The Philadelphia Phillies still haven't won a game with Cliff Lee on the mound this season. Phillies fans like myself are already used to seeing one bad pitch or inning from Lee cost them a game - since Philadelphia hardly has enough offense to bail him out. But on April 18 against the San Francisco Giants, Lee had a whopping 10 straight good innings - and even that wasn't enough to beat a notorious Phillies killer.
Matt Cain has had his way with Philadelphia ever since he shut it out in Game 3 of the 2010 NLCS. What's more, he actually got a huge new extension before spring training ended, which showed up how the Phillies still can't do the same with Cole Hamels. In one final indignity, Lee's 10 innings of shutout ball were negated by Cain's nine innings of two-hit shutout ball, which finally resulted in a 1-0 11'th inning win for San Francisco.
Although Lee shut the Giants out longer than usual, he was still a bit vulnerable as he gave up seven hits. On the flipside, Cain was barely tested at all as he just gave up two hits and one walk in only 91 pitches. Meanwhile, Lee needed only 102 pitches to survive 10 innings - in a game that went 11 innings and still lasted barely under 2 1/2 hours.
In this age of endless TV commercials and four-five hour games between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, a battle like this was more like one from 40 years ago. Yet the Phillies and Giants often have offenses that are far behind the times anyway, which is why they need so many aces to balance it out.
Lee and Cain are No. 1 aces disguised as No. 2, although Cain has pitched far more like a No. 1 this year. While Lee remains 0-2 this season, Cain has pitched nine innings in two straight games and given up a combined three hits. Yet although he continued his early hot streak and Lee returned to form, neither of them could get the win or any kind of decision.
As such, it made sense that the Phillies and Giants finally threatened to score when Lee and Cain were gone in the 11'th. But naturally, Philadelphia couldn't drive in a runner from third with one out, whereas a hit and an error led to San Francisco finally scoring a run on a Melky Cabrera single.
1-0 defeats are bound to be commonplace for the Phillies in 2012, yet none will probably look quite like this one. The only break is that they won't have a chance to face Cain again until mid-July - although even when Lee is on the mound, they could make a few more opposing pitchers look like Cain in the meantime.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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