Cliff Lee usually throws more strikes than a pitching machine. He walked a major league-low 18 batters in 212 1/3 innings last season. In the last four seasons, since the start of 2008, no pitcher in baseball has issued fewer walks.
But Lee walked a career-high six in the Phillies' 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night. Afterward, Lee and Phillies manager Charlie Manuel seemed to think the unusually high walk total might have had more to do with the guy behind the plate than the guy on the mound. Gerry Davis was Monday night's home plate umpire at Busch Stadium.
"(Lee) didn't say a whole lot tonight, but he usually doesn't say anything," Manuel said. "Tonight he said, 'I'm throwing a lot of strikes.' That's all he said."
"I felt like I threw a lot of strikes that were called balls," Lee said. "Whatever, I'm the pitcher, he's the umpire. It's his job to call balls and strikes, and he felt like they were balls, I guess."
The first sign that Lee wasn't his usual self came in the first inning: He walked back-to-back batters with two outs. The former Cy Young winner still managed to escape unscathed, getting Allen Craig to strand the bases loaded on a flyball to right.
But Lee couldn't avoid the problems a heavy walk total usually leads to all night. In the fourth, he walked the first two batters, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman, and both eventually came around to score. The two runs proved to be the difference in the game.
"I'm typically not a guy that walks a lot of guys, but tonight for whatever reason that happened," said Lee, who has walked 13 batters through eight starts and 58 2/3 innings this season.
Lee, who signed a five-year, $120 million deal with the Phillies in December as a free agent, is 2-4 with a 3.84 ERA in nine starts this season. Lee hasn't won a game since April 14, but in all three of the games he has lost during that stretch, the Phils have scored a total of one run.
"I could have been better. Obviously, I feel like I could have done better," Lee said Monday. "I threw a lot of pitches early. I could have had better command. Whatever. It is what it is. I kept it close, pitched into the seventh inning. That's my job."
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