Phillies fall to Blue Jays, 7-4

Cliff Lee reacts after serving up Toronto's third home run in the eighth inning. "I felt like they were decent pitches," he said.
Cliff Lee reacts after serving up Toronto's third home run in the eighth inning. "I felt like they were decent pitches," he said. (DARREN CALABRESE / The Canadian Press)
Posted: July 04, 2011

TORONTO - The hottest pitcher in baseball needed six more outs Sunday afternoon for his fourth straight complete game. When the eighth inning began, Cliff Lee had not allowed a home run to the last 177 batters he faced over a span of 33 days. He had thrown 89 pitches in seven innings, and there was no reason to question whether he could finish this one off, too.

"You never know," Lee later said. "There's still a lot of game left at that point."

Five hitters later, there was Charlie Manuel yanking a shell-shocked Lee as the home crowd at Rogers Centre finally celebrated something other than a holiday or an opposing pitcher. Three Toronto swings scored four runs in the eighth for a 7-4 win over the Phillies.

An incredible streak by Lee was tarnished. A chance for a Phillies weekend sweep floated away with those three mammoth home-run blasts by Eric Thames, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion.

All Lee could do was helplessly watch each ball's flight to the outer reaches of Rogers Centre. He put his arms at his sides each time.

"I felt like they were decent pitches, to be honest with you," Lee said. "But obviously that doesn't matter."

"That's life," Manuel said. "That's the game."

This day began with Lee seeking history. Another complete-game shutout and he'd match a 100-year-old franchise record of 41 straight scoreless innings established by Grover Cleveland Alexander.

Lee extended his streak to 34 innings before surrendering a run on a Rajai Davis third-inning triple and a groundout by John McDonald.

Still, the Phillies had a three-run lead because of a four-run second inning. With Lee on the mound, that has been about as good of a guarantee as there is in baseball recently.

But the Phillies never added to the total. A bumbling mistake in the eighth cost them a sure run. Shane Victorino, who jammed his right thumb in the sixth when his cleats were caught in the outfield turf, doubled with one out. He saw a chance to steal third, but that idea was sniffed out by Blue Jays reliever Octavio Dotel, who picked him off. On the next pitch, Raul Ibanez doubled over Juan Rivera's head in left. Victorino would have easily scored from second.

"It's never a good play when you've got a lefthanded hitter standing there and you get thrown out," Manuel said. "If you make it, it's something different."

So Lee was asked to preserve a one-run lead in the eighth. His first pitch was a fastball that Thames deposited beyond the center-field fence. Next was Bautista, the most dangerous hitter in the game. Lee's first two pitches were balls.

"A hitter like that," Lee said, "you should try to stay away from those types of counts."

But Lee sneaked a backdoor cutter on the outside edge for a called strike. Carlos Ruiz liked the way the pitch moved, so he called for it again. This one caught a little more of the plate. In one fluid motion, Bautista drove it to left for a go-ahead bomb.

Lee had struck out eight Blue Jays before the eighth, and Ruiz said a few of the swings and misses were on similar pitches to the ones they jacked in the eighth.

"They made the adjustments late in the game," Ruiz said. "They didn't miss them."

Rich Dubee emerged from the dugout to calm Lee. An Adam Lind single and a fly out followed before Encarnacion smashed the game out of reach.

The rapid takedown was tough to swallow in the visitors clubhouse, where the players dressed, secured their passports, and filled out customs papers for a return to America. Lee brushed away the failure, but those 10 eighth-inning pitches would be difficult to forget.

"He's been there all year long," Manuel said. "They just got to him."


Zero Heroes

Cliff Lee's streak of scoreless innings ended Sunday at 34, second on the Phillies' all-time list.

1. Grover Cleveland Alexander, 1911: 41 scoreless innings

2. Cliff Lee, 2011: 34

3. Larry Andersen, 1984: 322/3

4. Ken Heintzelman, 1949; Robin Roberts, 1950: 32


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or @magelb on Twitter.

 

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