Phillies starter Cliff Lee shut out the Braves through seven innings tonight, but an equally-dominating performance by Braves starter Kris Medlen and an eighth-inning solo home run by Chris Johnson left him the tough-luck loser. Lee struck out 13, walked none, and allowed just three hits over eight innings, but the Phillies’ offense just couldn’t figure Medlen out.
In 39 innings over five starts this September, Lee has compiled a 1.85 ERA with 54 strikeouts and one walk. It is the 48th time since 1901 a pitcher has struck out at least 54 batters in a month in five or fewer starts; the 12th time it has happened in September/October specifically. It is also the 62th time since 1901 that a pitcher has walked one or none in a month in at least five starts; the 17th in September/October specifically. Lee is the first to strike out 50-plus and walk one or fewer in a month.
Lee finishes the season 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA in 222.2 innings along with 222 strikeouts and 32 walks.
On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.
Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”
Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.
Update (4:43 PM ET): In response to this, Manfred said that if a catcher or coach made a seventh mound visit, there would have to be a pitching change (via Fletcher). However, chief baseball officer Joe Torre said (via SB Nation’s Eric Stephen) that the seventh visit cannot trigger a pitching change. The umpire would simply have to prevent the seventh mound visit.