Now that's how to make a first impression: in his Phillies debut, Cliff Lee took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, pitched a complete game, banged out two hits, and scored a run as the Phils downed the San Francisco Giants Friday night.
Lee was, if anything, better than advertised, keeping Giants hitters off balance as he threw all four of his pitches for strikes. That superb command left him just once, at the start of the seventh inning after a long time in the dugout as the Phillies scored three runs. With the Phils up 4-0, Lee began that frame by walking Eugenio Velez on four pitches, then threw three more balls to fall behind Pablo Sandoval. A called strike, a foul, and a wild panda swing later, he'd notched his sixth strikeout and was on his way to escaping without damage. The Giants scored one run in the eighth when ex-Phil Aaron Rowand doubled (his 1000th career hit), advanced to third on an Edgar Renteria bunt try and came home on a Juan Uribe sacrifice fly; at only one other point in the game, Uribe's double in the sixth to break up the no-hitter, did they even advance a runner into scoring position. Lee ultimately allowed four hits and two hits, throwing 109 pitches on the night.
Early on, the Phillies looked poised to continue their own struggles with RISP. They stranded eight runners in the first six innings, scoring only once on a Jayson Werth solo homer in the second. But San Fran relievers Brendan Medders and Jeremy Affeldt loaded the bases in the seventh on two walks and a hit-by-pitch, then Affleldt walked Raul Ibanez on four pitches to force in a run. Werth followed with a two-run single, and Lee had some breathing room. He made it 5-0 an inning later, doubling to start the eighth, advancing to third on a Jimmy Rollins single and scoring on a deep sac fly by Ben Francisco, who smoked the ball all night long but had only one hit to show for it.
Joe Blanton looks to carry his superb July performance into a new month as he faces the other defending Cy Young Award winner, Giants ace Tim Lincecum, tomorrow night.