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Oh, Clifton

Cliff Lee, Jason HeywardCliff Lee cannot catch a break.

Take a look at some of the facts and figures to come from last night’s 1-0 loss to the Braves:

  • Lee allowed 11 hits, one run, one walk and struck out 13 in a complete game.
  • He threw a career-high 128 pitches in the 29th complete game of his career.
  • It is the ninth time since he rejoined the Phillies in 2011 that he has struck out 12 or more batters in a game. Lee is 2-5 with a 2.12 ERA in those starts, as the Phils have suffered four shutout losses and scored just 23 runs.
  • Lee is the first pitcher in 100 years to lose twice, despite allowing one run and striking out 13 or more batters in a complete game. (It has happened just 18 times since 1914.) The last time it happened in baseball? In Lee’s last start against the Braves on Sept. 27, 2013.
  • From Elias: Evan Gattis hit a 0-2 pitch from Lee for a solo home run for the game’s only run. Last year on Sept. 27, Chris Johnson hit a 0-2 pitch for a solo home run in a 1-0 victory. There has not been another game over the past three seasons (2012 to date) that ended 1-0 on an 0-2 homer.
  • Opponents are hitting .429 (6-for-14) with two doubles, one home run, three RBIs and five strikeouts against Lee this season, when they put the ball in play on a 0-2 count. To put that into perspective, hitters from 2011-13 hit a paltry .137 (55-for-401) with six doubles, eight home runs, 19 RBIs and 219 strikeouts against Lee in 0-2 counts.
  • Lee’s 3.82 run support average since he rejoined the Phillies in 2011 is the fifth-lowest out of 84 qualifying pitchers in baseball. The only ones with worse run support? Jeff Samardzija (3.38), Tim Lincecum (3.67), Justin Masterson (3.75) and Bud Norris (3.80).
  • From Elias: Lee has allowed 15 home runs on 0-2 pitches over the last 10 seasons, tying Mark Buehrle for the highest total in the major leagues in that time frame.
  • From Elias: Gattis was only the second player since 1900 to go 4-for-4 with a home run in a 1-0 win. The other was Hall-of-Famer Rogers Hornsby in a Cubs victory over the Reds at Wrigley Field in 1929.
  • From Elias: Julio Teheran and Lee each pitched complete games of nine innings. The last game in which both starters tossed complete games of at least nine innings was Aug. 27, 2012, when the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez and Twins’ Liam Hendricks did it at Target Field. Seattle won, 1-0.

Cinco Ocho Goes Nature Boy In Ninth

Jonathan Papelbon recently changed his intro music from Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” to Meek Mill’s “Bout That Life.”

“Like that?” he said yesterday.

The opening to the song is interesting because the first 30 seconds are a speech from professional wrestler Ric Flair. Papelbon grew up a wrestling fan.

“I think everybody did, right?” he said.

Personally, I always loved Rowdy Roddy Piper and Piper’s Pit, but nevertheless … Papelbon said he and former Red Sox teammate Dustin Pedroia met Flair in Boston. Flair gave them one of his pink robes and a championship belt.

“I’ve been a Ric Flair guy,” Papelbon said. “The belt, Pedroia stole. I tried to get the belt back from him, but he won’t, so I’m getting his WWE Big Gold champion belt. It’s coming in. The real deal one. No (fake) one. Big Gold Belt.”

And the tune?

“I heard it in Spring Training,” he said. “Once I heard it I knew it was it. I really don’t care what comes up after it, either. I just like the beginning. It gets me going. That’s all that matters.”

If you’re interested, here is the latest music list for the Phillies:

AT BAT:

  • Cody Asche: Dat New New by Kid Cudi
  • Domonic Brown: The Devil Is A Lie by Rick Ross and Sexual Eruption by Snoop Dogg
  • Marlon Byrd: Get Like Me by David Banner and Work by DJ Smoke f/Gangstarr
  • Freddy Galvis: Poquito by Tego Calderon
  • Ryan Howard: Throwback by B.o.B f/Chris Brown
  • John Mayberry Jr: 100 Black Coffins by Rick Ross
  • Ben Revere: Happy by Pharrell Williams
  • Jimmy Rollins: 23 by Mike WiLL Made It and Trophies by Young Money
  • Carlos Ruiz: Vivir Mi Vida by Marc Anthony
  • Chase Utley: Kashmir by Led Zeppelin

PITCHING

  • Mike Adams: Intro by DMX
  • A.J. Burnett: The Beautiful People by Marilyn Manson
  • Cole Hamels: Thunderstruck by AC/DC
  • Kyle Kendrick: Kick It In The Sticks by Brantley Gilbert
  • Cliff Lee: Stranglehold by Ted Nugent
  • Jonathan Papelbon: Bout That Life by Meek Mill
  • Jonathan Pettibone: Get Lucky by Daft Punk

This is through April 8. If a player or pitcher isn’t listed it’s because they haven’t selected a song.

Tuesday’s Game Postponed

Nationals Phillies BaseballThe Phillies postponed tonight’s game against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park because of rain.

It will be made up at a later date.

The postponement does not alter the order of the Phillies rotation. Left-hander Cliff Lee will pitch tomorrow night, while right-hander A.J. Burnett will pitch the series finale Thursday afternoon. Right-handers Jonathan Pettibone, Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez would fall in line to pitch this weekend in Colorado.

But the Braves have skipped right-hander David Hale, who was scheduled to pitch tonight. Lee instead will face right-hander Julio Teheran and Burnett will face left-hander Alex Wood.

Perhaps a night off will help the Phillies starters get on track. They have pitched more than six innings just twice in 13 games, which has placed additional pressure on a bullpen with the third-highest ERA (5.53) in baseball.

Phillies starters are 22nd in baseball in innings pitched, but are seventh in pitches thrown. It is partially why Phillies games are averaging 3 hours, 17 minutes, which is the third-longest average in baseball.

“For me, the game starts with pitching and defense,” Ryne Sandberg said in his office before the postponement. “I think overall our pitchers have to establish the strike zone and work ahead in the counts. I think that has a big part in why we’re playing the slowest games and longest games in baseball. Every time I look at the clock and leave (the ballpark), it’s almost midnight. I can’t believe it, but it is what it is.

“Our pitchers are throwing a lot of pitches, so on the starting pitching side of things they’ve been limited on the time that they can be out there and then we’ve had to use our bullpen and then with some of our bullpen guys it has been the same thing with the amount of pitches coming out of the pen.”

The Phillies planned to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day tonight, but pregame festivities surrounding the Jackie Robinson Salute will take place tomorrow night, including both teams wearing No. 42 jerseys. All fans attending tomorrow night’s game will receive the commemorative Jackie Robinson print, featuring quotes from Phillies players and Sandberg on what Robinson meant to them.

Bullpen Blow Up

Jake Diekman,Dan UgglaMarlon Byrd probably summed up last night’s 9-6 loss to the Braves better than anybody:

“For a fan it’s got to be a great game to watch, entertainment-wise. It sucks for us. We came out on the losing end.”

How it happened is incredible. The Braves carried a 2-1 lead into the eighth inning when B.J. Rosenberg served up home runs to Evan Gattis, Dan Uggla and Andrelton Simmons in succession to make it 5-1. Forty-four times since 1950 a pitcher allowed home runs to the only two batters he faced in a game. But according to Retrosheet, Rosenberg is the first pitcher in 100 years (and likely ever) to allow home runs to the only three batters he faced in a game. Records only go back to 1914, but nobody hit home runs before 1914 and relievers were not what they are today so it’s highly doubtful it happened before that.

The Phillies then scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a 6-5 lead.

But then Jake Diekman, trying to close for the first time in his career, loaded the bases in the ninth before he allowed a grand slam to Uggla.

The bullpen started the game with a 4.35 ERA following a strong performance over the weekend against Miami. It left the ballpark with a 5.53 ERA, which is the third-highest bullpen ERA in baseball. Of course, it doesn’t help that Phillies starters can’t pitch past the sixth inning. Just twice in 13 games have they pitched more than six innings. Phillies starters are 22nd in baseball in innings pitched, but are seventh in pitches thrown. In other words, they are hitting the 100-pitch mark fairly regularly in the fifth and sixth innings and can’t go any further. And that exposes the bullpen.

(A MLB-leading 14 errors hasn’t helped, extending innings, too.)

Mike Adams is back in the bullpen beginning tonight, but it remains to be seen how much he help.

*

Asked this morning about Double-A Reading closer Ken Giles, Ruben Amaro Jr. said on the 94 WIP Morning Show that, “I think we have to think about it.” But Amaro also mentioned how Giles is still learning, how he missed time last season because of injuries and how they need to make sure he can handle the ups and downs of the big leagues first.

“We’re not afraid to bring guys up to the big leagues,” Amaro said.

In six scoreless innings, Giles has allowed one hit and two walks and has struck out 14.

*

Tony Gwynn Jr. singled and reached second on a throwing error with one out in the third inning, when Jimmy Rollins bunted Gwynn to third. It was a confusing move at best with Gwynn a good runner and already in scoring position. Rollins gave up a precious out to send Chase Utley to the plate, and then Utley struck out to end the inning.

The immediate reaction: Why would Rollins bunt there? No way the Phillies called that from the bench. It made no sense.

“[Rollins] thought there were no outs,” Ryne Sandberg said. “He forgot [Roberto] Hernandez led off the inning. He thought there was no outs. He was just trying to get the guy over from second to third.”

Burnett Plans to Pitch with Hernia

Bob McClure, Carlos RuizA.J. Burnett will need surgery at some point, but he said today he plans to pitch the rest of the season with an inguinal hernia.

Burnett received a cortisone injection today and is scheduled to start Wednesday.

“It’s something that I think is manageable,” he said.

And what makes it manageable?

“I guess manageable is that I’m going to have to deal with it,” he said. “Paying attention to it, knowing it’s there, knowing what I can do to overdo it and knowing what I can do to keep it where it needs to be. I’m more of a go getter and I’m not really a take it easy kind of guy, so it’s going to be a test.”

Burnett had to be pulled from Friday’s start in the fifth inning because of discomfort, but he said, “I’ve pitched with worse. The other night was more of an uncertainty because I didn’t know where it was coming from. I didn’t know if it was hip, groin, whether I tweaked something or pulled something. Now that I know upstairs what I’m dealing with, I can deal with it a lot better.”

Cole Hamels pitched with same injury in 2011 before having surgery in the offseason. He went 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA in 32 appearances (31 starts) and finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award voting.

In a perfect world Burnett performs similarly to Hamels in 2011, and waits until the offseason to surgically repair it as recovery can take six to eight weeks. Burnett said he is confident he still can pitch like he had the past couple seasons with the Pirates, when he went 26-21 with a 3.41 ERA in 61 starts.

Burnett is 0-1 with a 3.94 ERA in three starts this season. In 16 innings, he has allowed 17 hits, 11 runs (seven earned runs) and 14 walks with 10 strikeouts.

“It could be a blessing in disguise and I pay attention more to my delivery,” he said. “The two pitches I felt it in my bullpen (Sunday) is when my timing was a tick off. I flew open early or something was off. But when I nailed my delivery in the next 15, it was fine. I’m not worried about it now that today happened. I talked to the doctors and had my questions answered. How severe is it? Can it get really, really worse?”

Can it?

“It can get larger,” he said. “But as far as pain wise, they said it would be the same. Uncomfortable.”

But surgery will come at some point. He knows that. He just hopes it’s not until after the season.

Utley Leads Phillies Offense

Chase UtleyEverybody seems to know by now that Chase Utley is the hottest hitter on the planet.

He leads baseball with a .500 batting average, .565 on-base percentage, .875 slugging percentage and 1.440 OPS. Elias Sports Bureau said he is the first Phillies player to open a season 20-for-40 since Von Hayes in 1989.

We also know Utley won’t keep up this pace forever. But the Phillies are hoping their offense keeps up its pace through the first 12 games of the season. The Phillies lead the National League with a .354 on-base percentage and 49 walks. (Remove Utley from the equation and the team still has a .327 on-base percentage, which would rank fifth in the league.) Have the Phillies had bad days with runners in scoring position? Yes. They are sixth in the NL averaging 4.67 runs per game, so they can do a better job of taking advantage of their opportunities. But from 2005-11, when the Phillies led the league in runs, they also led the league in runners left on base. Utley often mentioned that in the past: Sure, they are leaving a lot of runners on base, but that is because they are putting a lot of runners on base. Typically, the law of averages kicks in and many of those runners score. The Phillies are hoping the same holds true this season.

Regardless, the first 12 games are a marked improvement over the past two seasons when the Phillies were ninth in the league averaging a paltry 3.99 runs per game and 11th with a .312 on-base percentage.

De Fratus ‘Not Doing Job’ Sent to Triple-A

Justin De FratusOne of the reasons the Phillies optioned right-hander Justin De Fratus to Triple-A Lehigh Valley today is because they needed a fresh arm in the bullpen following a busy weekend.

They recalled right-hander Luis Garcia from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to take his place. But Garcia’s stint could be short. The Phillies are expected to activate right-hander Mike Adams from the 15-day disabled list tomorrow and Garcia seems to be the most likely candidate to make room for him on the 25-man roster.

But De Fratus also carried a 7.20 ERA following four appearances. He allowed five hits, four runs, one walk, two home runs and struck out two in five innings. The Phillies are struggling to find competent right-handers in the bullpen. Early this season Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg has leaned heavily on left-handers Jake Diekman, Antonio Bastardo and Mario Hollands, routinely pitching them in high-leverage situations.

“I’m not doing my job, straight up,” De Fratus said. “I’m just not doing my job. I’ve got to get the ball down. That’s all it is. It’s not walking people. I’m trying to challenge people and I’m getting beat. That’s it. I’ve just got to get that fastball down, and that’s what I’m going to work on. It really is a simple solution.

“I don’t want it, but I need the time to straighten some things out because something has gone awry in the last couple years that’s not allowing me to get the ball down. I’ve got to find out what it is.”

Adams, who is recovering from right shoulder surgery, allowed two hits, one run and struck out one in one inning last night in a rehab appearance with Triple-A.

“Overall it went all right,” Adams said. “Health-wise it was OK. Today I feel fine. That’s the most important thing. It’s their decision (about Monday). I’m going to play catch today and we’ll talk after that.”

Burnett Hopes for Good News Monday

Bob McClure, Carlos RuizA.J. Burnett should know tomorrow if he will make Wednesday’s scheduled start against the Braves.

He will have an ultrasound in the morning to see if he has a sore groin or possibly something worse.

“I feel good, but I want my mind to be 100 percent,” he said about the ultrasound. “Let’s just hope it’s not a hernia or something. That’s what I’m worried about. Tomorrow will give me peace of mind. But as far as physically, today was a good day today. A lot better.”

Burnett left Friday’s start against the Marlins in the fifth inning because of soreness in his right groin. He threw a bullpen session this morning at Citizens Bank Park. He said it went better than expected, although he twice felt a pull in the muscle while throwing out of the stretch.

“It went away right after that,” he said. “I’m feeling good enough to throw.”

If Burnett misses a start or more they could use Triple-A right-hander David Buchanan. He pitched just one inning today, which keeps him fresh should he be needed Wednesday. Buchanan is not on the 40-man roster, but they made room on the 40-man Saturday when they outrighted right-hander Brad Lincoln to Lehigh Valley.

Burnett Goes Down, How Long?

Bob McClure, Carlos RuizCole Hamels could rejoin the Phillies’ rotation as early as April 22.

But will A.J. Burnett be there with him?

Burnett left last night’s game against the Marlins in the fifth inning with what the team called “groin soreness.” He will be evaluated today. The right-hander said his right groin affected him intermittently throughout the game, in which he allowed two runs on five hits and six walks while striking out four in 4 1/3 innings.

“It was in and out,” Burnett said. “It was pretty uncomfortable the last inning, but it came on early and went away. That’s why I didn’t feel like it was too serious.

“Pretty much every pitch out of the stretch, more so out of the windup, the last inning I felt it a lot. That ain’t me. I don’t walk guys like that. I’m going to walk my guys here and there, but I couldn’t throw the ball anywhere I wanted to. Hopefully we’ll find out tomorrow that it’s not that bad.”

Burnett, 37, also walked six batters in 5 2/3 innings in his previous start Sunday at Wrigley Field, but he said he did not have any problems before Friday’s start.

“I’d just say it felt more snug that anything,” he said. “Like everything was tight, opposed to something going. I guess that’s a positive. I tried to mask it, but I guess I didn’t, huh? … I’m not too concerned about it, but then again, you never know. I’m not a spring chicken anymore. But it takes a lot to get me out of the ballgame. I’m not happy about that.”

Adams Could Be Back Monday

Mike AdamsThe Phillies bullpen needs help and it hopes Mike Adams is a solution.

He could rejoin the team as early as Monday following a rehab assignment Saturday with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Adams has not pitched for the Phillies since July, when he had right shoulder surgery. Nobody knows how he will perform once he returns, but the Phillies hope he offers at least a little stability to a bullpen that has struggled through nine games.

The Phillies bullpen has 4.81 ERA, which ranks 23rd in baseball. It has allowed 60 percent (6 of 10) of its inherited runners to score, which is the second-highest mark in the game.

“I feel great,” Adams said today. “Everything has gone above and beyond what I’ve expected. The bounce backs have been great. The soreness (has been minimal). I’m just looking forward to tomorrow.”

The Phillies signed Adams to a two-year, $12 million contract before the 2013 season, but he has made only 28 appearances. His fastball averaged 91.3 mph in 2012, when he pitched for the Rangers. It averaged just 89.8 last season, according to FanGraphs.

He said his velocity during his rehab assignment has been 89-90 mph.

“It’s around where I was last year, I guess,” Adams said. “Maybe a little better. Hopefully coming up here and getting into a big league ball game I can trigger a few extra notches, but we’ll see what happens. The main thing is I’ve been locating pretty well, changing speeds and working on a few things. The main thing is as long as I keep the ball down, 89-90, that’ll work.”

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