It only took him 14 starts, but Cliff Lee is finally on the board. He pitched eight innings of two-run ball as the Phillies defeated the Mets 9-2 on Wednesday.
The Phillies were actually down for much of the game, failing to get on the board until the seventh. Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz hit back-to-back homers off Chris Young in that frame, giving Philadelphia a 3-2 lead. The Phillies then piled on against the beleaguered Mets bullpen, scoring three more runs in both the eighth and ninth innings.
The barrage lifted the Mets’ bullpen ERA to 5.11 on the season. MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo pointed out that it’s more than one-third of a run worse than that of the next worst bullpen.
Utley’s two-run homer was his second since he returned from the disabled list last week. He’s 6-for-22 in five starts and one appearance off the bench.
Lee ended up 0-5 with a 4.13 ERA over 13 starts in his long winless streak. His only other winless streak in excess of six starts came in 2004, when he went 0-6 with a 10.51 ERA in a nine-start span for the Indians.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.