For the first time this season, Cliff Lee has a chance to win three straight starts.
Though Lee (4-7, 3.52 ERA) is mired in one of his most disappointing seasons in an otherwise successful 11-year career, he has allowed one run in 14 innings while winning two consecutive starts for the first time since a seven-game run July 30-Sept 5, 2011. He gave up five hits over seven scoreless innings of a 5-1 win at Atlanta on Saturday."It looks like he enjoyed pitching," manager Charlie Manuel said about Lee, who left that game for precautionary reasons after his left hamstring cramped. "He started feeling comfortable and feeling like he could pitch the way he wanted to."
Lee has been pleased with the way he's thrown of late during an extremely frustrating season for him and the Phillies (66-71)."What's done is done," Lee said. "We've been playing better, well-rounded baseball."
Winners in nine of 13, the Phillies took two of three at NL Central-leading Cincinnati to conclude a 4-2 trip, and have won four of six versus Colorado (56-80) this year. Lee allowed three runs in six innings of a 6-2 loss at Coors Field on July 13 to fall to 2-1 with a 1.53 ERA in four starts, including the postseason, against the Rockies.
Facing Lee this time likely presents a more difficult challenge than normal for a Rockies club that is coming off two straight 1-0 losses at Atlanta - both via unearned runs. Colorado has never been shut out in three consecutive contests."It's very difficult to take," manager Jim Tracy said.
Rockies All-Star Carlos Gonzalez went 0 for 4 in the last two games but is 5 for 10 against Lee. Gonzalez is batting .422 in 22 regular season and playoff contests versus Philadelphia.
Scheduled Colorado starter Jeff Francis (5-4, 5.73) has allowed three runs on two homers in 10 innings while failing to earn a decision in each of his last two starts against the Phillies. The most recent came June 21 at Citizens Bank Park, when he gave up a first-inning home run to Jimmy Rollins and five other hits over five innings of a 4-1 victory.
Francis, however, was roughed up for six runs and 10 hits in 3 2-3 innings of an 11-10 win over San Diego on Sunday.
While Rollins is 7 for 17 versus Francis, teammate Chase Utley is 3 for 15 with six strikeouts against the left-hander.
Utley is 5 for 31 (.161) in his last seven games overall but hit a two-run homer in Philadelphia's 6-2 victory over the Reds on Wednesday.
"His power is still there," Manuel said of Utley, who is hitting .242 with 10 homers and 29 RBIs in 58 games since returning from a knee injury.
|August 22, 2012||Dexter Fowler||Day-to-Day||Left game - right ankle injury|
|August 20, 2012||Eric Young||15-Day DL||Left intercostal strain|
|August 19, 2012||Michael Cuddyer||15-Day DL||Right oblique strain|
|August 19, 2012||Josh Rutledge||Day-to-Day||Left game - left quad tightness|
|August 14, 2012||Drew Pomeranz||Day-to-Day||Chest soreness|
|August 06, 2012||Todd Helton||60-Day DL||Torn labrum, right hip|
|August 29, 2012||Cole Hamels||Day-to-Day||Gastrointestinal illness|
|August 29, 2012||Vance Worley||15-Day DL||Loose bodies in right elbow|
|August 28, 2012||Domonic Brown||Day-to-Day||Left game - left knee soreness|
|August 24, 2012||Brian Schneider||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|August 13, 2012||Nate Schierholtz||15-Day DL||Fractured right big toe|
|August 13, 2012||Nate Schierholtz||15-Day DL||Fractured right big toe|
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- After spending the first half of the season waiting for Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to return from injuries, the Philadelphia Phillies are back to where they were without the two stars.
Nate Schierholtz hit an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Phillies to a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Friday night.
The five-time defending NL East champion Phillies are within four games of .500 for the first time since they were 36-40 on June 26, the night before Utley came back. They're 22-14 since trading outfielders Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino at the trade deadline.
"That's kind of the way it goes," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I guess we have to keep at them."
Utley missed the first 76 games because of a chronic condition in both knees. Howard sat out the first 84 games recovering from surgery on his Achilles.
"If I had my way, we never would've been under .500," Manuel said.
Jimmy Rollins walked off Will Harris (1-1) to start the bottom of the ninth. Rollins advanced to second on Juan Pierre 's sacrifice. After Utley was intentionally walked, both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Schierholtz then hit a sharp grounder to right field past a drawn-in infield.
"I knew I had to put it in play," Schierholtz said. "It's exciting. It's nice to get a big hit and help the team win."
Pinch-hitter Laynce Nix hit a tying, two-run double in the seventh, and the Phillies won for the 10th time in 14 games.
Jonathan Papelbon (4-6) tossed a scoreless ninth to earn the win.
Cliff Lee didn't get much run support again and failed to win his third straight start. He allowed two runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings, striking out seven.
The Phillies have scored three runs or fewer in 15 of Lee's 25 starts.
"Hopefully we can continue and finish this year out strong," Lee said.
Rockies starter Jeff Francis struck out seven in 5 2-3 scoreless innings. He gave up six hits to lower his ERA to 5.38.
"Regardless of their season, that's a pretty good team over there," Francis said.
Down 2-0, the Phillies rallied in the seventh off a trio of relievers. Pinch-hitter Pete Orr led off with an infield single against Carlos Torres . Two outs later, Pierre hit a single. Matt Reynolds entered and walked Utley to load the bases. Josh Roenicke came in and allowed the double to Nix to tie it at 2.
Coming off consecutive 1-0 losses at Atlanta, the Rockies jumped ahead 2-0 in the first. They got help from a fielding mistake by second baseman Utley.
Josh Rutledge hit a foul pop down the right-field line, but Utley overran it and the ball fell behind him. Rutledge then ripped a single just over shortstop Jimmy Rollins . Carlos Gonzalez followed with a double to left-center to score Rutledge. Wilin Rosario 's RBI single made it 2-0.
Francis pitched out of a jam in the first after the Phillies had runners on second and third with one out. He struck out Ty Wigginton , and fanned Domonic Brown to end the inning after an intentional walk to John Mayberry Jr.
Francis again struck out Wigginton with a runner on third and one out in the third. He then retired Mayberry on a foul pop.
" Jeff Francis did an unbelievable job for us tonight," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.
Francis looked like the ace who won 17 games in 2007 and baffled the Phillies in Game 1 of the NLDS. The soft-tossing lefty beat Cole Hamels in that game, spoiling Philadelphia's return to the postseason after a 14-year absence. Francis allowed two runs and four hits in six innings, striking out eight in a 4-2 win at Citizens Bank Park. The Rockies swept the Phillies en route to reaching the World Series.
Since that time, Francis underwent shoulder surgery that sidelined him for all of 2009, spent last season with Kansas City and started this season in the minors for Cincinnati.
Notes: The Phillies activated All-Star C Carlos Ruiz from the disabled list. Ruiz has been sidelined since Aug. 3 because of plantar fasciitis in his left foot. ... Philadelphia placed 3B Placido Polanco on the DL with lower back inflammation. His season is likely over. ... Pierre had two steals in the third inning for 34 this season. Despite starting only 88 games, he's only four behind NL leader Michael Bourn . ... Phillies 3B Kevin Frandsen was a late scratch. ... Francis has more wins (five) than Lee (four), even though he didn't make his first start until June 9. Francis made his 200th career appearance, all but one as a starter. ... Rutledge will play 2B when two-time All-Star SS Troy Tulowitzki returns from the DL. ... All-Star lefty Cole Hamels (14-6) tries for his career high-tying 15th win on Saturday against Colorado's Tyler Chatwood (4-4).