Cliff Lee AP

Cliff Lee gives up 8 runs vs. Rangers, still gets win

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Cliff Lee just knows how to win.

While Lee was touched up for eight runs over just five innings in his Opening Day start this afternoon, he was still the winning pitcher as the Phillies pounded the Rangers 14-10 at Globe Life Park. It was the most runs the Phillies had scored in a season opener since 1900.

Lee was given an early 6-0 lead as the Phillies beat up on Tanner Scheppers, who was making his first career start. The big blow was a grand slam from Jimmy Rollins in the top of the second inning. However, Lee quickly gave up the lead by allowing four runs in the bottom of the second inning and three more in the third.

The Phillies eventually took the lead back for good in the fifth inning when John Mayberry, Jr. delivered a pinch-hit two-run double against left-hander Pedro Figueroa. They tacked on four more in the sixth, including a solo home run from offseason acquisition Marlon Byrd, and one run in the eighth on a solo homer from Cody Asche.

This was just the fourth time in Lee’s career that he had allowed eight or more runs in a start. He didn’t allow more than five runs in any of his starts last season. The veteran southpaw the first pitcher to allow at least eight earned runs in a start and still win since the Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson did it last May 17 against the Orioles. If you’ll recall, Lee didn’t get his first win July 4 in 2012 despite pitching pretty well, which tells you all you need to know about how fickle this statistic can be at times. Still, he’ll gladly take the W to start the year.

Today in weird news: A fan mailed Cliff Lee fingernail clippings

Cliff Lee AP
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From MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince on Twitter:

I’m not sure my reaction to this has an official onomatopoeia.

The Phillies have told teams they’d trade Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels

Philadelphia Phillies v San Diego Padres
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If someone — anyone — has a clue what the Phillies’ grand plan is, I’d love to hear it. I’m sure anyone would:

I suppose that you could get a lot of building blocks for those guys. But if you’re building, why did you sign Carlos Ruiz and Marlon Byrd and make those other short-term, win-now moves they’ve made so far this offseason?

Seriously: what the heck is Ruben Amaro doing?

Cliff Lee plans to retire once his contract with the Phillies is up

Phillies' Lee reacts during Game 2 of their MLB National League Divisional Series baseball playoffs against the Cardinals in Philadelphia
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Phillies starter Cliff Lee was the tough-luck loser last night against the Braves. The lefty allowed just one run — an eighth-inning Chris Johnson solo home run — in eight innings while striking out 13 and walking none. It was part of an historically-great month of September and an overall productive season in Phillies red pinstripes.

For all his personal success, however, he hasn’t had much of an opportunity to win a championship. After signing a five-year deal with the Phillies after the 2010 season, he pitched in the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals, but the Phillies were ousted in five games. That was the last time the Phillies were post-season contenders, and it seems like that may be the case through the remainder of Lee’s contract. Lee is owed $25 million in each of 2014 and 2015, and he has a 2016 option for $27.5 million which vests based on playing time and health.

Per CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury, it sounds like Lee might call it quits once his contract is up, either after 2015 or ’16:

“I’m getting up there in age. I’m 35 years old now and when this contract’s over I plan on going home, so I’m running out of opportunities. All I can control is what I can control, and I’m going to do everything I can to help us win. That’s all I know how to do.”

[…]

“Right now, I don’t [see myself pitching beyond this contract],” Lee said. “There are a lot of things that can happen between now and then, but I just know that my kids are 12 and 10 and I’ve basically missed the first half of their lives.

“I’m financially able to shut it down, so … that’s how I feel right now. But when the time comes I might look at it differently.”

Lee ends his 2013 season 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA, leading the league with a 6.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a walk rate of 1.3 per nine innings. Since the start of the 2011 season, he has a 2.87 ERA, the third-best among pitchers who have logged at least 500 innings over the last three seasons. He has certainly performed well enough to merit his salary.

Cliff Lee has had a September to remember

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Mets
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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.