After a pair of comeback attempts had come up just shy the previous two nights, the Nationals faced the tall order of trying to beat Cliff Lee Wednesday night in Philadelphia. That challenge appeared particularly daunting as Lee, named to the All-Star Game last week, entered the contest riding an eight-game winning streak, including a 4-2 decision just a few weeks prior over Washington at Citizens Bank Park.
After four scoreless innings to open the game, Lee sat at 135.2 innings pitched for the year, having allowed just nine home runs all season. He quickly got ahead of Anthony Rendon 0-2 to start the fifth. And then, out of nowhere, a quick flip of the rookie’s wrists sent the next pitch into the first row in the left field bleachers. Two pitches later, Wilson Ramos rode an outside fastball to the opposite field and out for a solo shot of his own. Just like that, 2-0 Nationals.
But Washington wasn’t done there. The very next inning, nearly the exact same scenario played out once more. Ryan Zimmerman fell behind 0-2 leading off the inning. Then he turned around an elevated fastball and crushed it to deep left-center to make it 3-0. Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz tossed Lee a new baseball, which Jayson Werth promptly deposited into the left field seats on the first pitch of his at-bat. Back-to-back home runs in back-to back-innings.
Of course, you may remember that Lee’s only other game allowing multiple home runs this season was that start against the Nationals, when both Werth and Jeff Kobernus took him deep for the only Washington scoring of the game. But for those of you whose only knowledge of Lee has come from that other Nationals game, you may have a skewed view of just how stingy he normally is when it comes to the longball. By the end of the night, Lee had the following astounding split:
123.2 innings pitched vs. rest of the league – seven home runs
15.0 innings pitched vs. the Nationals – six home runs
That means the Philadelphia southpaw holds the rest of baseball to just 0.5 home runs per nine innings pitched. Meanwhile, the Nationals are averaging 3.6 big flies per nine frames against him.
With four games left on the final road swing before the All-Star break, it was a good sign that the Nationals have brought their newfound high-scoring offense on the road with them.