Manuel tabs Lee for Phillies’ Game 1 start against Rockies
AP Sports Writer
PHILADELPHIA – Cliff Lee will start Game 1 of the NL division series for the Philadelphia Phillies against Colorado on Wednesday.
The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner got the nod over Cole Hamels, who was MVP of the World Series and NLCS last year. Hamels will start Game 2. If the series goes five games, manager Charlie Manuel will have his choice between the two left-handers.
The decision wasn’t a surprise. Lee pitched against Houston last Thursday and will take the mound on five days’ rest. Hamels would’ve had to come back on three days’ rest after tossing 47 pitches in three innings against Florida on Saturday.
“We’ve got two top-notch pitchers going the first two games of this series,” Manuel said.
Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ or Pedro Martinez could take the mound in Game 3. Blanton and Happ will be available to help an injury-depleted bullpen in the first two games.
Lee was 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA in 12 starts after the Phillies acquired him from Cleveland on July 29. However, he was shaky after an excellent start in Philadelphia. Lee was 2-4 with a 6.13 ERA in his last seven starts after going 5-0 with a 0.68 ERA in his first five. Overall, Lee was 14-13 with a 3.22 ERA in a career-high 231 innings this season.
“He’s a tempo pitcher,” Manuel said. “When he’s really going good, he gets the ball and throws it. He’s aggressive. His command is a big part of everything he does. When he’s been real good, he throws all three of his pitches and uses both sides of the plate.”
Hamels struggled all year, hardly pitching like the dominant ace who went 4-0 last October. Hamels was 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA this season.
“When it really got down to it, did we want to bring him back on short rest or keep him on his routine?” Manuel said. “I think he’s one of the top pitchers in baseball. Cole Hamels can pitch any game for me that he wants. If it gets down to five games, we have a pretty good decision between him and Lee.”