MIAMI — Answers for how a $120 million pitcher has a 7.30 ERA in his last four starts are apparently non-existent or secrets if you ask the Phillies.
"I really don't have an explanation," Cliff Lee said.
"I don't know," Charlie Manuel said. "It's hard to explain."
"I have things," Rich Dubee said, "but I'm not discussing them in the paper."
As the Phillies drift into irrelevancy, the pitching staff is to blame. Lee is the poster child. He remains winless in 2012 and will lug a 4.13 ERA into July, the highest he's had this late in a season since 2007.
The manager says Lee's stuff is still "good" and believes he is healthy. The pitcher says his latest outing was "a strange game." The pitching coach says nothing at all.
"It's stuff we'll talk amongst ourselves about," Dubee said. "I'm not discussing it. That's all. It's stuff we don't want out there."
So there is a flaw he discovered?
"Not necessarily," Dubee said.
That leaves two possibilities: Lee's problems are mental. Or he has simply been hittable.
The lefthander was willing to admit he should have finished at least five innings Friday. It was his shortest outing since July 25, 2011.
"It was just weird," Lee said. "It seemed like everything they hit went between third and short. They just got a lot of hits. It was one of those nights, I can’t really explain it."
Lee, apparently, had forgotten about the four doubles mashed by Miami, none of which were hit between third and short. Opponents are hitting .337 off him in his last four outings. He is permitting 9.0 hits per nine innings after a stingy 7.6 rate in 2011.
The opposition is hitting .333 on balls in play, which is sixth highest in baseball. The league average for qualified pitchers is .287. That suggests Lee has been unlucky in 2012, but it's not the sole reason for his failures.
Lee was asked if this season feels like a bad dream.
"For the whole team it kind of has been," Lee said. "We've been in last place from the start till now, so I don't think anyone is really happy with how things have gone as group."
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