Lee helping Phillies send a strong message

Updated: August 19, 2009

Al Bello/Getty Images

Cliff Lee improved to 4-0 with the Phillies with a complete-game, 11-strikeout effort Wednesday.

The Phillies got what a lot of teams wanted, and that was a top-of-the-rotation pitcher in Cliff Lee. He's been outstanding, including a complete-game, two-hit, 11-strikeout masterpiece against the Diamondbacks. So, everyone wants to know, why then do the Phillies need Pedro Martinez?

Well, the truth is they needed somebody at the back end of their rotation. J.A. Happ has been incredible. If Happ wasn't having an unbelievably great season, it would magnify how inconsistent Cole Hamels (7-7, 4.69 ERA) has been. But the Phillies are in first place, Lee came aboard and proceeded to start 4-0, Joe Blanton has started to step it up … it's taken the heat off Hamels.

Ultimately, the Phillies have set themselves up to win in the postseason. Some teams hope to get to the postseason, and then they wait to see what happens. The Phillies are planning on getting to the postseason, and trying to win the whole thing once they get there.

If they go into the postseason with Lee, Hamels, Happ, Blanton (who has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since the beginning of July, with a 1.79 ERA since July started), and then Pedro as a swingman then they are set and ready to go. They just have to get in.

Acquiring Lee was a great decision for the Phillies. A deal for Roy Halladay -- who, by the way, lost Wednesday night while Lee was handcuffing the Diamondbacks -- couldn't be reached. The next-best available pitcher was Cliff Lee, and they got him. So, when the best team in the National League gets the best pitcher available, you have to think it is the favorite to win the league championship and to get back to the World Series.

The Phillies send a message every once in a while when they lose a couple of games, then start up a big series. They send a message like, "Don't even think about it." They are so good it's scary.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Aug. 18 | Aug. 17 | Aug. 16 | Aug. 13 | Aug. 12


Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
Ryan Howard, PHI31HarenBot 5: 1-2, 1 Out. 2 on.
Jason Bay, BOS27HalladayTop 5: 0-0, 1 Out. 1 on.
Jayson Werth, PHI26HarenBot 5: 0-0, 1 Out. None on.
Chase Utley, PHI25HarenBot 3: 0-0, 1 Out. 1 on.
Clint Barmes, COL20RiveraTop 5: 0-1, 2 Outs. None on.
The complete list of Wednesday's homers


Braves at Mets, 7:15 p.m. ET

Johan Santana has been uncharacteristically inconsistent lately. A good start July 30 against Colorado (0 runs), was followed by a so-so one his next time out against St. Louis (5 runs). He limited the Padres to one run at San Diego, then gave up four over 6 2/3 innings against the Giants. What happens next?

Twins at Rangers, 8:05 p.m. ET

Derek Holland has come off consecutive solid starts against a pair of solid opponents, posting a complete-game win on the road against the Angels, then following it up with 6 2/3 strong innings in a victory against the Red Sox. Anthony Swarzak has lost his past three starts and not lasted more than four innings in any of them.

Marlins at Astros, 8:10 p.m. ET

Josh Johnson, with his 12-2 record, has quietly posted the best winning percentage in baseball this season. He is 5-0 over his past six starts, and has 26 strikeouts against four walks over his past three outings. Wandy Rodriguez is coming off his worst outing of the year (10 runs in four innings at Milwaukee). Before that, he had won his past six decisions.

For the rest of Thursday's schedule, click here.



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Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he takes a closer look at Cliff Lee's complete-game, two-hit, 11-strikeout gem against the Diamondbacks on Wednesday:

Complete games with two hits or fewer and 11+ strikeouts (2009)
Pitcher Opponent
Cliff Lee Diamondbacks
Jonathan Sanchez Padres*
Jon Lester Rangers
Justin Verlander Indians

* No-hitter



Cliff Lee• Hard to argue with selecting Cliff Lee, who improved to 4-0 since joining the Phillies. His ERA with the Phillies is 0.82 in those four starts and he has struck out 34 and walked only six. He has gone at least seven innings in all four starts and at least eight in three.
Bobby ParnellBobby Parnell made history. No, not good history. Parnell allowed nine hits and nine runs in three innings of work in a 15-2 loss against the Braves. The nine runs were the most given up by a Mets starting pitcher at home in club history.


Matt Cain The Giants' Matt Cain was exceptional in July, going 3-0 with a 0.94 ERA in six starts.

The 24-year-old right-hander has struggled in August, though. He is 0-2 with a 4.84 ERA in three starts this month. And a big reason has been the ineffectiveness of his slider, which has gone from unhittable to pedestrian as he uses it more often.

Cain's slider (past two months)
July August
Pct. of pitches 10.2 19.3
BA against .000 .278
Strike pct. 78.0 66.0
Miss pct. 27.0 7.0
Chase pct. 42.0 26.0

-- ESPN Stats & Information


Fantasy AJ Mass examines the 12 games on Thursday's slate.

Mass ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Thursday. Daily Notes