Phillies beat Giants as Cliff Lee pitches eight strong innings
Ruben Amaro walked into the visiting dugout at AT&T Park and found a seat. After manager Charlie Manuel’s daily, pregame meeting with the press, it was the general manager’s turn.
SAN FRANCISCO – Ruben Amaro Jr. walked into the visiting dugout at AT&T Park and found a seat. After Phillies manager Charlie Manuel's daily, pregame meeting with the press, it was the general manager's turn.
Amaro made himself available to talk about placing two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay on the disabled list earlier in the day. But then the obvious, unavoidable questions followed.
Are you surprised your team is 14-18 after 32 games?
"I'm a little disappointed at the slow start," Amaro said. "I can't be surprised at anything that happens in baseball. Generally, we were healthy. We haven't put it together enough yet to be consistent. That's what we are striving for."
Although Halladay's struggles were in the spotlight, the Phillies' forgettable first month of the season was mainly a byproduct of a dreadful offense. Before scoring twice in the eighth inning of a blowout loss to the Marlins on Sunday, the Phils were six outs away from being shut out for the sixth time in their last 19 games.
Having to travel across the country to face a formidable opponent in San Francisco Giants lefthander Madison Bumgarner did not exactly sound like the remedy for a comatose offense. Yet, somehow, at least for one night, it worked out.
"This place actually might have been perfect for us," Michael Young said.
Young went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a walk and two RBI and Domonic Brown launched a moonshot of a home run into McCovey Cove as the Phillies rolled to a 6-2 win.
"It's a great environment, a great place to play and we're playing obviously a good club," Young said. "It was good for us to some into this environment, have fun and play ball."
Young's two-out, two-run double fueled a three-run inning that was enough for Cliff Lee. Lee won for the first time in five starts, holding the Giants to two runs in eight innings.
Lee has pitched at least eight innings in three of his seven starts this season. He's allowed two runs or fewer in four starts.
But the Phillies had also scored two runs or fewer in four of his six starts before last night.
"That's more of what we are right there, no doubt," Lee said. "We definitely haven't been playing up to our potential. We've been really far short of that, to be honest with you. I think tonight's more of a real depiction of what we are. Yeah, I expect us to pick it up a little bit. We've kind of underperformed this first month, and it's time for us to turn it on. Tonight was a good start in that direction."
Despite the heroics of former Phillie Hunter Pence (3-for-3 with a home run and a double), Lee was brilliant. When Pence led off the eighth inning with a double, he was the Giants' first runner in scoring position all game (discounting his home run, of course).
But the Phillies have had their share of brilliant pitching in the first 5 weeks of the season. They've also had plenty of those games wasted by their aforementioned offense.
The first inning felt a lot like many of the innings in those aforementioned games.
After Bumgarner retired Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley to begin the night, Young and Ryan Howard followed with two-out singles, and Delmon Young walked to load the bases. But then Brown hit a comebacker to Bumgarner to strand all three runners and end the inning.
Bumgarner entered the night with the second best ERA in the National League (1.55) and the third best WHIP (0.84). So it was worth wondering whether the Phils would have many more opportunities.
The wondering didn't last very long. John Mayberry Jr. and Erik Kratz led off the second with back-to-back singles.
After Utley worked a two-out walk, Young went the other way to bring both Mayberry and Kratz home with a double. Utley, who tripped and fell between second and third on the double, eventually scored the third run of the inning on one of Bumgarner's two wild pitches.
The Phils got to Bumgarner again in the fifth.
Michael Young led off with a booming double to dead center. After going 19 straight games without an extra-base hit, Young has three in his last four games.
After Howard moved Young to third on a groundout, Delmon Young brought him home on a sacrifice fly.
"We manufactured one," said Michael Young, who is hitting .333 on the season. "That's what we're talking about, executing the fundamentals. That's a big part of what we have to be better at offensively, making sure we execute the offensive fundamentals."
Brown followed the fundamentally sound sacrifice fly with some eye candy: His majestic home run gave the crowd of 41,171 at the ballpark by the bay something to gawk at.
Brown unleashed a bomb off Bumgarner that flew over the rightfield wall and touched down in the water beyond to make it a 5-1 game.
The home run was the fourth for Brown in his last 12 games. Brown is batting .311 (14-for-45) in that span. He also made a nifty, diving catch to rob Joaquin Arias of a hit in the sixth inning.
For one night, everything came together swimmingly for the previously struggling Phillies.
"I think the biggest thing is to make sure our approach is sound, that we compete in very at-bat and never give them away," Michael Young said. "I'm not saying we do that, but that's always a key in any offense, to make sure you battle every at-bat. But we are confident we're always going to get good pitching. Guys like Cliff are capable of giving performances like that on a nightly basis. So we have to make sure that if there's one out there – we don't always need three- or four-run innings – but if there's one out there, we have to make sure we pick him up. Tonight we did a pretty good job of that."