Lee Blasted For Four HRs in Phillies 5-1 Loss To Nationals
PHILADELPHIA—Cliff Lee watched his fourth home run sail over Citizens Bank Park’s right field wall seemingly without blinking. Blank-faced, he turned and knelt for the rosin bag, gave it a few taps, dropped it and outstretched his glove for another baseball.
If only compartmentalizing came so easy for the rest of us.
This 5-1 Phillies loss to the Washington Nationals assumes a particularly deflating feel. They entered on a three-game winning streak in the midst of their first real run this season. They were within one game of reaching .500 for the first time since June 7. Their No. 1 ace felt to be finally back on track after yesterday. This afternoon, their general manager said hours he hoped to further prop up his team at month’s end, not pick it apart.
Then, Lee was crushed for a career-high-tying four home runs, something that had only happened twice before: once in August 2010 as a Texas Ranger. Once last July 24th, seven days before Amaro shipped out Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence amid the first sale of his tenure.
Tonight, it came at the hands of the club with a .618 OPS against lefties, worst in the National League.
It was hard to digest. The Nationals launched back to back jacks in back to back innings against Lee, who was pelted for nine hits over seven innings for four runs, his most since May 1 in Cleveland, his last loss. The first set was the work of seven- and eight-hole hitters Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos in the fifth, then by heart-of-the-order guys Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth in the sixth.
“Actually his stuff was really good,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “That’s too bad because I felt like he was throwing just as good as I’ve seen him throw all year.”
In all, Lee threw 76 pitches and only 12 balls. Can a pitcher throw too many strikes?
“No, not really,” Lee said. “Occasionally it can look that way, but over the course of the season, if you’re throwing strikes, good things are gonna happen.
“They weren’t just strikes. I was throwing quality strikes. They put some decent swings on some decent pitches and hit them just enough to put them out of here. That’s what happens in this park, especially when it’s hot.”
Two of the blasts came on 0-2 pitches. Lee said he didn’t think any of the four were mistakes.
“As long as you’re getting them out, ain’t nobody going to say nothing,” Manuel said. “Once somebody hits you, they’ll say, Well he was throwing them too good.
“When you’re pitching like that, it’s pretty hard to criticize a guy I think because he was that good.”
The Nationals added a run in the ninth on the Phillies green bullpen via a Jake Diekman throwing error that plated a runner on third thanks to a Justin De Fratus fielding error. Twenty-six-year-old rookie Luis Garcia, added just yesterday, pitched a clean eighth in his major league debut.
It more than spoiled the makings of another dazzling start for Lee, who had surrendered only four hits through four innings prior and seemed poised for his ninth straight win. It seemed to put a damper on the beginning of an argument for prolonging the winningest era in franchise history.
The offense offered little pick-me-up. Darin Ruf rocketed a solo shot, his first homer of the season, in the seventh for the Phillies only score. But the offense went 0 for 7 with men in scoring position and stranded seven baserunners against Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez, who punched seven solid innings, striking out five with only six hits and two walks to lower his ERA to 3.03 on the year.
“He had good stuff,” Manuel said. “He was mixing his pitches well when he wanted to. He was throwing like 90, 92, 93 m.p.h. He’d go up and get a 95 when he had to. He was getting his breaking balls over. Threw a lot of soft stuff to our lefties.
“Threw a good game. He’s a good pitcher. He’s got good stuff.”
Perhaps their best chance arrived in the fifth. Delmon Young and Ruf walked to open the frame. After Carlos Ruiz lined out, Lee dropped a masterful sacrifice bunt to move both into scoring position. Ben Revere, otherwise surging lately, struck out to end the inning.
“We had some chances, but we couldn’t get the big hit,” Manuel said.
One man will not determine the team’s fate. Nor will one loss.
But it felt like Lee had the chance to deliver said big hit in the grander scheme of this up-in-the-air season.
Instead, Lee -- and the Phillies -- were on the receiving end.