Lee struggles as Phils fall to Cubs, 4-3

Carlos Ruiz slides safely into third base, advancing after a wild pitch in the third inning. The Cubs' Donnie Murphy takes the throw. Ruiz, who had doubled in the Phillies' second run, was stranded at third. ANDREW A. NELLES / Associated Press
Carlos Ruiz slides safely into third base, advancing after a wild pitch in the third inning. The Cubs' Donnie Murphy takes the throw. Ruiz, who had doubled in the Phillies' second run, was stranded at third. ANDREW A. NELLES / Associated Press
Posted: September 02, 2013

CHICAGO - Pace is typically a weapon that Cliff Lee uses to his advantage.

Throw the ball, catch the ball, throw the ball.

Pound the strike zone, get three outs as fast as possible and run to and from the dugout at the end of each half inning.

That routine was missing Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field as Lee labored at a snail's pace and his pitch count soared so high after five innings that he had to be removed from the game.

The first Chicago hitter to step to the plate after Lee's departure was shortstop Starlin Castro, and he planted a pitch from reliever Zach Miner into the center-field seats for a solo home run. That proved to be the difference in the Cubs' 4-3 win over the Phillies.

"[Lee] just seemed a little out of sync the whole start," interim manager Ryne Sandberg said after the Phillies coughed up three different leads and failed to get the former Cubs star a second straight victory in his Wrigley Field homecoming. "He was throwing a lot of pitches and missing just off the plate. He's a guy who usually pitches ahead in the count and really goes after the hitters and pounds the zone, but he was a little off."

Lee needed more than 100 pitches to record 13 outs and threw a total of 113 pitches. It was his sixth-highest pitch total in 26 starts this season. In the five outings he threw more, however, he lasted at least seven innings.

"It was just a strange game in the fact that they laid off a lot of pitches that were just out of the strike zone," Lee said. "They were being called balls consistently, too. It seemed like I never got a good break as far as them chasing a good pitch. It was a strange day with that and they made me throw a lot of pitches. I wasn't commanding the ball as well as I like and every inning was a tough inning."

The toughest and the most unnecessarily long inning was the bottom of the third.

The Phillies took a 2-1 lead in the top of that inning, thanks to a gift-wrapped run from first baseman Anthony Rizzo. On his bobblehead giveaway day at Wrigley, Rizzo had an inexplicable misplay. With two outs and nobody on, Chase Utley hit a routine grounder to third baseman Donnie Murphy. The throw across the diamond was perfect, but Rizzo failed to get any leather on it and was charged with an error. That led to an RBI double by Carlos Ruiz that put the Phillies up, 2-1.

The Phillies, however, immediately returned the favor in similar fashion when third baseman Michael Young committed a two-out error with nobody on base. The miscue forced Lee to throw 15 more pitches in that inning and the Cubs tied the game on a Wellington Castillo single.

It was just that kind of day for Lee and the Phillies.


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

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