That is how the narrative goes, right? I mean, Cliff Lee is 0-3!
For seven innings, Lee was absolutely masterful, striking out twelve Dodgers while allowing just two singles and absolutely nothing even resembling a threat. Honestly, it’s probably the most impressive performance I’ve seen by an opposing pitcher in a long time, and while the Dodgers aren’t exactly a world-class offense these days, it hardly mattered; Lee was just this side of being perfect.
Lee needed to be that good, because Chad Billingsley was just a step behind, having allowed only a run in the first inning on two hits and little else. (And being bailed out to end that inning on an admittedly nice defensive play by Andre Ethier at the wall.) Though he hardly dominated in the way Lee did, striking out three over seven innings (and one of those was Lee), he did a fantastic job of keeping the Phillies off the board after the first, with the game flying by as the two starters set down hitter after hitter. Every time Billingsley tosses out an incredibly frustrating outing and we point out that while he may be inconsistent, the entire package is still worthwhile, it’s games like this and his season debut in San Diego that we point to.
Still, Billingsley looked doomed to a 1-0 defeat and another round of “he doesn’t have the guts” jokes until Lee was touched for two runs in an unorthodox eight inning. Matt Treanor (!) led off with a double but was cut down at third on Tony Gwynn‘s ill-advised bunt. I actually don’t even mind the bunt in that situation as much as you’d think, since it’s not like Gwynn had much of a chance to get a hit off of Lee, but if you’re going to try to bunt the man to third it’d be nice if A) you didn’t bunt it to the third-base side and B) you didn’t have the lead-footed Treanor on the bases. (I had a fantastic anti-bunt GIF to use here, but since the Dodgers won, we’ll save it for another night.) Bobby Abreu followed with a single to right field, yet the Dodgers made a second out at third when Gwynn was gunned down by a fantastic Hunter Pence throw.
With two outs, Dee Gordon stepped in against Lee, and while his single won’t at all be remembered, it’s notable, because the expected weak strikeout or groundout there would have ended the threat. Instead, he pushed a single through the right side, and that set the stage for Elian Herrera to be the hero for the second night in a row, driving in both Abreu & Gordon with a two-run double off the left field wall. (As I joked on Twitter, Juan Pierre‘s attempt at coming down with that ball was probably the most valuable he’s ever been for the Dodgers.)
Josh Lindblom & Kenley Jansen finished with two clean innings, and all of a sudden the Dodgers have taken the first two games of the series. Chad Billingsley “beat” Cliff Lee, and Elian Herrera is forcing us all to take notice of him. I can’t say I know exactly what’s going on here, but yet again, I’m loving it.