Behind rookie lefthander Alex Wood, the Braves completed a sweep of the Phillies on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, winning 4-1 and dropping the Phils to a season low 11 games under .500. They now trail Atlanta by 16.5 games in the NL East.
Cliff Lee was not himself in his first start in two weeks, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered considering the lackluster state of the Phillies offense right now. They managed only four hits, three walks and a run against the Braves, who have the second best team ERA in baseball. John Kruk summed it up best in the ninth inning when he commented that despite only being a three-run game, it had the feel of a blowout.
The Phillies have lost 13 of their last 14 games, and have been swept in three of the five series after the All-Star break. They are the owners of a minus-88 run differential, which is the worst in the National League and only better than the anemic Houston Astros in all of baseball. The sweep dropped the Phils to 3-6 on the year against the first place Braves. Atlanta has now won 10 in a row.
CLIFF LEE SHAKY IN RETURN
– In his first start since July 21, Lee lasted only five innings, surrendering four runs (three earned), eight hits and two walks. He looked off from the start, uncharacteristically walking the first batter of the game and later that inning crossing up Carlos Ruiz on a curveball that ultimately cost him a run.
– The lefty was visibly frustrated in the fourth inning when his outing was delayed about five minutes while the umpires tried to determine via replay if a B.J. Upton home run should stand. Upton was sent back to second with a double, but Lee gave up drives to Jason Heyward and Justin Upton that put the game out of reach at 4-1.
– Lee had been sidelined for two weeks with a stiff neck and had also been struggling in July. In three starts in the month, Lee had an ERA of 6.05 after a stellar first half of the season. Lee hasn’t notched a quality start since June 29, and didn’t do much on Sunday to alleviate concerns about his recent performance.
OFFENSE REMAINS PUNCHLESS
– The Phillies offense, even in its heyday, always struggled with young lefties like Wood and Sunday night was no different. The Phils could only muster two hits and one run in Wood’s six innings, and somehow fared worse (two hits, no runs in three innings) against the Braves bullpen. The Phillies offense has scored 417 runs in 111 games, good for 26th in baseball.
– Carlos Ruiz roped a Alex Wood fastball off the top of the left field fence for a double to leadoff the bottom half of the third inning for the Phils. It was originally ruled a home run, but Ruiz was sent back to second after the umpires utilized instant replay. Chooch scored anyway two batters later on a Michael Young RBI groundout for the Phils only run.
– Darin Ruf had two of the Phils four hits in the game. Ruf has quietly put together a very nice stretch since he began to play consistently, batting .299/.413/.907 in 77 at bats. Tonight was his eighth game of the season in the outfield and with Domonic Brown scheduled to return on Wednesday, it will be interesting to see what Charlie Manuel decides to do with Ruf.
DID YOU NOTICE?
– Chris Johnson made a heck of a play at third base to end the first inning, diving to his left on a ball in the hole and getting a throw off just in time to nab Ruf at first base. Johnson, who leads the NL in hitting, also had a pair of hits and two RBIs for Atlanta.
– John Mayberry Jr. was picked off at second base to end a Phillies threat in the fifth inning. While he was able to dive back before the throw got there, Andrelton Simmons obstructed his path to the bag and Mayberry was clearly out. It was a heady play by the impressive young shortstop.
– Delmon Young struck out four times on Sunday and was viciously booed after he went down swinging against Craig Kimbrel in the ninth. Young’s line this season is now .263/.305/.708. All logic points to Young’s days in right field being numbered once Brown returns this week, then again plenty of decisions made by the Phillies this season have defied logic.