PHILADELPHIA--Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard were back Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park, but it's difficult to say what their returns during the Philadelphia Phillies' fall-from-far-ahead, 10-6 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks mean for their immediate futures.
The bad bullpen is also back at the Bank.
The Diamondbacks, after trailing by 6-2, won in 10 innings with Martin Prado hitting a sacrifice fly off Antonio Bastardo to score Ender Inciarte with the game-winning run. Nick Evans' pinch-hit, three-run homer gave Arizona a four-run cushion and provided the last of his team's eight unanswered runs.
Lee was back for one last start in front of the scouts from contending teams who might want to pick from the carcass of the last-place Phillies at this week's non-waiver trade deadline. Howard was back from a three-day benching with a chance to prove that the time off was just what he needed to right all that has gone so wrong for the once great slugger.
Lee had slightly better results against the Diamondbacks than he did Monday against San Francisco in his return from the disabled list, but it's hard to imagine the scouts speed-dialed their bosses to tell them they have to acquire Lee based on this performance. Give him this: He was considerably better than the bullpen, which has recently reverted to its awful April form.
"It looks like he's still building up arm strength, and the ball is just not coming out crisp," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He's lacking that right now as well as the command. Not a lot of difference from his first outing."
Lee allowed three runs on nine hits before being lifted for pinch-hitter Darin Ruf in the top of the fifth inning. He also walked two batters and hit another. In his two starts with the scouts out in force, the lefthander has allowed nine runs on 21 hits in 102/3 innings.
He needed 33 pitches to get through the first inning, during which he walked one batter, hit another with a 1-2 pitch, and allowed two hits. Remarkably, he allowed just one run. Home-plate umpire Quinn Wolcott's tight strike zone did not help his cause.
"I felt like I made a lot of really close pitches that were called balls, and it seemed to be that way for both teams all night," Lee said. "It seemed like it was fair for both sides, but it seemed pretty tight, which makes it tough. I'm not really happy going five innings."
The bullpen make a 6-3 lead quickly disappear. Justin De Fratus, after escaping a bases-loaded, one-out jam Friday night, gave up two runs in the sixth, and Mario Hollands gave up the tying run in the seventh.
After Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon recorded seven straight outs, Bastardo imploded in the 10th. The bullpen ERA in the team's last 11 games is 6.94.
As for Howard, he went 2 for 5 with a walk in his return from a three-game benching and was cheered before most of his at-bats -- and booed after three of them.
Howard had a chance to make a difference in the first inning. He stepped to the plate with runners at first and third with one out against Josh Collmenter, a soft-tossing righthander with good career numbers.
The cheers quickly turned to boos for Howard when he struck out. The inning ended without the Phillies scoring when Marlon Byrd was called out on strikes.
An inning later, Howard found himself at the plate in an identical situation -- runners at the corners with one out. The only difference this time was that the Phillies had already pushed across four runs, thanks to a two-run homer by Cody Asche, an RBI double from Jimmy Rollins, and an RBI single from Chase Utley.
This time, he grounded the ball weakly to first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who started a 3-6-3, inning-ending double play. More boos followed.
Howard singled on a bloop to left field in the fourth and on a liner to right-center field in the sixth. With Utley on first in the eight and the score tied at 6, Howard walked. The crowd had thinned considerably, but still booed when Howard struck out against closer Addison Reed in the 10th.
Both of Howard's hits came off lefthanders, so it will be interesting to see if he is back in the lineup Sunday afternoon against Arizona lefty Vidal Nuno.
"He had some of his better at-bats against lefthanded pitchers," Sandberg said. "He had a couple of knocks, so that is something for him to build on."
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