May 21, 2011, 4:37 PM EDT
After a mid-season trade, Cliff Lee left behind his status as cellar-dweller staff anchor and became his new squad’s presumptive ace, helping them get to the post-season and powering them to the World Series once there. Incredibly, it’s a story in which Clifton Phifer played the lead character in two separate productions, once with each of the teams squaring off at Citizens Bank Park today. Of course, with the Rangers being Lee’s most recent supporting cast for the plot, most assumed that he’d be returning to the role for this year and beyond once he became a free agent in the off-season, but much to our surprise and delight, he decided to stick with his original Philly crew for the long haul.
Lee has gotten off to something of a slow start in the first season of his five-year deal with the Fightins, going only 2-4 in his nine starts thusfar. But as has been the case with Cliff in each season since his incredible 22-3 Cy Young campaign in 2008, his record has been a poor indicator of how well he’s pitched, with his 3.84 ERA, 68 strikeouts (good for 4h in the league) and just 13 walks, nearly half of which came in his last start against the Cardinals. To their credit, the Rangers staff has stepped up admirably in Lee’s absence, with three regular starters (C.J. Wilson, Alexi Ogando and tonight’s starter, Colby Lewis) posting ERAs under 4.00, though offensive issues (of the team’s three best hitters last year, two are injured and one is now on the Orioles) have kept the team hovering around the .500 mark for the season.
Of course, the Phillies know all about injury-related offensive issues, as even with last night’s Halladay-driven win over the Rangers, the team still has not scored more than three runs in a game since their 5-4 victory in Atlanta eight games ago. With half the team’s starting lineup on the shelf, it was clear there were going to be stretches like this, but pushing this streak into double digits would still be a little much to swallow. If 57-year-old Jason Giambi can push four guys across the plate on his lonesome, a couple of our guys should be able to get hot enough to average a run every other inning. Is Domonic Brown the answer? I tend to doubt it, at least for the first few weeks, but lord knows with the kind of production we’ve been getting on the right side of the outfield lately—minus Benny’s dinger last night—we don’t have too many places to go but up.
7:10 first pitch from CBP. “I hope they respected the way that I went about my business and if they were able to learn some things, that’s being part of being a good teammate,” Lee said of his old Texas squad. “Other than that, I wish them the best of the luck except for the next couple of days.” Well put, Phife.
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