Phillies turn on the power as Lee tames Mets

The Phillies' Ryan Howard celebrates his solo home run with teammate Michael Young. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
The Phillies' Ryan Howard celebrates his solo home run with teammate Michael Young. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 10, 2013

The boos were loudest Tuesday when Charlie Manuel climbed the dugout steps to remove a Phillies pitcher. This was noise Manuel could handle. For one night, baseball's worst pitching staff succeeded.

Cliff Lee was one out away from a complete game in the Phillies' 8-3 win over New York. The fans wanted a taste of elusive pitching nirvana in this early season.

What did Lee say when Manuel arrived at the mound?

"I don't remember," Lee said.

"Oh," Manuel said, "he wanted to stay in, of course."

The manager stuck with his decision, which qualified as drama on a satisfying night. After a wretched week, everything went right at Citizens Bank Park.

Every Phillies player but Chase Utley had a hit before the third inning ended. Michael Young fell a double short of the cycle. Ryan Howard finally smashed a home run. John Mayberry Jr. drove in three runs.

The Phillies yearn for a starting pitcher who can last six innings. That happened three times in the first eight games, and Lee did it twice. He silenced the Mets in 82/3 innings with little drama amid a steady diet of fastballs. Lee has a 1.08 ERA after two starts.

"As a team I thought we did a really good job feeding off Cliff," Young said. "We had a lot of energy tonight, and that's something we really wanted to focus on - playing with more energy, more enthusiasm. We felt like the results would follow."

That prevented another comeback by the opposition in South Philadelphia, a frequent happening during this homestand. Hard-throwing righty Matt Harvey limited the Phillies to four hits Monday. The bats were louder against the soft-tossing Dillon Gee.

For an inning, the Phillies pelted Gee's fastballs, change-ups and sliders. They lashed five hits in the second inning and jumped to a four-run lead. What came next was the most reassuring moment of the night: Lee retired the Mets on seven pitches.

With no time to collect himself, Gee was bombarded in the third. He surrendered three home runs in the span of five pitches, victory over New York was all but guaranteed, and the home crowd exhaled.

"A lot of balls were up in the zone," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "After he'd give up a hit, they'd show the replay of it, I mean, he'd miss his target by two feet."

The Phillies bashed three home runs in an inning for the first time in two years. Howard and Young went back-to-back. Mayberry followed.

Howard's home run snapped a drought of 31 plate appearances to start the season without an extra-base hit. It was the longest such streak of his career. Entering Tuesday, only Ben Revere, Juan Pierre and Aaron Hicks - all three speedy centerfielders not known for pop - amassed more plate appearances than Howard without an extra-base hit.

Gee was pulled after three innings, the shortest start of his career, and replaced by Gloucester Catholic product Greg Burke. Burke surrendered a triple to Young, who later grounded out in his last attempt at the cycle. The last Phillies cycle remains David Bell's in 2004.

Where would the Phillies be without Lee? He pitched 11 scoreless innings to start 2013. John Buck smashed a fastball for a two-run homer in the fourth. It was Lee's only blemish.

"You could say we wouldn't have two wins," Manuel said. "That's where we'd be. A lot of questions for eight games, really."

He started the ninth at 96 pitches and allowed two base-runners. At 106 pitches, Manuel gave him the unpopular hook.

All was forgiven when Mike Adams froze Ruben Tejada for the final out.

Contact Matt Gelb at Follow on Twitter @magelb.

comments powered by Disqus