If you didn't know better watching the Phils last night, you might have thought they were actually playing for something. Well, actually, that's not true at all--the offense looks like it packed it in months ago, and the Fightins continued their prodigious recent output at the plate last night with a mere two hits, two walks and zero runs. (The Phils have now scored an average of one run a game over their last five outings.)
But oh man, that boy Cliff Lee. If the Phils officially had lost motivation to do anything else but secure a bottom-ten record at season's end, apparently no one told Clifton Pfifer. He made the NL's best team look positively Single A-ish last night, striking out 13 batters--six in a row at one point-- and giving up just three hits while walking none in eight innings of work.
If you're thinking to yourself "wait, those numbers sound kind of familiar," that might be because he had an outing nearly as ridiculous against the Marlins just a week-and-a-half ago. In fact, this whole month has been pretty damn nutso for the Pfife Dog, who has an ERA of just 1.85 in his five September starts, while striking out 54 batters and walking just one.
You might want to read those numbers again. 54 strikeouts. Just one walk. Even if you were facing no one but Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia for a whole month, that'd be damn impressive.
Matter of fact, it's damn near unprecedented. No pitcher has ever struck out 50 batters in a month without giving up more than a single walk. According to NBC Sports, it's only the 48th time since 1901 that a pitcher has struck out 54 batters over five starts, regardless of how many walks they've given up. Cliff's had some pretty ridiculous months in his career--he only let up one run in all of June 2011, you might recall--but September '13 is as dominant as he's ever been on the mound.
Of course, it's barely mattered at all, since not only are the Phils long out of contention, but they haven't felt like scoring much for him lately, meaning that a golfed Chris Johnson solo shot to left that just barely crept over the wall last night was more than enough to fell the Fightins. The Phils have now lost eight of their last nine, all but guaranteeing them that bottom-ten record. (If the season ended today, they'd be tied with the Rockies for seventh-worst.) Perhaps it's for the best, but it's a shame to see Cliff Lee making history in the dark like this.
In any event, we gotta give it up to our ace for giving us one source of pride in an otherwise fairly shameful couple weeks of Phillies baseball. And if not for Clayton Kershaw, who's been doing historic things basically all season in Los Angeles, Lee's excellent final line of 14-8, 2.87 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and a 6.94 K/BB ratio--his third time leading the league in that category--would certainly put him in contention for his second Cy Young trophy. Good show, Cliff.