For a good ole’ boy from the south, Phillies starter Cliff Lee looks awfully comfortable pitching in the confines of the stadium nestled in the famous Los Angeles Chavez Ravine. Heading into the opener of the team’s four-game set with the Dodgers, Lee sported a 1-0 record with a tidy 1.48 ERA and 27 strikeouts to go along with it when pitching in iconic Dodger Stadium. The 35-year old lefty managed to outdo himself Monday night, putting together a sterling performance in the Phils 7-0 shutout win over the NL West-leading Dodgers.
Coming off another dominating performance that resulted in an unfortunate loss for the Philadelphia ace, Lee looked even sharper in California than he did against the Braves as he left a potent lineup guessing throughout the night en route to his first win since an April 5th decision over the Chicago Cubs. Considering the opponent, one would have to imagine Monday night’s performance as much more of a feather in the cap for Lee.
Entering the affair, the Phillies were looking for consecutive wins for the first time since a series win against the Marlins. Unfortunate showings against both the Braves and Rockies saw the Phillies sagging in the division a bit and a standout start from their stalwart southpaw was just what the doctor ordered. Going up against lefty Paul Maholm, Philadelphia wasted little time giving their ace some uncharacteristic run support. Tony Gwynn Jr., who started in center field and leading off, and Jimmy Rollins settled in on the base path early against Maholm. Carlos Ruiz, batting in the cleanup spot, delivered his first RBI on the season as he deposited a double to the opposite field to bring home Rollins and Gwynn Jr. to give the Phillies an early 2-0 lead.
After a leading off with a base hit and advancing to second on a flyout in the home-half of the frame, Yasiel Puig looked as if he might be able to aggressively create a dent in the early Philadelphia lead. However, questionable base-running and a heads-up defensive play by Chase Utley cost Los Angeles perhaps their best scoring opportunity of the game, as Puig’s disregard of a stop-sign at 3rd base would lead to a rundown and Ruiz putout along the 3rd base path.
Neither side would pose much of a threat over the remainder of the early portions of the contest. It was not until the top of the 5th that the Phillies would deliver another blow to the Dodgers comeback plan. After a pair of quick outs, Ruiz would manufacture a walk off Maholm to give Philadelphia a base-runner. Ryan Howard, batting a slot behind his normal role, would deliver a home run in his second-staright game to double-up the Phillies lead to a 4-0 margin. Howard now has five round-trippers on the season and ended the contest with his batting average above .270. After John Mayberry Jr. and Domonic Brown delivered base hits of their own, Freddy Galvis would reach on an inexcusable Maholm error allowing Mayberry to score and putting Philadelphia up 5-0.
From that point, the only remaining storyline would be just how far Cliff Lee could go against the baffled Dodgers offense. He would retire 20 in a row at one point, before finally surrendering a single to Tim Federowicz in the last of his eight masterful innings. The Phillies starter would wrap up his evening with an ace’s showing. With 8.0 innings pitched, 4 hits allowed, 0 earned runs, 0 walks, and 10 strikeouts, Lee delivered the type of performance the team expects of him consistently and a picture-perfect start to a potentially momentum-building series against the powerful Dodgers. Carlos Ruiz would smack his first home run of the season in the top of the 9th, ending his evening in the four-hole with four RBI and three extra-base hits. Jeff Manship would tie a bow on it in the bottom of the 9th, and the Phillies would take the first game of the series in tidy fashion, winning by a 7-0 mark.
The win moved the Phillies to within one game of the .500 mark, again. They will have their hands full Tuesday night, as South Korean star Hyun-Jin Ryu takes the ball for the Dodgers going up against A.J. Burnett. With Philadelphia having strung together a pair of impressive offensive performances and a well-rested bullpen, one has to be pleased with the start to the series. Against a club as talented as the Dodgers, one has to be happy with potentially splitting a four-game set in their stadium. With Cliff Lee’s top-end display and another strong showing from the offense, the Phillies have gotten off to as good a start as one could have hoped for. They will be facing a pair of formidable arms in Ryu and Zack Greinke over the next two contests before wrapping up the set with the Dodgers going with Dan Haren. For now, the clubhouse should be on cloud nine as they put forth the type of winning formula (strong pitching and effective hitting) that can allow them to collect series against foes such as the Dodgers.