—Citizens Bank Park
That’s the Cliff Lee the Phillies paid for and the Cliff Lee Phillies fans pay to see. The left-hander toyed with the free-swinging Marlins – a term I may have overused this week; but it’s true – by fanning four and allowing just two hits and two walks in the Phillies 3-0 win.
Lee’s seventh career complete game shutout, and second this year, sealed a four-game sweep of a Florida club that has now lost 18 of their last 21 games. With a no-hit bid into the fifth inning, the Marlins never really stood a chance as Lee used his superior location to induce several easy ground outs. Mike Stanton broke the hitless streak at 14 batter, singling with two outs in the fifth.
In all, Florida tallied 12 ground ball outs and did not have a runner touch second base all day.
In the early going, the Phillies offense allowed Marlins starter Javier Vazquez off the hook by wasting a first-inning, bases-loaded threat. Lee took matters into his own hands by doubling off the wall in right-center field, scoring Michael Martinez from first to make it 1-0. Ryan Howard helped the cause with his 15th home run of the season in the fifth.
Howard’s homer got me a little giddy. On the surface it looked like just a run of the mill blast, but Howard kept his hands back beautifully, just like the Big Brown of old. Whenever he gets into a zone at the plate, you’ll see him keeping his hands back in the zone, punching balls to the opposite-field.
In the sixth inning, the Phils tacked on another thanks to Jimmy Rollins. He looped a double to right field that Mike Stanton dove for, but bobbled, allowing J-Roll to take second. That sent home Domonic Brown, giving the Philies a 3-0 lead, which felt like 10-0 with Lee pitching.
It could have been plenty more for a Phillies offense that has scored 46 runs during a seven-game winning streak. They left eight men on base, seven of them while Vazquez was in the game. Two runs over five innings is about as good as it can get for Vazquez at this point. He was lucky to leave the game down just two.
The standings show the Phillies 5 1/2 games up on the Atlanta Braves after the victory with a 44-26 record. For all the complaining the fanbase does (not all of you, I know), honing in on the wrinkles this lineup has, they are 18 games over .500 and attempting to run away with the division early on. The pitching staff is carrying them, allowing the offense to work out the kinks, which they are doing.
Chase Utley is hitting, Howard has found some power, Rollins and Shane Victorino are setting the table nicely, and the bottom of the order is chipping in at times. What more can you ask for?
A power right-handed bat, you say? Buster Olney of ESPN.com says the Phillies are doing their homework on some high-priced hitters that they could seek out at the deadline.
For now, the offense is providing plenty. And Cliff Lee is doing the same, allowing us to remember why the Phillies put all that cash in his pocket.
-J.C. Romero was designated for assignment, paving the way for Vance Worley to return to the team. Worley will start on Saturday in Seattle. Romero said after the game that “Business is business, man. I have nothing else to say about it.”
Sounds like he was slightly bothereed by the move, although he says he understands it. But really the writing was on the wall here. Romero was far too hittable, giving up one per inning, while walking a ridiculous 6.6 per-nine.
Romero talked about his “student,” Antonio Bastardo, and the great job he’s done this season, which made him expendable.
Does this now mean that Worley is staying until Blanton is ready, or is this merely a spot start to keep the rotation in order? That question will be answered in due time.
SCHNEIDER TO REHAB
According to a tweet from the Phillies account, Brian Schneider will begin a rehab assignment tomorrow with the Reading Phillies. Schneider hasn’t played since May 11, when he injured his hamstring running the bases in Florida. He also suffered a set back during rehab in late May.
Dane Sardinha has been the backup to Carlos Ruiz since the injury to Schneider and the results have not been pretty. He’s batting just .219 with one RBI in 15 games.