Cliff Lee didn't have his best stuff Sunday night, and the Phillies' bats were stagnant yet again in a 4-1 loss to the Braves.
Lee (10- 5) was in trouble early against the Braves, who had taken the first two games of the series with wins on both Friday and Saturday.
It started when Jason Heyward led off the game with a walk and, with one out, Freddie Freeman singled into right field to move Heyward up a base. A passed ball by Carlos Ruiz allowed Freeman and Heyward to advance to second and third, respectively. Brian McCann struck out for the second out before hot-hitting Chris Johnson singled to right, driving in both Freeman and Heyward to give Atlanta an early, 2-0 lead.
Rookie Alex Wood (2-2) took the mound for Atlanta in his fourth start of the season and had little trouble from the Phillies' bats, like most pitchers lately. He worked around a one-out walk to Chase Utley to record a scoreless first inning, and then retired the side in order in the bottom of the second.
In the top of the second, B.J. Upton, who recently came off the disabled list for Atlanta, hit a ground ball up the middle for a leadoff single. Andrelton Simmons walked to move Upton up to second, and Wood sacrificed to Lee to advance the runners to second and third. Jason Heyward grounded into a fielder's choice to first, and Carlos Ruiz took a throw from first quick enough to catch Upton in a run down between third and home for the second out. Lee then retired Justin Upton on a ground ball to shortstop to end the inning.
Lee allowed just a single to Johnson in the third before getting out of the inning on a strikeout of Dan Uggla. In the bottom of the third, Carlos Ruiz led off with what at first seemed to be a solo home run to left, but upon further review by the umpires was ruled a double as the ball had not cleared the fence enough to be a homer. After Lee sacrificed to third to move Ruiz up a base, Michael Young also grounded out to third, scoring Ruiz and cutting Atlanta's lead in half at 2-1.
In the fourth, B.J. Upton, like Ruiz, led off with what appeared to be a solo homer (though his went to right), but upon further review the umpires determined that the ball had not cleared the wall and was also a double. Lee retired Simmons on a flyout to center and struck Wood out for the first two outs, but Jason Heyward managed a hit to deep right that scored Upton before Justin Upton doubled Heyward in from first.
The Braves took a 4-1 lead on Upton's RBI and never looked back. Wood allowed three baserunners the next three innings, but only really had some trouble in the fifth when John Mayberry, Jr. reached first on an error by Johnson at third. Chooch followed with a walk, and the Phillies suddenly had the tying run at the plate with no outs, but Wood retired John McDonald and Michael Young before Mayberry was picked off on the basepaths to end the inning.
The rest of the game went on with little action, as from the sixth inning to the ninth, the two teams combined to collect just six, including just three hits. Jonathan Papelbon came in to pitch the top of the ninth and recieved a substantial amount of booing from the home crowd before working a scoreless inning of relief.
Craig Kimbrel recorded a scoreless frame for his 34th save of the season as the Braves completed a three game sweep of the Phils.
Lee's performance was rather shaky today. He was throwing strikes from the beginning (95 pitches, 65 strikes) in his first start since allowing five runs over six innings in a loss to the New York Mets on July 21st. Problem was, though, he was to throwing too much around the plate, and the Braves hitters were seeing the ball well enough to record 10 base runners against Lee in his five innings.
The Braves hitters strikeout a lot, so the eight K's Lee recorded are just as much a product of the Atlanta hitters' aggressiveness as the runs were. He was still throwing 88-92 in the start, so hopefully he just had to shake off some rust and will be better in his next outing, most likely against Washington on the road.
The hitting is, of course, a whole different story all together. The offense continues to look lifeless, and the ESPN commentators calling the game noted that one does get the feeling that a three run deficit might as well be a blow out, as far as our hitting is concerned. It's really hard to disagree.
The Phillies get an off day before heading to Chicago Tuesday to face the Cubs. Kyle Kendrick takes the mound for the Phils and will be opposed by righty Edwin Jackson