WASHINGTON - The idea that Cliff Lee against Stephen Strasburg could be a mere footnote on any night is preposterous.
But that's exactly what it was Tuesday night because of what happened beforehand.
Even though the trades of Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence signaled the figurative end of the season for the Phillies, the schedule said play on, and the last-place team with the one-win pitcher got the better of the first-place team with the best record in baseball.
Lee, the subject of trade rumors in the days before the deadline, delivered seven shutout innings and the Phillies used home runs from Kevin Frandsen and Jimmy Rollins in an 8-0 victory over Strasburg and the Nationals.
"I think we kind of realized something was going to happen with the way we were playing," Lee said after winning for just the second time in 18 starts this season. "It wasn't like a complete surprise. What's done is done. Ruben and those guys have a job to do and they feel like the best thing they can do for the organization right now is to move those guys and hopefully it ends up being the best thing for us."
Lee said he was assured he never came close to joining Victorino and Pence on the trade train, and he was pleased that was the case.
"They told us those were rumors and there wasn't anything really in the works," Lee said. "Ruben did tell me some teams did propose some stuff to him, but nothing that even made close to sense for the Phillies. I signed here to win here. Obviously nobody is happy the way this year has gone, but this is where I want to be. We still have a lot of talent."
This was one of the team's most impressive wins of the season for a number of reasons, starting with Lee's effort. He allowed five hits and struck out seven in his seven innings. The Phillies scored six times off Strasburg, who entered the game with an 11-4 record and 2.76 ERA. The six runs were the most allowed by Strasburg this season.
Lee complemented his pitching performance with a fourth-inning RBI single off Strasburg and a stolen base before Rollins hit a ball off the top of the right-field wall. The ball rolled far enough away from rightfielder Bryce Harper to allow Rollins to round the bases for his fourth career inside-the-park homer.
"At this point, we really can't change what has happened in the past," second baseman Chase Utley said. "We can only try to continue to build on what we have here and continue to try to play hard and win some games."
A win over Strasburg and the Nationals isn't a bad place to start for a team that appears to be finished.
Contact Bob Brookover at email@example.com or on Twitter @brookob.