Cliff Lee is “very close to picking up a ball”

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Finally a dose of hope for injured ace Cliff Lee …

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg told Matt Gelb at the Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday evening that the left-hander is nearly over the discomfort in his pitching elbow and “very close to picking up a ball.”

Lee has been on the disabled list since May 19 because of a left elbow strain and there is still no timetable for his return to Philly’s active roster. If he makes it back before the July 31 trade deadline, he is sure to be a popular target for contending teams.

The 35-year-old owns a spectacular 2.83 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 8.9 K/9 in 734 1/3 innings since joining Philadelphia prior to the start of the 2011 campaign. He is earning a $25 million salary this season and owed $25 million in 2015 (with a $12.5 million buyout on a $27.5 million vesting option for 2016).

Stephen Strasburg homers, knocks in five runs vs. Braves

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Stephen Strasburg‘s bat was on fire Thursday night in Atlanta. He hit a three-run home run off of Touki Toussaint to cap off an eight-run third inning, then added a two-run single off of Toussaint in the fifth.

The last time a pitcher knocked in at least five runs was on April 11, 2014 when Madison Bumgarner homered and drove in five runs at home against the Rockies. Strasburg is just the seventh pitcher since 2000 to knock in five runs in one game. The others, along with Strasburg and Bumgarner:

  • Chris Carpenter (Cardinals) vs. Reds, October 1, 2009 (HR, 6 RBI)
  • Jason Marquis (Cubs) vs. Mets, September 22, 2008 (HR, 5 RBI)
  • Micah Owings (Diamondbacks) vs. Braves, August 18, 2007 (2 HR, 6 RBI)
  • Robert Person (Phillies) vs. Expos, June 2, 2002 (HR, 7 RBI)
  • Shawn Estes (Giants) vs. Expos, May 24, 2000 (HR, 5 RBI)

Strasburg is 3-for-3 overall as he also singled to lead off the third. Tonight’s homer marked the fourth of his career and he’s now up to 25 RBI.

Strasburg is performing well on the mound as well. At the time of this writing, he has held the Braves to a lone run on four hits and a walk with six strikeouts over four innings as the Nationals lead 10-1.