Friday, July 1, 2011

Bullpens? We don’t need no stinking bullpens!

                The recent dominance of Cliff Lee has been dissected in the media much of late, and deservedly so.  As a partial season ticket holder , I was able to witness Lee’s latest masterpiece against American League favorite Boston first-hand. (Curiously, though I’ve had this ticket package for 26 years, it was the first time I’ve seen Lee live, I seem to be on the Kendrick plan, having caught Kendrick, Blanton, or Worley in seven  of the nine games I’ve attended thus far, but I digress ).  Lee’s June statistics are astounding, 5-0 record, 32 straight scoreless innings (5th all-time in Phillies history, only 1 earned run allowed the entire month for an ERA of 0.21, 3 straight complete game shutouts, the first time a Phillies pitcher accomplished this since Hall of Famer Robin Roberts did so in 1950.) While this brilliance is amazing, the reason Lee is truly loved in Philadelphia, is his overall dedication and respect for the game. In the third inning he hit a sharp grounder to the third baseman and busted so hard down the line he almost turned a routine grounder into an infield single, being retired by a mere step. When was the last time you saw a pitcher run out a routine ground ball so hard?  Lee received a standing ovation from the Phillies fans for his hustle (it is this type of appreciation for his efforts that I believe is the true reason he spurned the extra millions proffered by the Yankees and returned to Philly).  In his next at bat, with Shane Victorino on third and one out, Lee lofted a fly ball to deep left, easily scoring the run. It was obvious in his approach that this was what he was trying to accomplish, and despite his status as a pitcher, and despite the fact that he was facing Red Sox ace Josh Beckett (who had an incredible 1.86 era at the time), I was more confident he would get the run home than I would be if certain position players had been at the plate in the same situation (Poor plate approaches by Phillie batters will be a topic for a future post).  Lee appeared to tire in the seventh, allowing two baserunners before inducing a double play to end the threat.   I presumed manager Charlie Manual would move to the bullpen, but Bulldog Lee’s pitch velocity in the eighth and ninth innings matched what he had been throwing in the first and he closed out a game , and a month for the ages.

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