Saturday, February 13, 2016

Cliff Lee continues to search for answers - and wins

Cliff Lee really had no answers, vowing he would continue to battle, but the frustration was apparent.

Cliff Lee continues to search for answers - and wins

(AP Photo/H. Rumph Jr)
(AP Photo/H. Rumph Jr) AP

Cliff Lee really had no answers, vowing he would continue to battle, but the frustration was apparent.

Lee is now 0-4 and of all the scenarios for the Phillies season, nobody forecast this one.

At times he is dominant and then he goes through rough stretches.

He struck out nine, but walked three, which is a high total for Lee, who entered the game having issued just 14 walks in 77 2/3 innings.

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Two of the batters he walked scored in Sunday’s 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays scored.

“I felt like I threw a couple of good pitches on some of those walks to be honest, but that is something I can’t control,” Lee said.

He understands what he can control, which is his control.

“I have to do a better job of being ahead in the count,” he said. “With two outs I can’t be walking people and can’t let big innings happen with two outs and nobody on.”

He was referring to the sixth inning when Lee got the first two batters out, only to then surrender two runs.

Lee’s season has difficult to explain and not so easy to watch.

On one hand he has a 3.72 ERA, which would suggest he should have a win or two.

Yet he usually has that one bad inning that costs him. On this evening, it was two bad innings.

“It s not like his stuff isn’t here, it is,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “He is very capable of pitching much better than that, it’s one of those things.”

Even at 34-40, Lee feels the Phillies have enough time to turn things around.

“I hope so,” he said. “I will do everything  I can to prepare for each start, to go out there and try to do my job effectively,” he said. “I can’t speak for everyone here but I hope we are all looking at it that way and focus on the things we can control and try to be the best version of ourselves each day and if we do that , we have a lot of talent in this room and it should play out over the course of the season pretty well.”

With the injuries, it’s debatable how much talent is on the team. When the Phillies have to rely on Michael Martinez to get a big hit with the bases loaded and down one run, that’s not showing a lot of depth.

Martinez was in that situation in Game 1, a 3-2 loss to the Rays. With the bases loaded in the eighth, Martinez ended the inning by flying out.

The Phillies have had trouble putting all three phases of the game together. When the offense is going, the pitching seems to falter. And when the pitching is doing better, there have been struggles with the defense.

While wins for a pitcher are overrated, Lee should still not be winless as we are heading to July.

He is still throwing hard, routinely clocked in the low ‘90’s, which is enough with Lee’s ability to pitch on both sides of the plate and his usual pin-point control.

The season he has had is one of the mysteries of Major League baseball and unless he can step up and pitch like the Cliff Lee of last year (pre-playoffs), the Phillies won’t be able to get back in the National League East race.

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