Heading into Monday’s 2014 opener, if one were to tell me that Cliff Lee would allow eight earned runs, strike out only one batter, and give up 11 hits, I’d probably take their word for it considering the malaise that has surrounded the Phillies heading into the regular season. Realistically, Cliff Lee is one of a handful of players whose success almost directly correlates with the performance of the Phillies this season as far as wins and losses go. Philadelphia got a sub-standard effort from their workhorse lefty and if it were the 2013 Phillies, the Rangers might have won by a football score. Instead, the Phillies bats woke from the springtime slumber and beat the cover off the ball all over Globe Life Park. In their highest opening day scoring output in franchise history, the Phils hung two touchdowns on the Rangers and picked one up for Lee in a 14-10 win. For a pitcher like Lee, who so often saw some of his dazzling performances in 2013 end up with losses next to his name, it was poetic justice that he ended up with the win despite allowing eight earned runs.
Phillies 14 runs most ever in a Phils season opener.
— John Clark CSN (@JClarkCSN) March 31, 2014
After both teams went down in order in the 1st inning, the Phillies jumped out in the second frame in a big way. Cody Asche opened up the scoring with a cue-shot double down the left field line that plated Ryan Howard from 2nd. Ben Revere, with the bases loaded, drove in another run with a single to center field. Jimmy Rollins, whose status for Monday’s affair was in question until late last night, dealt the first substantial body shot in his second AB of the season. Rollins took a Tanner Scheppers, whose MLB starting debut was one to forget, delivery deep and gone to right. Rollins’ grand slam gave the Phillies a 6-0 cushion and, with Lee on the mound, one had to feel pretty comfortable etching a mark in the win column.
Whether it was the nature of a very impressive Rangers lineup or just a bad afternoon for Lee, he was unable to produce the sort of results we’ve grown accustomed to. Lee struggled putting batters away, allowing several two-strike counts to end up turning into productive plays for Texas. In a matter of the next two innings, highlighted by a three-run Alex Rios home run, the Phillies saw their lead evaporate into the Texas air as the home team took a 7-6 lead into the 4th inning.
A Chase Utley RBI single knotted things up in the 4th. Pinch hitter John Mayberry Jr. delivered in a big way, driving in a pair of runs in the 5th to give Philadelphia a two-run lead. After surrendering his 8th run of the contest, Lee bowed out after five innings with a one-run lead. The 6th inning was where the Phillies put the game to rest. A Marlon Byrd solo home run made it 10-8, giving the Phillies their first double-digit run total 80 games before doing so last season.
Fun fact: The Phillies didn’t score double digit runs last season until July. Game number 81 against the Dodgers.
— Zachariah Jameson (@Suit_Thursday) March 31, 2014
Capped by a Ben Revere two-run single, the Phillies would put up four runs in the frame to restore a favorable cushion with the score at 13-8. A somewhat shaky performance from the bullpen, save for an impressive inning by lefty Jake Diekman, was not enough to let the Rangers creep back in it. Cody Asche’s first homer of the season tied a bow on the game, and Jonathan Papelbon (in a non-save situation) pitched a clean ninth to wrap up the win, 14-10 the final.
One would have to think this game was a bit of an enigma. It is tough to expect the Phillies to hit even remotely close to the clip they were in the opener. At the same time, Cliff Lee should have things straightened out by his next trip to the bump. One can’t imagine a worse outing for the team’s ace and the fact that they were still able to collect a win should be a nice confidence boost for the lineup. No early season jitters for manager Ryne Sandberg, as he seemed to push all the necessary buttons to coax the Phillies towards a win that probably would have gotten away from them last season. A.J. Burnett will take the hill against Martin Perez in tomorrow’s tilt, as the Phillies look to open the season with a 2-0 mark and a series win.