Well-pitched, low-scoring games like their 2-0 win over the Cubs on Saturday are the kind we should expect from the Phillies this year.
A 1-2-3 ninth inning en route to a stress-free save — that's more of what we want from Jonathan Papelbon.
Lee (2-0) rebounded from an eight-run clunker on opening day by shutting out the Cubs for seven frames. Although he allowed 10 hits, he was very much in control in throwing 74 of 104 pitches for strikes. He even picked up a hit at the plate.
Chase Utley provided all the offense he needed with a solo homer in the first. Utley also scored the Phils' only other run in the fourth on an RBI single from Domonic Brown.
Papelbon followed up his three-run, blown-save meltdown Wednesday by throwing 13 of 18 pitches for strikes in a perfect ninth.
• Utley's bat, and his baserunning. Chase homered for the second straight game and after his 3-for-3 day is 10 for 21 with two doubles, two homers and five RBIs through five games. He also read Brown's single perfectly in the fourth to score easily with one out. Even more, he has just one strikeout thus far.
• Lee finding his form. We all knew it, but that opening day outing is not the type Cliff Lee is going to have very often. He was much sharper on Saturday, even if he gave up 10 hits — when a pitcher throws so many strikes, that's bound to happen sometimes. Lee is now 5-0 with a 1.72 ERA in his career against the Cubs.
• Papelbon "pitching." After the game, Jonathan Papelbon admitted after the game he may need to have more finesse on the mound moving forward. "The longer and longer I pitch the more and more I learn, so sometimes I need to be a pitcher more than a thrower," he said (per CSNPhilly.com). We all know that — but it's another thing for him to admit it. Imagine Jimmy Rollins admitting he needed to take more pitches, or bust it down the line... It's a small first step.
• Missed opportunities. Jeff Samardzija is a good pitcher, which is more the reason why the Phillies needed to seize the opportunites they had, but they were just 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position. Wil Nieves came up three times in such situations and three times failed to plate a run (GIDP, strikeout, groundout). It's understandble trying to get Nieves' feet wet early, but one could also argue there's no need to give Carlos Ruiz an off day with your ace on the mound when the team already had off Thursday and is idle again Tuesday.
• Don't overuse Diekman. Speaking of someone who could use a rest, how about Jake Diekman? Sandberg has already used him four times in five games. The lefty has a lot of promise, but it's a long season and it's important to keep him fresh. Sandberg's predecessor might not agree with me.
• Speaking of fresh arms... There's a perfectly fresh one out in the 'pen Sandberg seems to have no interest in using. It's the right-handed arm belonging to Brad Lincoln, who (on my unofficial count) has warmed up only once in five games. What gives? This guy has potential. Let's see what he's got.