It’s become a sad reality for the Philadelphia Phillies over the last few seasons. More often than desired, a starting pitcher’s solid outing has been spoiled by an offense that went cold.
The two latest victims of this unfortunate trend were Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett. Lee pitched a complete game in Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves, while Burnett pitched seven scoreless against the same team on Thursday. The duo combined for a rather impressive stat line: 16 innings pitched, 14 hits, 18 strikeouts, three walks and only one earned run.
Yet during that stretch, the Phillies were basically invisible at the plate. The offense managed only nine hits, didn’t walk once and left a handful of runners on base. When Burnett exited the game on Thursday, the Phillies hadn’t scored in 17 straight innings dating back to Monday night.
The Phillies may have ended up winning Thursday’s matinee against the Braves by a score of 1-0, but that doesn’t excuse the poor offensive effort provided to the starting pitchers over the prior few days. Even with the win, they managed only one run. Very rarely this season — if ever again, really — is Philadelphia going to be able to go 1-1 over the course of two games while only plating a single runner.
The middle of the lineup, which is without question the most important offensive piece on any team, struggled. The combination of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Marlon Byrd, Domonic Brown and John Mayberry Jr. reached base only five times in 25 plate appearances. This lack of production is basically taking wins right out of the hands of the Phillies’ starters, especially when they come out firing like Lee and Burnett did.
Philadelphia’s starting pitching has been decent this season, which compared to the bullpen isn’t really saying much. It’s extremely important for the offense to put up their runs early because of this. The Phillies can’t afford to keep spoiling good performances from one of their starters, because turning things over to the bullpen in a close game right now is like playing with fire.