Lee roughed up as Phillies pounded by Nationals


Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Posted: 9:57 p.m.Updated: 11:37 p.m.

By Jim Salisbury


WASHINGTONCliff Lee began Tuesday nights postgame interview session with a belch. Hopefully it tasted better than the pitching performance he delivered.

Lee took a beating from the second-worst hitting club in the majors. The Washington Nationals, who entered the game hitting .230 as a team, pounded the lefthander for seven hits and six runs in 5 13 innings en route to a 10-2 win. Second baseman Danny Espinosa homered twice off Lee. One was a three-run shot in the third inning.

It boiled down to Espinosa hitting two big home runs for them, Lee said once his stomach settled. Youve got to give him some credit. He had a great game.

Theyre professional hitters and if you throw pitches over the plate, theyll hit you.

Lee is 4-5 with a 3.94 ERA after 12 starts. He has allowed 17 hits, three of which have been homers, and 10 runs in his last two starts. Thats not quite what the Phils expected when they lavished 120 million on Lee, but theres a lot of baseball to play and he will have plenty of chances to get right.

Hes in a little funk, manager Charlie Manuel said. Hell be all right.

Manuel said Lees command has been off. That much is obvious. He has walked 12 batters in his last four starts and is up to 19 walks in 80 innings. Last year he walked just 18 batters in 212 13 innings.

You never want to walk anyone, Lee said. Anytime I walk multiple guys Im not happy. But those things happen. This is over now. Id like to erase it from my memory like it never happened, but I cant. Ive got to do a better job.

There was plenty of mound irony in this game. Lee had pitched shutouts in his previous two outings against the Nationals and was 3-0 lifetime against them, allowing just five runs in 19 innings.

Nationals starter Jason Marquis, meanwhile, had previously been used as a punching bag by the Phillies. He was 0-5 with a 9.49 ERA in six starts against the Phils since joining the Nationals in 2010.

So, of course, Lee struggled and Marquis had success. Baseball. Crazy game.

Marquis is a sinkerballer who often sees his pitches drift up in the strike zone against the Phillies. In this game, he did a good job keeping the ball down en route to holding the Phils to two runs over 6 13 innings. The Phillies runs came on back-to-back solo home runs by Domonic Brown and John Mayberry Jr. in the fifth inning.

Brown added a double in the game and is 11 for 33 (.333) with four doubles, a homer and five RBIs in 10 games since coming up. He will likely take his hot bat to the bench Wednesday afternoon as the Nationals send a lefty, John Lannan, to the mound. Manuel has vowed to break Brown in slowly against lefthanders.

The eight-run margin of victory was the Nats largest over the Phillies since they left Montreal. The Phillies had won six in a row over Washington before this loss.

The game got away from Lee quickly in the third inning. A pair of singles, a walk and a sacrifice fly by Jayson Werth plated one run. Michael Morse singled in another before Espinosa put a quick swing on a high, first-pitch changeup and sent it over the left field wall.

Espinosas second homer came on a 3-1 fastball leading off the bottom of the sixth.

It was a fastball away, Lee said. I didnt want to walk him. He put a good swing on the ball.

Lee would have liked to have had the earlier home-run pitch back.

Take that away and its a different game, he said. But you cant do that.

E-mail Jim Salisbury at jsalisbury@comcastsportsnet.com

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