PHILADELPHIA (AP) – In his first game back with the Phillies in front of fans who adore him, Cliff Lee even heard cheers after striking out.
Lee can do no wrong in Philadelphia.
The lefty struck out 11 in seven impressive innings, five players had multiple hits and the Phillies beat the Houston Astros 9-4 Saturday night.
A day after rallying against closer Brandon Lyon for a comeback win in the ninth, the Phillies roughed up starter Wandy Rodriguez.
The victory might be costly for the Phillies because center fielder Shane Victorino left with soreness in his left calf. There was no immediate word on the extent of his injury, but Victorino has twice been on the disabled list with calf strains.
The Phillies already are missing second baseman Chase Utley, closer Brad Lidge and outfielder Domonic Brown.
Lee (1-0) allowed three runs and four hits. Raul Ibanez was 2 for 3 with two walks, two RBIs and three runs to pace a 14-hit attack.
Rodriguez (0-1) allowed seven runs and nine hits in four-plus innings. Carlos Lee had three hits and four RBIs, falling a double short of the cycle.
The four-time NL East champion Phillies stunned the baseball world when they swept in and signed Lee to a $120 million, five-year contract in December. Lee turned down more money from the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers to return to Philadelphia.
His addition made the Phillies instant favorites to win their second World Series title in four years and gave them a starting rotation that’s already been compared to some of the all-time best.
Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels are all aces, and Joe Blanton might be the best No. 5 starter in the majors.
Fans quickly fell in love with Lee upon his arrival in a trade with Cleveland in July 2009. He became almost a cult hero after a sensational postseason, going 4-0 and earning Philadelphia’s only two wins against the Yankees in the World Series.
But Lee was dealt to Seattle on the same day the Phillies acquired Halladay from Toronto in December 2009 because management feared he would leave in free agency. Fans bemoaned the trade on talk radio every day until he came back.
They showed their love every chance they got Saturday night. Lee received a rousing standing ovation during pregame introductions. Fans stayed on their feet and continued applauding for his entire walk from the bullpen to the dugout.
Lee got another ovation when he came to the plate in the second. He even got cheers on his way back to the dugout after striking out and running to first because the ball eluded catcher J.R. Towles.
Coming off their dramatic finish in Friday’s opener, the Phillies got started quickly in this one.
Placido Polanco and Jimmy Rollins hit consecutive one-out singles in the first. Ryan Howard followed with an RBI single for a 1-0 lead. After Ben Francisco struck out,
Ibanez hit a double off the wall in left-center to make it 2-0.
Lee struck out three of the first five batters he faced and didn’t allow a hit until Angel Sanchez led off the fourth with a single. Carlos Lee then drove a triple to right-center to cut the Phillies’ lead to 2-1.
Lee escaped further trouble by striking out Bill Hall and retiring Chris Johnson on a bouncer to the mound.
After Lee sacrificed runners to second and third in the bottom half, Victorino looped a two-run single to right to make it 4-1.
The Phillies chased Rodriguez in the fifth after Francisco hit an RBI double and Ibanez followed with a run-scoring single. Enerio Del Rosario entered and allowed an RBI single to Wilson Valdez that made it 7-1.
Carlos Lee hit a towering drive to left to get the Astros within 7-3 in the sixth.