Cliff Lee sharp as Phillies top D'Backs
PHOENIX - Every Phillies hitter had to pass Charlie Manuel before stepping into the on-deck circle. The manager positioned himself at the top of the dugout steps for the entirety of Saturday's 3-1 victory over Arizona.
PHOENIX — Every Phillies hitter had to pass Charlie Manuel before stepping into the on-deck circle Saturday. The manager positioned himself at the top of the dugout steps for the entirety of a 3-1 victory over Arizona.
He talked strategy with Michael Young. He patted Ryan Howard on the back. He shook his head, slammed his fists together, and watched more offensive futility.
"I was thinking there during the game," Manuel said. "We have 125 games left. We're going to hit."
On this night, three runs patched together by walks, singles, stolen bases, wild pitches, and sacrifices were enough despite 11 stranded runners. Cliff Lee tossed seven shutout innings. The bullpen made it stand.
Jonathan Papelbon recorded a five-out save, his third as a Phillie. He secured the game's most important outs when trouble brewed in the eighth. He wiggled from a jam in the ninth. His fastball hit 94 m.p.h. and sat at 93 m.p.h., the hardest he has thrown all season.
"Stopped the bleeding," a curt Papelbon said afterward.
The hitting, while not overwhelming, was enough. When asked if he made a point of speaking to some of his hitters during this offensive drought, Manuel reacted as if insulted. He said he talks to his hitters on a daily basis. So do his two hitting coaches, Steve Henderson and Wally Joyner. Those coaches oversee a meeting before every game — an addition to the pregame routine in 2013 — to detail the tendencies of the opposing pitchers.
"I don't know anything else they can do," Manuel said.
The pitchers walk a tightrope every night. This time, Lee sauntered through his outing until the seventh. Arizona loaded the bases on two singles (one dribbled toward Lee) and a walk. Lee was at 111 pitches when Wil Nieves pinch-hit with the bases loaded and two outs, and only then did the Phillies begin to warm a reliever.
Nieves tapped a weak grounder to shortstop and a crisis was prevented. Lee was spectacular on this road trip, pitching 15 innings with two runs allowed. The Phillies won both games he pitched. Through eight starts, his ERA is 2.86.
His support arrived in the form of a beleaguered 5-foot-9 centerfielder. Ben Revere made noise from the eighth spot in the lineup. After a miserable April that sent him plummeting from the leadoff spot to the bench and then the bottom of Manuel's lineup, the young outfielder is doing what the Phillies expected.
He has reached base in 14 of his 30 plate appearances this month. He was on base three times Saturday. Twice, he scored.
"He's starting to get comfortable," Jimmy Rollins said. "You can see it. Even in his batting practice, he's taking much better swings."
He started the seventh with a well-placed flare to center. He stole second base. Lee sacrificed him for the third time. Arizona moved its infielders in, and Rollins dropped one into short right field for a run-scoring single.
The script was similar in the fifth. Revere led off with a walk. Lee bunted him over. He grabbed third base on a Trevor Cahill wild pitch. Rollins skied one plenty deep, and Revere jogged home.
Rollins said he left Chase Field on Thursday night obsessed about his approach with runners in scoring position. He said adjustments to his swing are starting to translate to all situations, including the important ones.
"Tonight I did what was needed," Rollins said. "I was put in a good position."
The Phillies forced Cahill to throw 96 pitches in five innings and had just one run to show for it. Even in the fifth, when the Phillies broke through, there was promise for much more. Chase Utley walked, and Michael Young singled to right. The Diamondbacks activated the bullpen. Cahill teetered on the edge. But Howard struck out for the third time in three at-bats, and further damage was avoided.
Howard has 16 strikeouts in his last eight games. He is hitless in his last 14 at-bats. Nine of those have resulted in strikeouts. He wore a golden sombrero Saturday.
That's a problem for another night, because the Phillies snapped a three-game losing streak, and it did not matter that the victory lacked hitting luster.
In their first 10 games in May, the Phillies displayed very little offense. Here are their stats and rankings: