By STEVE WILDMAN
Lee was back to his old dominant self, throwing a complete game shut out versus the Nationals (Courtesy Getty Images)
If you got up to make a sandwich and grab a soda during the first inning of Thursday night’s series finale versus the Washington Nationals, this recap is for you considering you didn’t make it back in time to see the last pitch.
It’s safe to say that most people would predict a bounce-back game from Cliff Lee after last week’s disaster in Atlanta. And what a bounce it was.
Lee (2-1) pitched a three hit, complete game shutout while striking out 12 batters. He only threw 99 pitches during the outing, which, for you math majors, averages to just eleven pitches per inning. At one point during the sixth into the seventh inning, Lee struck out five batters in a row. After the game, Lee wouldn’t comment on how well he pitched, only that he was upset about the one walk he allowed to catcher Wilson Ramos in the eighth inning.
Nationals’ starter Jordan Zimmerman (1-2) looked even more dominant than Lee during the first five innings, taking a perfect game into the top of the 6th. His final line was nowhere near how he looked during his outing. Zimmerman pitched seven innings, allowing four runs, but only one of which was earned. Zimmerman’s perfect game dreams were smashed by Ruiz, who led off the inning by hammering an 0-1 breaking ball that snuck over the flowerbed over the left field wall for a home run. After Wilson Valdez and Lee grounded out, Shane Victorino hit a double down the left field line to put a runner in scoring position with two outs. Placido Polanco followed Shane with an infield single that Nationals’ third baseman Jerry Hairston, Jr. threw wide to first, allowing Victorino to score and giving the Phils’ a 2-0 lead.
The Phillies added two more runs in the top of the 8th, with Ruiz and Valdez both reaching base with singles, and Lee reaching 1st on a throwing error by second baseman Danny Espinosa. After a Victorino strike out, Polanco hit into a fielder’s choice, scoring Ruiz. Jimmy Rollins followed with a single to right field, which scored Valdez and gave Jimmy his first RBI of the season. It also gave the Phillies a 4-0 lead going into the ninth inning.
If Lee needed any more motivation tonight after getting drubbed by the Braves last Saturday, the complete game effort by Roy Halladay during Wednesday night’s game may have sealed the deal. The Phillies’ staff is constantly quoted about how they feed off of each other’s performance night after night. If the trend is in fact your friend, it’s quite possible we’ll see a perfect game in the near future.
Roy Oswalt will have the first crack at it on Friday night when Javier Vasquez and the Florida Marlins come to Philadelphia for a weekend series.
Notes: After former Phillie Jayson Werth went 2-3 during the first game of the three game series, he went 1-8 the next two; the last time two Phillies starters threw two consecutive complete games was in 1999 by Paul Byrd and Curt Schilling; Ruiz picked off Ramos trying to steal second base in the bottom of the 5th, his first pick off of the year