After Roberto Hernandez pitched five-and-a-third solid innings in Friday’s series-opening win against the Chicago Cubs, the Phillies sent Cliff Lee to the mound Saturday afternoon, in hopes that Lee could rebound from a rough opening day start, and help the Phils to clinch a series win.
Lee got some early support from Chase Utley, who gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead in the top half of the first. The longball was Utley’s second in as many days, and while the Phillies weren’t on their way to duplicating their seven run performance from Friday, Utley’s early homerun proved to be enough for Cliff Lee.
While Lee didn’t dazzle in his second start, he managed to scatter 10 hits over seven innings, and not give up any runs. That type of performance flew today, as only two of the Cubs 10 hits were extra-base hits, but I will continue to think that if Lee mixes in some more pitches out of the zone, he won’t give up as many hits. You could argue that if Lee throws more balls, it will lead to more pitches and he won’t be able to go as deep into games, but if he isn’t allowing as many base-runners, his pitch count would probably balance out.
The Phillies were able to tag on another run in the fourth inning to back Lee’s grind, when Dom Brown drove in Utley. That would be it for the Phillies scoring for the day, but with Lee going seven shutout innings, they didn’t need much offense.
Jake Diekman pitched a scoreless eighth inning, and with two straight scoreless performances, seems to have overcome what was a slow start in his first two games.
In the ninth, Jonathan Papelbon pushed pass a disastrous first performance of 2014, to pitch a one-two-three ninth inning, that ended with Papelbon striking out Emilio Bonifacio, to give the Phillies their third win of the season.
While 2-0 wins aren’t exactly the most exciting brand of baseball, the Phillies are going to need to grind out wins like this if they are going to compete in 2014. Much like 2011 (when they won 102 games), they don’t necessarily have an offense that is going to carry the team to the playoffs. What they do have is Cliff Lee heading a rotation that looks like it will be pretty strong once Cole Hamels is able to get healthy. If they can get these type of performances from starting pitchers (especially Lee), and two or three good innings out of the bullpen, it seems unlikely that the Phillies won’t be playing meaningful games late in the season. If.