Cliff Lee and Michael Young both came up a little short Tuesday night, but in the end, what does it matter?
Lee came within one out of a complete game and Young just a double shy of the cycle in the Phillies’ 8-3 win over the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park (see instant replay).
Sure, Lee would like to have gotten a shot at that final out.
Sure, Young would like to have had that missing two-bagger.
But both understood the bigger picture: This team needed a win and it accomplished its mission.
“With one out to go, I wanted to stay in the game,” Lee said. “But we won the game and that’s all that matters. When you win everything is OK.”
“I did it in college,” he said of hitting for the cycle. “I’m good.”
After losing five of their first seven games, Phillies players huddled up a time or two before this one. As Young explained, “We needed to focus on our energy level. Sometimes you can’t control the results in a game, but one thing you can control is your energy and enthusiasm. Our goal was to go out and attack the game.”
Young surely did that. He had a single, a triple and a homer. His triple in the fourth came on a hustle play in which he could easily have pulled up at second base. It knocked in a run and gave the Phils an 8-2 lead.
The Phils put seven runs on the board the previous two innings against Mets’ starter Dillon Gee.
John Mayberry Jr. had a two-run double in the four-run second inning and joined Young and Howard with solo homers in the third inning. Three homers in one inning? Not bad considering the Phils had just four homers in the first seven games.
Every Phillies starter except Chase Utley had at least a hit, but Utley contributed to the high-energy approach with two walks, two stolen bases and a run scored.
Young said players talked about ramping up the energy level right up until taking the field for the first pitch. Lee was not part of those conversations because no one bothers the starting pitcher before his outing.
But no one needed to tell Lee anything.
He always attacks the game.
“He’s basically a baseball player who pitches,” Young said. “He thrives on competition. He expects to pitch well and holds himself to a high standard. But more than just pitching, he expects to play a good baseball game.”
Lee did that. On the mound, he went 8 2/3 innings and allowed three runs, one of which was unearned. He did not walk a batter and struck out six. At the plate, he singled home a run to extend a four-run rally in the second inning.
“As a team, we did a good job feeding off Cliff,” Young said.
Lee has two of the Phillies’ three wins and two of their three quality starts. While Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay have pitched to a combined ERA of 12.50 in four starts, all losses, Lee is 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA. In 16 2/3 innings, he has walked none and struck out 14.
“We might be 1-7 without him,” manager Charlie Manuel said.
Manuel let Lee hit in the bottom of the eighth inning and the crowd of 38,305 gave the pitcher a huge ovation. But the cheers turned to boos when Manuel popped out of the dugout to remove Lee from the game after he had allowed a pair of hits in the ninth. At 106 pitches, Lee had gas in his tank, but there was no arguing with Manuel, who was also booed on the way back to the dugout.
Mike Adams picked up Lee for the final out. He struck out Ruben Tejada on three pitches.
“It was a tough decision,” Manuel said. “He was at 106 pitches and I didn’t want to see him get into a big pitch count where he throws another 15 or 20 pitches. The back end of our bullpen was fresh. There was no sense leaving him out there.”
Lee briefly tried to plead his case to stay in.
“It didn’t last long,” said Manuel.
Lee didn’t win his first game until July 4 and his second until July 31 last season. He was often a victim of poor run support. The Phils have scored 10 runs for him in his first two starts. Last year, they scored three runs in his first three starts and just nine in his first four.
“It’s very refreshing when we score runs for him and play like we did tonight,” Manuel said. “Cliff pitched a good game and we scored runs and added on. We’re going to win a lot of games he pitches if we do that.”