Dealt twice in July over the past three seasons, Cliff Lee isn’t
changing addresses after the 2012 trade deadline. Two-thirds of the
Philadelphia Phillies’ starting outfield is.
After unloading Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino earlier Tuesday
following four disappointing months, the visiting Phillies send Lee
to the hill to oppose Stephen Strasburg and the Washington
Nationals in the opener of this three-game set.
The Phillies (45-57) haven’t been in last place this late in a
season in nearly 10 years, and after being swept in Atlanta over
the weekend – they’re now 16 1/2 games behind first-place
Washington and 13 out in the wild-card race – general manager Ruben
Amaro decided to make some moves.
Amaro first sent center fielder and pending free agent Victorino
to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two pitchers, then shipped Pence to
San Francisco for outfielder Nate Schierholtz and two minor
Victorino and Pence have made a combined four All-Star
appearances over the past four seasons and combined for 26 homers
and 99 RBIs in 2012. One-time top prospect Domonic Brown was called
up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley following the moves.
Washington (61-40), meanwhile, was quiet at the deadline,
passing on making a move to improve its chances of reaching the
postseason for the first time since the Montreal Expos made the
franchise’s only playoff appearance in 1981.
The Nationals haven’t looked like they need any sort of help
lately, winning eight of nine after Sunday’s 11-10, 11-inning
victory at Milwaukee. Michael Morse hit a tying two-run homer in
the ninth, then drove in a pair of runs with a double in the
“It’s crazy because you never know what this game has in store
until the last out,” Morse said.
Strasburg (11-4, 2.76 ERA) will look to keep Washington
The right-hander had his longest outing in more than a month
Wednesday, allowing one run and four hits in seven innings of a 5-2
win over the New York Mets. Manager Davey Johnson was critical of
his ace after he gave up four runs in 5 1-3 innings in Washington’s
loss to Atlanta on July 20.
Strasburg responded with one of his more dominant outings,
striking out 11.
“Once the lights are on and you’re facing another team, you want
to go out there to make your stuff really dirty,” Strasburg said.
“It’s something where I think when I take a step back and relax and
let it happen instead of forcing the issue it helps out.”
Strasburg wasn’t at his best against the Phillies on May 4 when
he allowed three runs in six innings, but the Nationals escaped
with a 4-3 victory in 11 innings in the teams’ first meeting of the
Washington has won 13 of the last 17 matchups – a run that
started with a 10-2 win over Lee on May 31, 2011.
Staying put for now after being shipped away at the 2009 and ’10
deadlines – once to Philadelphia – Lee (1-6, 3.95) is coming off a
rough outing. He tied career highs by allowing 12 hits and four
homers while surrendering six runs over seven innings of
Philadelphia’s 7-6 win over Milwaukee last Tuesday.
The left-hander had gone 1-1 with a 2.05 ERA in his previous
three outings. He’s lost his last two starts with a 5.84 ERA versus
Nats shortstop Danny Espinosa, hitting .315 since the All-Star
break, is 7 for 10 with three homers against Lee.