Lee, Phillies hurt by homers in finale with Mets
Lefty surrenders three long balls while his own offense is blanked
NEW YORK -- Cliff Lee's second half started in a hail of home runs, much the same way his first half ended. The veteran left-hander, who allowed four homers in his final start before the All-Star break, came back on Sunday and allowed three more to the Mets, and the Phillies dropped the series finale, 5-0.
Lee, matched against Mets ace Matt Harvey, never could find his bearings. He allowed back-to-back home runs to David Wright and Marlon Byrd in the first inning, and with Harvey throwing a dominant game, gave up a three-run homer to Juan Lagares in the fourth.
"They all came with two outs, too," said Lee. "I've got to find a way to make better pitches in those situations. They're all with two strikes, and they're all with two outs. That's the part that's frustrating for me. But what's done is done. You've got to give Harvey a lot of credit today."
Two of the three homers -- the ones to Wright and Lagares -- necessitated an umpire review. Wright's was called a home run on the field and subsequently upheld. Lagares was originally credited with a double, but after a 90-second review, the umpires decided the ball had cleared the fence.
Those calls -- and the implications surrounding them -- provided much of the game's drama. Harvey (8-2) allowed just two baserunners in the first five innings, and he struck out the side in the third and fifth. The Phillies, in fact, struck out nine times and had just two hits through six innings.
Delmon Young doubled off Harvey in the seventh, giving the Phillies their third hit of the game and their second runner in scoring position. But Harvey, the National League's starting pitcher in the All-Star Game, escaped the threat and finished with 10 strikeouts and seven scoreless innings.
"That's pretty good, man. Definitely the best we've seen," said manager Charlie Manuel. "He used all of his pitches. He was aggressive with his fastball, but he also threw in and out, up and down. He threw to spots, did about everything you have to do. He was good. Real good."
Harvey retired 15 of the first 17 batters he faced, and he allowed only three hits in his seven innings of work. He has now logged four games this season in which he's struck out at least 10 without walking anyone, and he's just the 10th pitcher since 1916 to accomplish that feat.
The deeper you look, the more impressive facts you can find.
Harvey has thrown at least seven innings and allowed one runs or fewer in 10 starts this season, tied with the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw for the most in the Major Leagues. Harvey has a 1.08 ERA in five career starts against the Phillies, the lowest ERA since 1921 against Philadelphia.
"He's obviously one of the best in the league at a very young age," said the veteran Michael Young. "One thing he has learned at a young age is, he's confident enough to throw off-speed in hitter's counts. It usually takes guys a while to learn that, but he's confident in all four of his pitches, as he should be. He's got a really good veteran catcher to work with, so the future is bright."
Lee, for his part, said that the home runs didn't necessarily come on bad pitches. The former Cy Young Award-winner said that the pitch to Wright was up and in and right where he wanted it. The pitch to Byrd, he said, was more a matter of falling behind and throwing a pitch too far over the plate.
The final homer -- a three-run shot by Lagares over the left-field fence -- came on a hanging curveball that traveled right over the heart of the plate. The shot was initially ruled a double because it appeared to bounce off the top of the fence, but a review proved it had left the field of play.
"You've got to give Harvey a lot of credit today," said Lee, summing up the game. "He's been pitching unbelievable. He didn't allow us to score. I knew that going in, that it was going to be a game where I couldn't allow too many runs. Giving up two home runs in the first didn't really help that."
Lee (10-4) has now lost two straight starts, notable only because he had gone 12 outings without losing prior to that stretch. And the long balls are the biggest reason. Lee has allowed eight home runs in his last three starts after giving up a total of eight in his first 17 starts.
"He's getting hurt by the long ball," said Manuel. "I bet if you go talk to him, he'd probably tell you that he's missing a spot here and there. Actually, his stuff was good."
The Phillies (49-50) have now lost two straight games to drop back below the break-even mark. Philadelphia has yet to push two games above .500 at any point this season, and will continue its second-half schedule with three-game trips to St. Louis and Detroit next week.
Both Atlanta and Washington lost on Sunday, leaving Philadelphia in a second-place tie in the division. The Braves hold a seven-game edge over the Nationals and Phillies, but there's still plenty of schedule left, and the Phillies, despite their erratic season, are right in the mix.
"I feel fortunate, but at the same time, I feel that everybody's bunched in there," said Manuel of the lay of the land in the rugged NL East. "If you were to put together a streak, you could definitely better your position and have a chance. I believe that. It's up to us to play better and do better."