Michael Young starts at plate, Cliff Lee on mound in Phillies' win over Mets

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Cliff Lee helped stop a two-game losing streak with his second straight strong outing.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Cliff Lee helped stop a two-game losing streak with his second straight strong outing.
Posted: April 11, 2013

MICHAEL YOUNG has been in a Phillies uniform for only a few months.

But he's played in more major league games than anyone else in the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park. And he's the oldest player on the roster, too.

So when the question of the Phillies' offense arose on Tuesday afternoon - how its inconsistency has hidden underneath the struggles of the team top's two starters and middle relievers - Young was an obvious voice to seek out for an answer. The even-keeled veteran spoke with a calming voice at his corner locker stall.

"It's never one thing," Young said of how best to get the offense up and running. "It can be a three-run homer or a grounder that hits a sprinkler and gets you a double."

Young could have used an assist from a sprinkler on Tuesday night.

Young's one-out single in the second inning got the offense in gear and started his personal run at a cycle. Although Young collected hits in three straight innings - a single in the second, a home run in the third and a triple in the fourth - he came up short of his first career cycle.

But Young, Cliff Lee and the Phillies got the more important stat: an 8-3 win over the New York Mets.

A double away from the cycle, Young grounded out to short in the seventh inning, his fourth at-bat of the night.

"The sprinkler would have been nice," Young said with a laugh. "LaTroy [Hawkins] is a really good pitcher. I've faced him a lot over the years, and he's still doing it. I was happy where we were, and [the cycle] is not really that big a deal at all."

The bigger deal, of course, was the victory, one that nearly every player in red pinstripes who took the field contributed toward Tuesday.

Everyone in the starting lineup but Chase Utley, who walked twice and stole two bases, had at least one hit. Young, Ryan Howard and John Mayberry Jr. all hit their first home runs of the season to chase New York starter Dillon Gee.

And Cliff Lee was masterful for the second time in as many starts in 2013.

"Cliff is awesome," said Young, who also played with Lee in Texas. "I've loved playing behind Cliff. He's basically a baseball player who pitches. He loves to compete, he has a bad at-bat and he gets [ticked]. It's a lot of fun to play with guys like that."

Five nights removed from flirting with a complete game in his first start of the season in Atlanta, throwing eight shutout innings to snap a season-opening two-game losing streak, Lee pitched into the ninth inning Tuesday night. He failed again to finish off the complete game - Lee was pulled with two outs in the ninth - but Mike Adams easily converted the game's final out to end the Phils' two-game losing streak.

"Obviously, with one out to go in the game, you want to stay in there," said Lee, who had a brief chat with manager Charlie Manuel before turning the ball over. "But we won the game, and that's all that matters. That's what we're all here for. When we win, everything is OK."

The Phillies (3-5) will go for their first series win of the young season on Wednesday night against the Mets before hitting the road for six games in Miami and Cincinnati.

Nine days into the season, Lee already has stopped a pair of two-game losing streaks.

With Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay struggling in their first two starts, it's fair to wonder where the Phillies would be if the third leg of their ace-heavy trio was also in an early-season funk. Perhaps last place.

Hamels and Halladay are 0-4 with a 12.50 ERA.

"There's an argument we wouldn't have two wins, that's where we'd be," Manuel said. "It's very simple to read: He's pitched two of our three wins.

Thankfully for Manuel and Co., a citywide panic has been prevented thanks to Lee, who is 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA after two starts.

While Halladay has failed to pitch five innings in two starts and Hamels hasn't completed six, Lee has pitched at least eight innings in both of his starts.

"I'm just doing, and I expect myself to do - that's really it," Lee said. "That's what I expect . . . It's the standard I hold myself to. It's more disappointing when you don't get the results than the good feeling you get when you get the results, if that makes any sense."

Lee already has more wins in 2013 than he had at the All-Star break in 2012. It helped that he took the mound in the fourth inning Tuesday night with a 7-0 lead.

Young hit the first of three straight hits off Gee in the second inning. The Phils collected four runs on six hits and batted around in the second.

In the third, Howard led off with his first home run of the season. It was also his first extra-base hit, marking the longest he had gone into a season without more than a single.

One pitch later, Young ripped an opposite-field solo shot to make it 6-0 Phillies. Two batters later, Mayberry made it three solo homers in one inning.

"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.

"If we go out there and play like that, we feel like the results will be there. For a while, we were having trouble getting that big hit. Tonight was hopefully the start of something good."

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: philly.com/HighCheese

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