You Again: Cliff Lee Meets His Old Texas Buddies

You Again: Cliff Lee Meets His Old Texas Buddies

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.

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).