Last night's loss to Atlanta was telling on several fronts.
Cliff Lee was impressive, striking out sixteen batters in just seven innings of work. Even more impressive to this observer were Lee's comments after the game in which he matter-of-factly discussed leaving some pitches over the plate, Atlanta's seizing those opportunities, and the impressive work of his opposite number, Derek Lowe. If nothing else, Cliff Lee is one honest guy.
Lowe took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before yielding two hits and the rest of the game to the bullpen.
As dominant as Lee's numbers appear, he gave up nine hits in his seven innings. If a pitcher is striking out sixteen batters in twenty-one outs, he's got something on the ball...literally!! On the other hand, Atlanta's lineup clearly adjusted to him and when Lee made a mistake, they were all over it.
The Phillies, on the other hand, never adjusted. Ryan Howard, in particular, never adjusted even when ahead in the count. Raul Ibanez, he of the recent renaissance, looked so over-matched against the Braves' flame-throwing bullpen, all notions that his bat speed may have picked up should be questioned once again.
Make no mistake about it, Lowe was impressive. And make no mistake about it the Philllies didn't appear to have a clue how to make adjustments. It's customary to give the other team's pitcher credit for shutting you down and Cliff Lee certainly did that. Still, there is the matter of adjusting. When the Phils seem over-matched in a game, they don't seem capable of adjusting. Atlanta's batters seemed quite aggressive in making adjustments. Therein lies the difference.
Lee's record fell to 2-3. He seems to have an inning per game where he suddenly loses it. His teammates could probably minimize the damage if they would make the other guy pay for his mistakes once in a while, but the real point is to not sit there waiting for mistakes to fall into your lap. Go to the plate with a plan. Adjust.