The Philadelphia Phillies are about as mediocre as it gets. Cliff Lee, on the other hand, is anything but.
The 34-year-old southpaw logged his 14th quality start in 16 tries Tuesday against the Washington Nationals, leading them to a 4-2 win. He twirled eight innings and allowed just five hits. He didn’t walk a single batter and tallied nine strikeouts. The specifics of “tossing a gem” aren’t clearly defined, but this would qualify by almost anyone’s standards.
Lee improved to 9-2 with the win. He dropped his ERA to 2.50 and his WHIP to 0.89. Simply put, Lee has given the Phillies all they could ask for.
Workhorse is a bit of an understatement for him. The two starts which weren’t quality were the only times he hasn’t tossed at least seven innings. Lee is successful because he consistently pounds the strike zone. 82 of his 110 pitches were strikes in his latest start. He’s averaging nearly one walk per start and rarely seems to struggle with his control.
The Phillies improved to 35-37 with the win, and pulled within seven games of the Atlanta Braves. They’re going to need to show signs of life soon, otherwise they may have to consider dealing Lee at the trade deadline. The Braves have slowed a little since their hot start, but they are clearly the front-runners in the National League East. The Phillies certainly don’t want to lose Lee, but he is exactly what contenders look for when they need to find starting pitching in late-July.
He still has two years left on his contract after this one, but the Phillies are looking like a half-solved puzzle lately. Despite the fact he’ll be 35-years-old by season’s end, Lee could bring quite a bit back in a trade if he keeps this up.