LOS ANGELES — For the second time this season, Cliff Lee looked capable of pitching at least 10 innings in a single outing, which might sound like something to get excited about until you consider that, for the second time this season, the Phillies looked as if they were going to need 10 innings out of him.
In the end, the veteran lefthander left the game in the top of the ninth, thanks to a bases-loaded situation that prompted manager Charlie Manuel to call on Jason Pridie to pinch-hit. But his performance on Wednesday was very much a microcosm of his season. Despite holding the Dodgers to three baserunners and throwing only 89 pitches in eight innings, Lee ended up with another no-decision, and the Phillies with another loss in one of his starts. They are only 4-12 when he takes the mound this season, with six of those losses coming in games in which he pitched at least six innings and allowed three or fewer runs.
"It's something I can't control," said Lee, who has allowed only five earned runs in 22 innings in his first three starts of July after posting a 6.12 ERA in five June starts. "All I can do is make pitches and try to give the team a chance to win and try to get as deep into the game as I can. That's it. That's really all I can control, and that's where my focus is going to stay."
Lee is well-acquainted with life as a July trade target, and Wednesday a report surfaced on CBS Sports' website that said the Rangers would consider dealing for him if they could not work out a trade for Cole Hamels or the Brewers' Zack Greinke. The likelihood of that happening is remote: Lee has a strong no-trade clause that reportedly allows him to block deals to 21 of 30 teams, while the 3 years remaining on his contract are an extra deterrent.
Nevertheless, the report underscores the uncertainty about the Phillies' present and future as they try to climb out of a 41-52 hole.
"It's something that's out of my control, so there's no sense in spending any time with it," Lee said. "It's something that Ruben [Amaro Jr., the general manager] and those guys are involved in and make those decisions, and we'll let them do their job."
The Phillies are off today, then host a three-game series against the Giants this weekend?…?Second baseman Chase Utley started three straight games for the first time since returning from the disabled list last month. He went 1-for-4 with a pair of walks in Wednesday's loss and is now hitting .226 on the season?…?The Phillies suffered a walkoff loss for the ninth time. They are 2-8 in extra-inning games?…?Centerfielder Shane Victorino had a pair of steals to reach 20 for the fifth time in six seasons?…?Rightfielder Hunter Pence tallied his National League-leading 21st go-ahead RBI of the season?…?Righthander Justin De Fratus, who could factor into the bullpen mix before the end of the season, was reinstated from the 60-day disabled list after recovering from an elbow injury and assigned to Triple A Lehigh Valley.