Cliff Lee is a robot. Either that, or he was cloned using DNA retrieved from Steve Carlton in 1976. Perhaps, both. Lee improved to 5-0 as a member of the Phillies, with a remarkable ERA of only .68, in Monday afternoon's easy 6-2 victory over the Mets. The Phils improved their record to 72-50, seven games better than second place Atlanta, and only one-half of a game behind the league-leading Dodgers.
Lee pitched seven innings, allowing only two unearned runs, on six hits and zero walks. Lee struck out five, and threw eighty-three, of his one-hundred and thirteen, pitches for strikes. The confident southpaw worked quickly, demonstrated precise command, and had little difficulty in silencing the New York bats. In the offseason, when waiting for Spring Training to begin, this domination of the rival Mets will be one of the regular season games that needs to be enjoyed again.
Lee didn't need a lot of support from his teammates on Monday, which was good, as he didn't get a lot. Chase Utley had a double-error, leading to both New York runs. An Utley double-error is about as rare as a three-hit game by Eric Bruntlett. Bruntlett got his second consecutive start, giving Jimmy Rollins the day off, and was 1 for 4. Paul Bako was hitless, as is his way.
Almost all of the Phils' offense was provided by the ferociously hot bat of Ryan Howard. Howard crushed a ball over the left field fence in the first inning, driving in the first three Philly runs. In the third inning, he mixed things up by blasting a homer to right, for two additional runs. Raul Ibanez hit a run-scoring double in the ninth, giving the Phils an insurance run. Chan Ho Park and Brad Lidge both retired all three batters they faced, completing Lee's twelfth win of the season. Lidge's appearance, in a non-save situation, was his third strong one, in as many days.
The Phillies continue their road trip on Tuesday, with the cellar-dwelling Pirates waiting in the wings. Joe Blanton is on the hill Tuesday, followed by Cole Hamels, and J.A. Happ, making a three-game Phillies' sweep a distinct possibility. With the slumping Dodgers facing the streaking Rockies, the Phillies could be leading the National League, by the time their weekend series against Atlanta begins on Friday.