Many hyped this week’s interleague series between the Red Sox and Phillies as a potential World Series matchup. And frankly, it’s tough to argue. But tonight was all about Cliff Lee.
Lee just finished off his third straight complete game shutout as part of a 5-0 win. He held the Red Sox to just two hits while fanning five and walking two. The southpaw is the first Phillies’ pitcher to throw three consecutive shutouts since Robin Roberts in 1950.
Lee actually hasn’t allowed a run over his last 32 innings dating back to June 11, which represents a new career-best. He has allowed just one run over five starts in June, good enough for a ridiculous 0.21 ERA over 42 innings. His ERA has dropped from 3.94 to 2.66 in the process. That’s absurd.
As Jayson Stark of ESPN.com notes, no pitcher has thrown four straight complete game shutouts since Orel Hershiser had five in a row in 1988. Lee will try to keep the streak alive Sunday against the Blue Jays.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.
Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.
Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.