PHILADELPHIA - The list of starting pitchers to shut down the Nationals’ offense this season is pretty lengthy. We can now add Cliff Lee to that group.
Lee held the Nats to just two runs (on solo home runs by Jayson Werth and Jeff Kobernus) on five hits over eight innings, leading the Phillies to a 4-2 win that knocked the Nats back to two games under .500, tied for their lowest mark of the season.
“He came right after us and threw a lot of first-pitch strikes,” manager Davey Johnson said of Lee. “Just came right after us. A lot of hard stuff. Cut the fastball a little bit. (Ross Detwiler) was kind of matching him pitch for pitch. He looked like he got a little out of sorts in the sixth and the ball started coming up and he got a little wild. Just got to tip your hat to Mr. Lee. He pitched a heck of a ballgame.
“We need to be more aggressive, but I guess he was staying on the corners. We weren’t getting a good look at him. But he’s been doing that all year. That’s his M.O. Comes right at you.”
Detwiler was cruising through the first five innings, having thrown 54 pitches and allowed just one run. Things turned in the sixth, however, when he allowed the first four Phillies hitters to reach base. Detwiler appeared like he might get out of a big jam when he got back-to-back strikeouts of Domonic Brown and Delmon Young, but he then fell behind Kevin Frandsen 2-0 and allowed a two-run single to left that fell just in front of Steve Lombardozzi and made it a 4-1 Phillies lead.
“I thought the biggest difference (in the sixth) was falling behind hitters,” Detwiler said. “The first few innings I wasn’t falling behind very much and kind of putting the pressure on them. Then the sixth came and I just wasn’t throwing strikes early in the count. I got in fastball counts and they’re good hitters over there, so they’re going to hit those.”
It was just Detwiler’s second start since coming off the DL, so fatigue might’ve been a factor for him in the sixth despite the low pitch-count. Detwiler acknowledged that he was overthrowing that frame, leaving pitches up in the zone.
“I thought he was still throwing the ball good,” Johnson said. “He had great velocity and he was hitting his spots. Then all of a sudden in the sixth he seemed to kind of lose it. Ball started coming up. He pitched a decent ballgame, though.”
Lombardozzi admitted that the Frandsen liner was a tough play because it was a liner right at him, making it tough to get a good initial read. But Johnson wasn’t going to blame his second baseman-turned-left fielder for not being able to charge the ball and bring it in on the fly.
“That was a tough play,” Johnson said. “I thought he got a good jump on it, just couldn’t quite get there.”
Kobernus’ homer cut the Phillies’ lead to two, but it also gave him his first big league longball.
“I was just going up there trying to get on base,” he said. “I’m not a home run hitter but going up there trying to see some pitches and hopefully get on base. We’re down three right there. We’re not looking for a home run, necessarily. But he left something up in the zone and I was able to put a good swing on it.”
The rookie had the home run ball in his locker after the game. It was retrieved for him by the clubhouse staff, who swapped some Nats gear - including a Jayson Werth jersey - for the ball.
“I guess they don’t want my stuff,” Kobernus said with a smile.
The Nats take another disappointing loss with them as they leave Citizens Bank Park tonight, but Jayson Werth says it won’t affect the team for long.
“When you get to this level, play for this long, you’ve learned to get over stuff like that pretty quick,” Werth said. “It’s just part of it. People that drown in it and people that take it home and allow it to eat at them and all that don’t usually last too long. They don’t stick around. That’s all part of being a big-leaguer. You’ve just got to do it.
“You’ve got to show up tomorrow ready to eat somebody’s face.”