Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cliff Lee Brilliant for Mariners; Ryan Howard Has 13 Total Bases in Philly Win

Players of the Day for Friday, June 18, 2010 American League When Cliff Lee was traded from Cleveland to Philadelphia last season, it was hailed as a solid move by the Phillies, but Lee didn't quite cut the muster against the Yankees in the World Series, so the Phillies went after Roy Halladay and Lee, a free agent, signed on with the Mariners. His first start didn't come until the last day of April, and though he pitched brilliantly (7 innings, 3 hits, 8Ks against the Rangers), he received no decision. Since then, he's been up-and-down, but lately, he's been mostly up. On Friday, he threw the second complete game in his last three outings, a nifty, 6-hit shutout against the visiting Reds, for a nail-biting, 1-0 win. Lee, demonstrating the kind of control which earned him the AL Cy Young award in 2008, didn't walk a batter while striking out seven, throwing 79 of 111 pitches for strikes. Improving his record to 5-3, Lee, an innings-muncher, has gone 7 innings or more in all but one of his starts. National League Most of the Philadelphia Phillies have been struggling at the plate, though one could make the case that Ryan Howard has continued to produce even while the players batting in front or behind him have faltered. The power outage began in on May 22nd, when the Phillies were blanked on one hit by Daisuke Matsuzaka. After that, they were swept by the Mets and the Braves, lost hold of first place and from the 22nd of May through the 15th of June went 6-15. But things may be turning around for the power-laded lineup. The team's won three straight, including Friday's 9-5 win over Minnesota. Chase Utley smacked his 11th home run and drove in four runs, and Howard, who has been going pretty well, doubled, tripled and knocked two balls out of the park in four at-bats, scoring 3 times and driving in an equal number of runs. Even though the Phillies have struggled, Howard's numbers are respectable: .293, 13 homers, 49 RBI. Considering there are only 15 players in the NL batting over .300, the average is solid, his 13 homers are just 4 off the pace set by Milwaukee's Cory Hart and just 2 behind Albert Pujols, and his RBI total is the 4th-best in the league. David Wright and Troy Glaus share the lead with 53, but there's a very good chance that the guys right behind them - Pujols, with 50. and Howard - will be battling for the RBI crown in September. The Phillies are 3 1/2 behind the Braves, with the Mets just 1/2 game behind Atlanta, but the Phillies endured a protracted slump and shortstop Jimmy Rollins, their regular leadoff hitter and shortstop, should be coming off the DL any day and his bat could be just the catalyst Philly needs.

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