Behind a seven-hitter from Cliff Lee, back-to-back home runs and a pair of RBIs from Hunter Pence, the Philadelphia Phillies were able to continue their hot streak with a series opening victory over the Giants 3-0. The Phillies have now won a season-high seven in a row since losing two straight to the Giants a week ago and moved to 4-0 on their current 10-game road trip against the NL West.
Lee threw his fifth shut out of the season in style, going the distance scattering seven hits to go along with eight strikeouts and no walks. His stellar command of his pitches haunted the Giants all night long. The left-handed ace was able to constantly get ahead of hitters while avoiding making mistakes over the heart of the plate. The highlight of Lee’s night, and I’m sure to the delight of Phillies fans, was striking out last year’s World Series hero Cody Ross four times.
Traded away from Philadelphia to Seattle prior to last season, Lee wasn’t with the Phillies in 2010 to experience the unpleasant feelings of losing the NL pennant to the Giants last October. But, as fate would have it, the baseball gods aligned the stars. Lee was traded to the Texas Rangers before last year’s trade deadline and ended up facing the Giants in the World Series. Both the Rangers and Lee ran out of postseason magic, beating Lee twice en route to winning the World Series in five games. But with Lee back in Philadelphia, the Phillies have every reason to believe 2011 will end vastly different than 2010. Hunter Pence may have a big say-so as well.
Pence hit his first home run as a Phillies, then John Mayberry followed up with a homer of his own in the second inning to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead, which proved to be insurmountable for the Giants. Pence added an insurance run in the top of the ninth with an RBI single. His homer in the second ended a 19-game homerless drought that spanded 67 at-bats. Since acquiring the Pence, the Phillies are undefeated (6-0) while the right fielder is hitting .360 (9-for-25) with five RBIs and has a hit in each game.
Pence finsished with three hits and combined with Shane Victorino, the tandem had five of the Phillies’ eight hits. That was all Lee would need to record his 11th victory of the season. It’s the first time since Steve Carlton in 1982 that a Phillies pitcher has thrown as many as five shutouts in a season. After giving up a hit to Orlando Cabrera in the bottom of the fourth inning, Lee retired 10 straight batters before yielding a single in the eighth to Aubrey Huff.
Madison Bumgarner, another of San Francisco’s postseason heroes, gathered himself effectively after allowing consecutive home runs to Pence and Mayberry retiring 13 of the next 14 batters following Mayberry’s homer. Bumgarner last eight innings, allowing six hits, walking two and striking out nine. After the second, Bumgarner didn’t allow more than one runner on base the rest of the game.
Philadelphia improved to 72-39, leading the second-place Atlanta Braves by 8 1/2 games in the NL East. Next up, the Phillies take aim at Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez. This will be the last appetizer before the weekend feast. Waiting on deck are Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, as well as Cole Hamels and the return of Roy Oswalt on Sunday.