PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Once again, Cliff Lee failed to get much support from the Phillies’ offense.
This time, though, the hitters couldn’t be blamed for Philadelphia’s 5-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Sunday.
Lee (0-2), making just his sixth start of the season after spending time on the DL with a strained oblique, had his worst start of the year. In seven innings, he allowed five runs on nine hits — both season highs. He struck out six and walked one.
“They’ve got a good offense,” Lee said. “They make you throw a lot of pitches. They foul off good pitches until they get one to hit. It’s definitely the sign of a good offense, which they are.”
The three-time All-Star and 2008 AL Cy Young winner has been pitching well this season, entering with a 1.95 ERA, but has not been getting run support some of the time or bullpen support other times.
Philadelphia has scored just nine runs over Lee’s 44 innings this season.
“Tonight it was definitely my fault,” he said. “I’ve gotta do a better job. I’ve gotta get deeper in the game without giving up so many runs. This one falls on me.”
Mike Aviles led off with a homer for the second straight game, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia blasted a crucial three-run homer in the third inning to keep Lee winless.
“He made some pitches and they hit him,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “(Saltalamacchia’s) ball was hit pretty good. They were hitting some balls hard. His stuff was good. He was throwing and he got hit.”
Asked if Lee’s lack of run support would be frustrating for the pitcher, Manuel said, “It might be, I could see that.”
Lee credited his counterpart, Josh Beckett, for keeping the Philadelphia offense to just one run.
“He never let us put anything together offensively,” Lee said. “He pitched a good game. Give a lot of credit to Beckett.”
Beckett pitched 7 2-3 strong innings for Boston, which has won eight of 10 games overall after taking the final two of this three-game series.
Beckett (4-4) was booed off the mound May 10 when he allowed seven runs in 2 1-3 innings following news that he had played golf while skipping a start to rest a strained lat muscle — but he has been spectacular since.
After shutting out Seattle in a home win on May 15 by pitching seven scoreless innings and giving up four hits with nine strikeouts and two walks, Beckett allowed one run on seven hits Sunday while striking out five and walking two.
“I was making pitches when I needed to and the defense was unbelievable, everybody contributed,” Beckett said. “I was keeping the ball down and I threw a few changeups, or I got ground balls. It’s nice to keep the ball in this ballpark.”
His only blemish was Juan Pierre’s sacrifice fly in the eighth that gave Philadelphia its only run.
“His stuff was really moving today,” Boston manager Bobby Valentine said of Beckett. “He was aggressive in the strike zone and he looked like he wanted it.”
Adrian Gonzalez went 2 for 4 and now is 9 for 16 lifetime against Lee.
Aviles started the game by ripping Lee’s 1-1 cutter into the seats in left to put Boston up 1-0.
“I just try to put the ball in play, try to hit the ball up the middle and whatever happens, happens,” Aviles said. “I’m just trying to get on base.”
After Aviles’ RBI single in the second gave the Red Sox a 2-0 lead, Boston went ahead 5-0 in the third inning on Saltalamacchia’s three-run homer that cleared the seats in center field and reached Ashburn Alley, the fan walkway behind the outfield seats. Lee said the pitch was a mistake.
“I threw a changeup up out over the plate,” he said. “Other than that, I felt like they battled. They fouled off a lot of good pitches, made me work a lot early. They got themselves a nice lead and never really lost it.”
Lee settled down after that, retiring the next 11 batters before Beckett’s single off the wall in center to lead off the seventh. But the damage had been done.
“I was hoping once (Lee) settled in he started pitching pretty good we could score some runs for him, but we couldn’t do it,” Manuel said. “We hit some balls hard early but we couldn’t get any big hits and drive runs in.”
Beckett was in total command against a Phillies lineup that had 15 hits the previous night. Other than the third inning, the right-hander allowed just two runners to reach second base prior to the eighth.
“He kept the ball down good,” Manuel said. “He hung in there, kept his pitch count down and (it) allowed him to go deep.”
The Phillies threatened in the third, putting runners on second and third with one out after Lee doubled, but Jimmy Rollins grounded out to third and Pierre lined out sharply to first to keep Philadelphia scoreless.
Philadelphia scored its run in the eighth on Pierre’s sacrifice fly to left that scored pinch-hitter Pete Orr, who doubled. Valentine lifted Beckett after the right-hander walked Shane Victorino to put runners on first and second. And the bases were loaded when reliever Vicente Padilla walked Hunter Pence. But Padilla got Ty Wigginton to ground out to second to escape the jam.
“That’s a situation you want to be in and Padilla did a good job,” Wigginton said.
The Phillies were 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position Sunday, and now are 3 for 21 in their last two games.
Notes: A day after making a sensational catch in center field, Boston’s Ryan Sweeney didn’t play. Valentine said he would be evaluated further on Monday, mentioning a possible concussion. . Phillies GM Ruben Amaro defended the club’s use of a cortisone shot last Sept. 18 on Ryan Howard’s injured left foot. The reaction was in response to a Philadelphia Inquirer story Sunday suggesting that the cortisone shot may have contributed to Howard’s Achilles’ tear last Oct. 7. … Boston OF Cody Ross didn’t play for the second straight game after fouling a ball off his left leg on Friday. … The crowd of 45,586 was the 225th straight sellout and 241st counting postseason play. … Philadelphia RHP Kyle Kendrick (0-3, 5.96), filling in for injured right-hander Vance Worley (elbow), is scheduled to face Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez (5-1, 2.22) on Monday night when the Phillies host the first of a three-game series. … Boston RHP Clay Buchholz (4-2, 7.77) opposes Orioles RHP Tommy Hunter (2-2, 4.78) when the Red Sox travel to AL East-leading Baltimore on Monday.
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