Tonight's game promised something akin to "Irresistible Force versus Immovable Object" with Cliff Lee's 1.61 walk rate against the Red Sox 10.5% team walk rate (leading the majors). A potential weakness I was watching for tonight was Lee's unsustainably low HR/FB% (6.1%) combined with his pretty low GB% (38.3% -- lowest of any Phillies starter not named Tyler Cloyd). Stats here. Flyballs and Fenway did not bode well, despite the "name" value of a Cliff Lee start. Interestingly, the Phillies as a whole have the lowest GB% of any National League pitching staff, and are 27th-worst out of the 30 MLB teams. Yuck.
So how did the non-walking Phillies hitters and the flyballing Phillies pitchers do tonight against the clearly more SABR-cognizant Red Sox?
The Phillies opened the scoring with a solo homer by Michael Young. The Phillies coughed up that early lead in the bottom of the first on an "In play, run(s)" by Dustin Pedroia via a single to John Mayberry. From there, the teams settled in for a quiet back and forth of nothing much happening, though a few random highlights included a Delmon Young infield hit just...up...the...third...base...line, and a Ben Revere double (a single and a stolen base), and a catch in deepest center field by Ben Revere.
Which brings me to the topic of...Ben Revere. He is starting to remind me of nothing so much as a Hunter Pence-like hobbit whose effort level appears to be really high, causing casual observers to confuse the level of effort with actual results. I am reminded by cooler heads on the masthead of Revere's team-leading 0.5 WAR for May, but my increasing loathing of Revere is fueled nonetheless by a BABIP of .389 that I know in my heart is truly unsustainable. Revere, unfortunately, will never, ever hit a three-run homer, and thus will never win my heart. Sorry, Liz.
During the recap writing, I had to time to delve into the digression above as a result of nothing happening through five innings. "Nothing happening" is still "something" since the players don't just stand there, even though the score stayed 1 - 1. Rather than crying, there is no "nothing" in baseball. "Nothing" can include things like the top of the 6th inning for the Phillies, wherein the Phillies achieved a result of 2 runners on base following a walk by Jimmy Rollins and a Ryan Howard single with just one out, and then ended up with a mouthful of ashes after Delmon Young and Domonic Brown both were dispatched on one pitch each.
By the top of the seventh inning, the need for a single run to break the tie presumably caused the Phillies to play small ball. Following a John Mayberry single, Freddy Galvis executed a sacrifice bunt to Pedroia, moving Mayberry into scoring position. Erik Kratz came through with an RBI single, breaking the tie, but Phillies banged the drum slowly into the seventh inning stretch, though with Lee having tossed only 72 pitches by that point, things were looking promising.
Delmon Young deserves a special mention for his delightful night tonight. In the second, he flied out on the first pitch. In the fourth, he hit the second pitch for the aforementioned infield hit. In the sixth, he helped to kill the rally by hitting a fly ball out on the first pitch he faced. In the eighth inning, he grounded out on the first pitch he faced. In all, he created 3 outs and one hit on an economical five pitches.
While Delmon Young was helping the Red Sox pitchers keep their counts low, Cliff Lee kept pounding the strike zone, forcing the Red Sox hitters to swing. Through eight innings, Lee used just 95 pitches before being pulled for the ninth in favor of Papelbon. Lee's line was 8 innings, 8 strikeouts, 0 walks, 4 hits, and 1 run allowed. It was an outstanding outing in all respects. His opponent, Ryan Dempster, pitched well enough to win on most nights, going seven innings and giving up 2 runs on 6 hits, 3 walks, and 4 strikeouts.
The top of the ninth saw yet another homer from Domonic Brown (his eleventh), who is creeping up on the NL leaders for homers, moving into the top 10 in the NL, at least pending the conclusion of tonight's games. Brown's homer stretched the lead to two runs, with the score sitting at 3 - 1.
Into the ballgame to close things out came Jonathan Papelbon, with about 30 storylines in play. Despite the setting and the history with the Red Sox, Papelbon simply closed out the game. He struck out Johnny Gomes with a 95 mph fastball for the first out. Michael Young bailed out Papelbon with a funky play on a difficult grounder to third against Pedroia for the second out. David Ortiz came to the plate to face Papelbon and a significant infield shift. In a tough at-bat, Ortiz scared the Phillies with a long foul down the right field line before grounding out to Rollins, who was "playing" second base in the shift.
The Phillies went home with a 1 - 1 split in the two game series in Boston against the AL East leaders. I'll take it.
Fangraph of something not awful: