The Phillies are trying to bleach away the memories of the season's opening series with a casual stomping of the Cubs, and today's match-up had the added pressure of being Cliff Lee's last chance to prove he isn't terrible now.
The first inning was on track to be a standard 1-2-3 affair when Chase Utley rudely extended things with the crushing of a Jeff Samardzija offering into the right field seats. This added to one of the 2014 Phillies' more fun statistics.
Phillies led the league in homers with six in four games. Chase Utley makes it seven just two batters into the fifth game.— Matt Gelb (@magelb) April 5, 2014
The offense came muttering back in the fourth. Utley led off with a walk, and then a Comcast intern tripped over a cable and the feed went to a color bar backed by rollicking party music for a few seconds. Things returned to normal then, as Ryan Howard blooped one to left, where Junior Lake slid to make the catch and held up his glove triumphantly. Everyone looked at him awkwardly, including the ball, which was on the ground next to him.
Domonic Brown served a single the opposite way and Utley powered home, escaping the infield just before Will Nieves grounded into a double play.
Cliff Lee took the mound, throwing at backstop Nieves, who was making his Phillies debut. Fortunately, Lee isn't one of the pitchers who worries about who the catcher is. He could have a snoozing wolfhound for a battery mate and still probably throw five or six scoreless.
Early on, Cliff logged some K's, got into trouble, and got out of it again. He singled in his first at-bat of the season and the sport was finally, righteously renamed Cliffball.
The Cubs weren't shy about getting on base, but Cliff kept them from getting too far, letting his defense do some work - Jimmy Rollins had a particularly dazzling stop and throw to put the brakes on one scoring threat.
Lee left after seven shutout innings, giving up 10 hits and striking out six. Jake Diekman took over after that and allowed a walk but nothing else, and then it was time for, well. You know.
Papelbon came in, and I chose that moment to ride my bike somewhere else. When I got there, he had nailed down two outs and didn't start giving up hits and runs because I was watching again, freeing me of fault should things go south. Paps K'd baseball's hottest hitter and the Phillies won a series.
Elsewhere, Roy Halladay's assimilation with civilian life continues.
I ask to throw out the first pitch again today at my boys game. They told me to get lost and go sit on the bleachers! pic.twitter.com/2kRcufT4Ae— Roy Halladay (@RoyHalladay) April 5, 2014
Here's a graph.