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.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: