Lee is untouchable as Phils shut out Sox, 5-0


Lee is untouchable as Phils shut out Sox, 5-0

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
PHILADELPHIA -- What was supposed to be a terrific pitching matchup in this series opener was, instead, a mismatch.

Cliff Lee tossed a complete-game two-hit shutout while Josh Beckett was tagged for two two-run homers over six innings, sending the Red Sox to a 5-0 defeat to the Philadelphia Phillies, Boston's fifth loss in its last six games -- all against National League opponents.

The masterpiece was Lee's third straight complete-game shutout and extended his consecutive scoreless streak to 32 innings.

Domonic Brown gave Lee all the support he needed with a two-run belt to center in the second. After Lee helped himself with a fifth-inning sacrifice, the Phils used the long ball against Beckett again in the sixth when Shane Victorino homered to right with Placido Polanco aboard.

Beckett, making his first start since June 15, was tagged with his first loss in almost exactly a month, dating back to May 29.

The Sox had just one baserunner -- a walk to Kevin Youkilis to open the second -- through the first four innings. They didn't record a hit until Marco Scutaro led off the sixth with a line single to left.

The only other hit for the Sox came on a leadoff double by Darnell McDonald.

The game marked the seventh time the Sox have been blanked this season.

When he's in a groove, Lee can be the best pitcher in baseball. Tuesday night, he certainly looked like it.

Lee tossed his third straight complete-game shutout, allowing just two hits, while extending his scoreless innings streak to 32.

All of which undoubtedly makes the Red Sox feel very fortunate indeed that Lee didn't sign with the New York Yankees last winter.

Brown staked the Phillies to a 2-0 lead in the second with a two-run homer, then doubled to open the fifth, took third on a fly ball and trotted home with the third Philadelphia run on a sacrifice by Lee.

GOAT OF THE GAME: Josh Beckett
Beckett didn't pitch poorly. He made two bad pitches, which resulted in four runs for the Phillies -- a pitch up in the strike zone to Brown in the second, then a fastball that wandered out over the plate for Shane Victorino for another two-run homer in the sixth.

TURNING POINT: Domonic Brown's two-run homer in the second -- early as it was -- was all the support Lee would need.

With the Red Sox handcuffed by Lee, the 2-0 edge was more than enough considering how well the lefty was throwing.

BY THE NUMBERS: Josh Beckett's streak of opening the season with 14 straight outings without allowing more than four earned runs in any one -- the longest since Jeff Fassero in 2000 -- came to an end.

QUOTE OF NOTE: "It will be good offensively, but damn, I've got to play second, first and right. That's a lot of ground to cover, man.'' -- Dustin Pedroia, asked what sort of impact David Ortiz at first and Adrian Gonzalez in right field might have Wednesday night.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl


Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.

Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong


Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.