Can you blame someone for throwing too many strikes?
Well, Cliff Lee, the quintessential strike-thrower, delivered an impeccable strike-to-ball ratio (64 strikes, 12 balls) on Wednesday, but it did not translate to a prototypical dominant Lee outing.
Instead, the lefty was done in by four solo blasts as the Phillies dropped to the Nationals, 5-1.
Also, Washington starter Gio Gonzalez wasn’t too shabby.
Lee needed just 76 pitches to get through seven innings. Gonzalez, on the other hand, needed 117, but it was the Nationals’ lefty that finished mostly unscathed.
Gonzalez threw seven innings and allowed just one run on a solo homer by Darin Ruf. Gonzalez danced out of tight spots in the third, fifth and seventh innings by retiring the red-hot Ben Revere three times — twice with two men on to end the inning, and once on a double play with no outs and two aboard.
Lee pounded the strike zone — and maybe a bit too much. The Nationals made the All-Star pay for his aggressiveness by hitting back-to-back homers on two occasions. Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos did so to leadoff the fifth inning, while Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth did the same in the sixth.
Rendon and Zimmerman took Lee deep on 0-2 pitches.
The Phils’ left-hander suffered his first loss since May 1 and tied his career high with four homers surrendered in a game.
The Phillies went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position. The Nationals went 0 for 9.
But with Gonzalez dealing and a quartet of long balls, that’s all Washington (47-44) needed to snap the Phillies’ (45-47) three-game winning streak.
For the most part, the .500 mark has eluded the Phils. This season, they’re 3-9 in games that they’ve had the opportunity to reach the .500 plateau.
With the Braves’ loss, the Phillies squandered a chance to gain ground. They remain 7 1/2 games back of first-place Atlanta.
Thursday represents another important game for the Phils’ future. A win gives them their third straight series victory. A loss drops them to 4-3 on their 10-game homestand.
The Phillies turn to Kyle Kendrick (7-6, 3.90). He opposes Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (12-3, 2.57).