When the Phillies announced that they re-signed Cliff Lee this past December, it was hard to believe. From the shocking trade after the 2009 season, to Lee’s return and now, his first start back in a Phils uniform, it has been quite an emotional roller coaster ride.
But when Lee took the mound tonight against the Astros, the reality truly set in. Fans jumped to their feet and roared before Lee even threw a pitch. The excitement was palpable. Like a gift from heaven, Cliff Lee is home again.
As expected, Lee dominated the Astros line-up for most of the game. The only issue he ran into was his namesake, Carlos Lee who smashed a two-run homer. Lee wound up going seven innings, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out 11 batter.
The only remaining question for the Phillies was could they muster any offense. The answer is yes. After the amazing Opening Day ninth inning comeback rally on Friday, the Phils offense picked up today where they left off yesterday.
The Phillies got off to a quick start with two runs in the first inning. Between the fourth and fifth innings, they scored five more runs. The highlights were a Raul Ibanez double, a two-run Shane Victorino bloop single and a Ben Francisco double, just to name a few.
The real encouraging factor was not just the runs, but the way they scored the runs. It was a combination of good base running, patience at the plate, small ball and timely hitting. This is the Phillies offense everyone has been waiting to see.
Of course, we all loved the home run days and there will still be some of those. But in the past, the Phillies offense really seemed to rely on the big hits with little to no focus on manufacturing runs. With Chase Utley hurt and Jayson Werth gone, the big concern going into 2011 was the lack of power on a team that has issues playing small ball.
While we have only seen two games so far, it does look like the offense has finally figured out how to go one base at a time to score runs. With the incredible pitching they have, if the offense can keep up this pace and be consistent, this will be a very scary team.
Of course, where there is good news, sometime bad news follows. After a collision in center field with Francisco, Victorino left the game early. Reports say that he has soreness in his left calf. While his previous injury was to the left calf, there is still concern. Hopefully, pulling him was just a precaution. There is no word yet on how serious it may be.
The Phillies went on to win the game by a score of 9-4. On Sunday, they will go for the series sweep with Roy Oswalt on the mound against his former team. Former Phillie J.A. Happ was scheduled to pitch for the Astros but has been scratched due to an oblique issue. Bud Norris will pitch instead. Game time is 1:35pm and I will return with photos.
Lee photo by Jenn Zambri Photography