Inside the Phillies: The Reds keep Cliff Lee winless at home in 2012

Cliff Lee hands the ball to Charlie Manuel before leaving in the seventh inning. Lee finished his 62/3-inning stint against the Reds with nine strikeouts and one walk.
Cliff Lee hands the ball to Charlie Manuel before leaving in the seventh inning. Lee finished his 62/3-inning stint against the Reds with nine strikeouts and one walk. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 23, 2012

So it's winter in Las Vegas, and you're looking to make a bet.

Over-under on Cliff Lee's wins at home is five and wins overall is 10.

Do you take it?

Yes would have been the answer for most of the population with any knowledge of baseball.

So it's late summer in Las Vegas, and you're looking to make a bet.

Over-under on Cliff Lee's wins at home is one and wins overall is five.

Do you take it?

I don't know is the answer for anyone who has followed Lee's star-crossed 2012 season with the Phillies.

The year from hell continued Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park for Lee and the Phillies. It continued with a 5-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds for the Phillies and a no-decision for Lee.

"When I talked to him [in the dugout], he said he couldn't believe it," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I said, 'I agree with you.' Every time he goes out it seems like something happens, and he doesn't get a decision or he gets beat."

Like Lee's season, this late-August evening was strange to begin with because the Phillies opted to give away Hunter Pence bobble figurines even though Hunter Pence played for the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night against Shane Victorino and the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

Consider it an awkward tribute to an awkward player. It did come complete with a thanks-for-the-memories message from Pence on an index-size card.

Meanwhile, memories of Lee's last victory at Citizens Bank Park have become more faded than a 10-year-old pair of blue jeans. For the record, it came on Sept. 5 last season, and it was a shutout against the Atlanta Braves.

Since that win, Lee is 0-6 with a 3.92 ERA in 12 starts at Citizens Bank Park. The team is 4-8 in those starts, including 3-6 this season.

"It has definitely been a strange year," Lee said. "All I can do is continue to focus on my routine and prepare for each start and expect to win every time I take the mound, and that hasn't changed."

Lee, of course, has not had much success home or away in 2012 and his latest start mirrored so many others.

The numbers looked respectable enough. He went 62/3 innings and allowed three runs on nine hits. He walked one and struck out nine. That's considered a quality start.

It's no secret that Lee has been a victim of too little run support this season, and when he walked off the mound with two outs in the top of the seventh inning Tuesday night, the Phillies had only scored once.

They scored two more times to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh before Antonio Bastardo surrendered a home run to rookie-of-the-year candidate Todd Frazier with two outs in the eighth.

Third baseman Kevin Frandsen, playing his way into next year's plans, tied the score again for the Phillies with an RBI triple in the bottom of the eighth, but Jonathan Papelbon's first pitch of the ninth was launched into the left-field seats by Zack Cozart, allowing the Reds to regain the lead for good.

The only Lee to ever get less relief help than Clifton Phifer was Robert E. during Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Even though the Phillies' offense was back on the light side after scoring 12 runs the night before, and even though the bullpen always seems to be at its worst on the nights when Lee pitches, the veteran lefty is not blameless for his winless season at home or the loss on this night, and he knows it.

"It's disappointing going out in the seventh and giving them a two-run lead," Lee said. "I wasn't very happy about that."

Lee's ERA at home this season is 4.42, and he has allowed four runs or more in six of his 10 starts.

He surrendered a leadoff double to Scott Rolen on a change-up in the seventh that was followed by a walk to Frazier and a go-ahead single by Ryan Hanigan.

Soon, a calendar year will have passed without a home victory for Cliff Lee.

"It's just been one of those years," Lee said. "Usually there is a guy on each team where things don't go his way, and it happens to be me this year. I'm not going to make excuses, and I'm not going to feel sorry for myself."


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or @brookob on Twitter.

 

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