blessing" the Marlins and Braves with a horrible Phillies lineup for the last series of the year would be a great way to send both of those teams off for the year.
But this was not to be tonight. The Phillies sent 6 position players who figure to be likely regulars next year out into the field tonight, along with Cesar Hernandez and Roger Bernadina. We did not see Michael Martinez on his 31st birthday, leading me to wonder if Logan's Run is fact or fiction.
Lee, working around a double, dispatched the Marlins scoreless in the first before the Phillies struck for a run against Sam Dyson of the Marlins in the bottom of the frame. The Phillies pulled this off via a Hernandez walk, a Jimmy Rollins ground rule double, and a Chase Utley ground out.
Thusly staked to a lead, Cliff Lee sawed through the Marlins in the second and third. The Phillies struck again in the third when Cesar Hernandez reached on a single and Jimmy Rollins walked. The table set, Chase Utley smashed an Earl Weaver to right, putting the Phillies up 4 - 0.
Not having enough fun, Domonic Brown reached on a single and Darin Ruf walked. Cody Asche pulled a ball through the right side for a single, and Domonic Brown bowled over Marlins' catcher Jeff Mathis to add a run. Mathis did not catch the throw from Giancarlo Stanton, but Brown smacked him anyway, just for style points, though I briefly thought "concussion symptoms?" as my heart skipped a beat.
Inning over, right? Nope. Roger Bernadina walked, and Cliff Lee, who made the first out of the inning, came around to bat again with the bases loaded. Lee pulled a single through the hole, and two runs scored. The Phillies were up 7 - 0 and Dyson was pulled from the game. Cesar Hernandez ground out to end the inning, but the Phillies had put up a six spot, and ended the game in the third.
Lots of other stuff happened after this, but the Fangraph below shows that none of it really mattered, since the win expectancy was 97.6 at the end of the third inning.
The Marlins got a run back in the fifth on a double by Justin Ruggiano and a soft single by Adeiny Hechavarria. Ruggiano's double was the first time a Marlin reached base since the double in the first inning by Ed Lucas, which was a streak of 11 straight hitters sent down. Placido Polanco made a cameo before Lee escaped without further damage, getting a nice round of applause from the most-reviled, classless fans in sports.
In the bottom of the fifth, Ruf fought a ball into right for a single and Cliff Lee drilled a ball to right off the wall. He made it into third with a stand-up triple to get back the run he gave up. Cesar Hernandez drove him in with a single. Everybody hits, woohoo, right? The inning ended with the Phillies up 9 - 1. Lee struck out three in the sixth, but he did give up a run amongst the whiffs.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Phillies struck again, picking up Lee for giving up a run. Domonic Brown walked, and Darin Run creamed a ball, blasting it to left for a two run homer, extending the lead to 11 - 2.
Lee dispatched the Marlins in the seventh, giving up a harmless double. He ended the inning at 100 pitches, 2 runs, 0 walks, 12 strikeouts, and 7 hits. As I am writing this, he is in the on-deck circle with nobody warming in the pen, with me wondering why some fungible AAAA arm can't eat the rest of these innings.
Bernadina started off with a triple, bringing Lee to the plate. Lee dribbled a ball just through the infield to score Bernadina and give Lee 4 RBI on 3 hits on the night. Pull Lee for a pinch hitter? Whatever. Cliff Lee. CLIFF LEE!!!!!
Lee iced the cake with 2 more strikeouts in the 8th, giving him 14 on the game, and 201 for the season. The total of 14 tied Jose Fernandez for most K's in a single game by an NL pitcher this year. Maybe that's why we didn't see the fungible pitcher until the 9th, when Ethan Martin was brought in for some work.
I don't recall Cliff Lee putting any cups on the heads of any rookie pitchers tonight. I do recall Lee being outrageously good. If he put a cup on anybody's head, I really don't care. He ran his record to 14-6 for a win-challenged team, and he is far from being the issue that ails the 2013 Phillies. The Phillies do not suffer from too many Cliff Lees and too many cups on heads. More cups for everyone!
With the win, the Phillies moved to 17 - 13 under Ryne Sandberg, which is a 91 win pace. They have benefited in no small part from a schedule that would make even the fluffed 1980 Phillies blush. Still, winning teams win games against bad teams. It is a start. And...#TanksButNoTanks.
Lots of good seats tomorrow. Under $20.00 in the bowl and under $10.00 in 206 - 211, where I like to sit. I'm thinking about the Diamond Club seats for under $60.00 just to check it out. Brian Flynn is set to face off against Roy Halladay in what could be Halladay's final home game as a Phillie.
Go. Winter is coming. That is the long, miserable season with no baseball. It sucks. Get your baseball while you can. And cheer for Roy.