Cliff Lee needed 113 pitches to get through five innings of work. (AP)
CHICAGO -- Cliff Lee is a guy who likes to get the ball and throw the ball. He likes to pound the strike zone and keep the game moving.
He struggled doing that Saturday afternoon in the Phillies’ 4-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs (see Instant Replay).
“I had to battle,” the left-hander said after allowing 12 baserunners and throwing 113 pitches in just five innings of work.
“It was just a strange game. They had a lot of long at-bats against me. They grinded me out and saw a lot of pitches.
“They laid off pitches that were just off the strike zone and were called balls. It seems like I never got a good break with them chasing. They made me throw a lot of pitches.”
Lee exited the slow-moving game with the score tied 3-3. The Cubs took the lead for good when Starlin Castro hit reliever Zach Miner’s second pitch in the bottom of the sixth into the seats in left-center. The Cubs’ bullpen made the lead stand up with four scoreless innings in relief of lefty Chris Rusin, who allowed three runs in five innings.
The Phillies have been losers in six of Lee’s last eight starts.
“He seemed a little out of sync today,” manager Ryne Sandberg said.
Lee was out of sync from the beginning. He allowed a double and a walk in the first inning, but got out of trouble. He was presented with a 1-0 lead when Kevin Frandsen homered with two outs in the second, but lost the lead in the bottom of the inning.
“We kept taking the lead and I gave it up twice,” Lee said.
Lee gave up a 3-2 lead in the fifth. He allowed a double, a single, a walk and a sacrifice fly in that inning.
The Phils hit several balls hard in the last two innings, but the Cubs made several excellent defensive plays to keep the lead.
Michael Young continued to swing a hot bat for the Phils. He followed up Friday’s four-hit game with three more hits, half of the Phillies’ production for the day.
Young’s name has percolated in trade rumors for two months. Players have to be traded by Sept. 1 to be eligible for the postseason. When Saturday’s game ended, the Phillies announced that they had traded an infielder to the Boston Red Sox. Young? No. John McDonald (see story).
Sandberg was asked whether he believed Young would still be a Phillie on Sunday.
“We’ll see,” he said.
(UPDATE: The Phillies traded Young late Saturday night.)
Sandberg will be happy if Young remains with the club.
“He’s an unbelievable professional,” Sandberg said. “He’s an old-school guy, a great guy to have on a club. He’s got great character and he brings it every day.”
Defense is Young’s shortcoming. He does not have good range at third base and that hurt the Phillies on Saturday. Young also made a two-out error that the Cubs turned into a run in the third inning and he struggled to get to a ball behind Lee in the fifth. It went for a hit.
Young has been playing mostly first base in August. He’s been forced to play third the last few days as Cody Asche recovers from a mild hamstring injury. Sandberg said Asche is ready to return to action on Sunday. That would likely push Young back to first base.
With rosters expanding on Sept. 1, the Phillies are expected to bring some reinforcements from the minors later this week. McDonald’s departure makes it likely that the Phils will bring up infielders Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez. The Phils could also bring up catcher Cameron Rupp.