Phillies ace Lee silences Red Sox to post his third straight shutout
PHILADELPHIA — Red Sox manager Terry Francona has been debating the wisdom of using David Ortiz at first base and Adrian Gonzalez in right field for several days.
He will wait until tonight to try it. Given how Cliff Lee pitched for the Phillies last night, that is probably a good idea. No one hitter would have made a difference.
The hottest pitcher in baseball came up against the best offense and dominated it. Lee fired a two-hitter for his third consecutive shutout as the Phillies beat the sliding Sox, 5-0, before 45,714 at Citizens Bank Park.
The Red Sox have lost five of their last six games, scoring only 14 runs. They are 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the division.
Francona told one group of reporters he had not made out his lineup for tonight. But in an interview with NESN, the team’s television network, he said it was likely Ortiz would play first base, and that meant putting Gonzalez in right field.
“That’s what they tell me,’’ Ortiz said.
The scheme was hatched before Lee shut the Sox down on 112 pitches. That only had to solidify Francona’s resolve to try to find a way to get his club going again. General manager Theo Epstein, here for the series, discussed the situation with Francona before the game.
Putting Ortiz in the lineup could be a remedy. The No. 5 hitter last night was Darnell McDonald, who entered the game 5 for 46 this season with one extra-base hit and three RBIs. Jason Varitek hit sixth for the first time this season, and Mike Cameron, a .154 hitter, hit seventh.
Ortiz has not played first base since last June 27. He took ground balls at first during batting practice yesterday. Ortiz is usually the designated hitter, an option not available when playing interleague road games.
“I think it’s awful,’’ Francona said. “I don’t blame him for not being happy. He’s having a great year and he’s not playing. That’s awful.’’
The risk is Gonzalez injuring himself playing right field. The first baseman is hitting .357 with 71 RBIs and his loss would be devastating to the team’s postseason aspirations.
Gonzalez has experience in right field in the Mexican Winter League but has played only one game there in the majors. That came Sept. 30, 2005. He has voiced a willingness to play the outfield and believes there is a greater risk of injury playing first base.
“It’ll be good offensively, but damn, I’ve got to play second, first, and right,’’ second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “That’s a lot of ground to cover, man. I’ve got small legs.’’
The better news for the Sox will be that rookie righthander Vance Worley will be pitching for the Phillies instead of Lee.
Lee (9-5) did not give up a hit until the sixth inning and allowed only one runner as far as second base. He walked two and struck out five.
The two hits were a season low for the Sox.
“He was in command of the game from start to finish. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game and he’s riding a hot streak. That’s a bad combination,’’ Francona said. “He had his way with us.’’
Lee has gone 32 innings without giving up a run and is 5-0 with a 0.21 earned run average in his last five starts, giving up one run on 21 hits over 42 innings.
“They’re a good team. I was anticipating it being a closer game from start to finish,’’ said Lee, the first Phillies pitcher to throw three straight shutouts since Robin Roberts in 1950.
The Sox did not get their first hit until Marco Scutaro singled. The only other hit was a double by McDonald in the eighth inning.
“He’s relentless with executing. Obviously putting up three shutouts like that in a row is pretty impressive,’’ said Sox starter Josh Beckett (6-3), who allowed five runs in six innings to take the loss.
Lee came into the game winless in his five previous starts against Boston. But it was evident this game would be different when he retired 15 of the first 16 batters and only three balls left the infield.
One of the best swings was by Beckett, who lined to first base in the third inning.
Beckett had gone 12 days between starts, a case of the flu leaving him bedridden for several days. He allowed a two-run homer by rookie Domonic Brown in the second inning and another by Shane Victorino in the sixth inning.
Lee had a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning.
“I left some pitches up,’’ Beckett said. “You can’t give [Lee] that cushion that early. You’ve got to battle a little better than that. You can’t give that guy two runs in the first or second inning.’’