When last we saw Cliff Lee, he was in the middle of one of the very best pitching matchups you could ever hope to see. Lee threw ten incredible innings against the San Francisco Giants on April 18th. During that marathon outing, Lee injured an oblique muscle and went directly to the Disabled List.
Tonight, Lee returns to take the hill for the last-place Philadelphia Phillies. Sure, they were in last place when he suffered his injury but now it is officially crisis mode.
The Phillies are phloundering in the tough NL East. Their ageing lineup is full of holes and they sport one of the worst offenses in the Senior Circuit. While getting Lee back is never a bad thing (especially for a team with a struggling bullpen), this team needs more help.
Adding Cliff Lee back in among Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, the surprising Joe Blanton and the perplexing Vance Worely lessens the load on the Phillies offense but it doesn’t solve any of the myriad obstacles standing between this team and their assumed spot in the playoffs.
Charlie Manual and his coaching staff continue to make head-scratching moves, from their dedication to bunting to the ongoing saga that is the usage of his most reliable reliever, Jonathan Papelbon. Giving away outs isn’t helping the Phils score more runs, it makes it harder. Saving your best (and highest paid) reliever for save situations doesn’t make it any easier to reach a save situation.
The Phillies firmly remain in “win now” mode, even if their battered roster doesn’t reflect it. The rotation will keep them in games but the offense won’t score enough to reduce the need for high-leverage help from the bullpen.
If Lee can shorten enough games to let Charlie Manual’s bullpen chain work out exactly as planned, they will win more games. Unfortunately for the Phils, the extra 4/5 wins Cliff Lee will supply for the rest of the season might not be enough for them to make up ground in a tough division.