The Phillies beat the Mets, 2-1, at Citifield on Monday night behind a stellar outing from Cliff Lee and a two-run triple by Cody Asche. Lee was brilliant against a depleted New York lineup that was without third baseman David Wright, earning his 11th win of the season. He was economical with his pitches (at least until the eighth) and fielded his position well, recording five outs himself on ground balls back to the pitcher.
The Phils’ bats struggled against rookie phenom Zack Wheeler, but Asche’s first career triple provided all the offense Lee would need. After a Michael Young single and a Darin Ruf walk, Asche launched a 1-0 high fastball into the gap in right field. It rolled all the way to the fence and Asche ended up on third base.
Jonathan Papelbon pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to notch his 22nd save on the year. It was only the third save opportunity for Papelbon since the All-Star break. The Phils have now won seven of nine.
VINTAGE CLIFF LEE
– Lee had his best start since May on Monday night, tossing eight innings and allowing only one earned run on five hits. He faced three batters in six of his first seven innings and retired 10 consecutive hitters heading into the eighth inning. Lee threw 121 pitches on the night, 84 of which went for strikes. He struck out seven Mets. It was Lee’s first win in his last nine starts.
– Lee had some misfortune in the second inning when he was charged with an earned run that was the result of Roger Bernadina misplaying a routine fly ball off the bat of Marlon Byrd. Bernadina lost the ball in the lights and it dropped between him and John Mayberry Jr.. Byrd ended up at second and later scored on an Andrew Brown single.
– Laboring in the eighth inning, Ryne Sandberg and Rich Dubee decided to stick with Lee and it paid off. After allowing a single and a walk, Lee appeared to be tiring quickly. With only Justin De Fratus up in the pen, Lee hung tough and struck out Juan Lagares on a full count to escape the eighth unscathed.
ASCHE PROVIDES THE OFFENSE
– Asche extended his season-high hit streak to eight games in the second inning when he stung a Wheeler offering back up the middle for a single. Two innings later, he laced his first major league triple into the right centerfield gap, plating two runs and giving the Phils a 2-1 lead. Asche was flirting with the Mendoza Line a few weeks ago, but has since seemed to find his groove. Now hitting .253, the 23-year-old’s progress at the plate is one of the critical things to watch on this roster in September. He finished the night two for three with a walk, and is 11 for 29 (.379) during his hit streak.
– Wheeler stuck with his hard fastball most of the night, and the Phillies offense, without Domonic Brown, couldn’t do much with it. Heading into Monday night, Wheeler was averaging nearly three walks per start. The Phillies only managed one against the rookie, and it enabled him to get through 6.2 innings before being pulled. Ruf was the only Phillie to draw a free pass against Wheeler. Since being called up in July, Ruf has walked in 10.6 percent of his at-bats, the best mark on the team (entering play on Monday). Chase Utley is the only other regular with a double-digit walk rate (10.4 percent).
DID YOU NOTICE?
– As if his work at the plate wasn’t enough, Asche made a slick backhanded play at third base to end the fifth inning on a ball hit hard to his right.
– The Mets sixth inning was also cut short courtesy of a fine defensive play by the Phillies. Mayberry Jr. tracked a shot off the bat of Daniel Murphy to the warning track in right, reaching up at the last second to haul in the drive just in front of the 375-foot sign on the fence in right center.
– Dom Brown, sitting for the second consecutive night with a sore heel, made a pinch hitting appearance in the top of the ninth with a couple runners on. While he popped out in his lone at-bat, Brown is reportedly feeling much better and should be back in the lineup in the next day or two.