Lee, Phils pleased with his home debut
Lefty allows one run in seven; Bako's homer snaps tie
PHILADELPHIA -- Cliff Lee likes pitching in Philadelphia.
"The atmosphere is electric," he said. "It's a lot of fun knowing that the stands are going to be packed every game and they're out there pulling for you."
The fans greeted Lee with a rousing ovation and got exactly what they were pulling for Thursday. The Phillies, too, got exactly what they envisioned when they acquired the 30-year-old lefty from the Indians on July 29. Lee allowed just one run and struck out nine in his seven-inning home debut, then yielded to Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge, who completed a 3-1 victory over the Rockies at Citizens Bank Park.
In 16 innings since the trade, Lee has surrendered 10 hits and two runs (1.13 ERA), striking out 15 and walking three.
Overall, his 2.95 ERA is 15th in baseball, and Thursday was his Major League-leading 20th quality start.
"To get the first one out of the way here in Philly and to get the team a win, I'm really pleased with that," Lee said. "I want to be consistent. I want to be a guy that's depended on. ... To come over here and have the first two go as well as they have, I'm really pleased with that."
Lee, the 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner, pitched a complete-game four-hitter in his Phillies debut last Friday, when he carried a no-hitter into the sixth against the Giants.
He was not quite as sharp Thursday, tossing just one 1-2-3 inning. But he issued only one walk and allowed more than two hits in just one inning -- the first, when the Rockies scored their lone run on a Todd Helton sacrifice fly.
Lee impressed catcher Paul Bako with his ability to adapt. In San Francisco, Bako said, Lee pounded right-handed hitters inside with cutters and fastballs. His command of those pitches was not as precise against the Rockies. So he worked the outer part of the plate instead, using changeups and two-seamers to keep Colorado's hitters off-balance.
Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook, who exited with a hyperextended right big toe after going five innings, lost for the first time since June 1, a span of seven victorious decisions.
Bako delivered the unlikely but decisive blow, breaking a 1-1 tie in the fifth by sending Cook's 85-mph changeup over the right-field wall. It was Bako's first home run since June 9, 2008, a span of 223 plate appearances.
Lee surely appreciated the run support, but he was relieved -- and wore a smile on his face -- for a different reason.
"I was kind of glad I didn't have to bunt that next [at-bat]," said Lee, who hit behind Bako and who was unable to lay down a sacrifice in the third inning.
The pair have worked well together. Lee said that since he is new to the National League, he relies more on Bako's pitch selection. The 37-year-old backstop, a veteran of 12 big league seasons, deflected the compliment.
"I think he's being nice," said Bako, who also singled. "He obviously knows what he's doing and what he's capable of. And he pounds the strike zone and makes it for a nice quick game."
Indeed, the Phillies claimed the rubber game in just two hours, 20 minutes, to win their sixth consecutive home series. They have won 16 of their past 20 games at Citizens Bank Park.
There were some other encouraging signs. Lidge, who had just one save opportunity over the past 19 days, struck out two in a scoreless ninth for his 21st save.
And shortstop Jimmy Rollins fell a homer shy of the cycle. He could not hit one out after homering in three consecutive games for the second time of his career. But he doubled (and scored on a sac fly) in the first, singled in the third and tripled (and scored on a fielder's choice) in the fifth, extending his hitting streak to 12 games.
The story, however, was Lee, who has shown why Philadelphia was willing to give up four of its top prospects to get him, and why it could be considered a favorite to win the NL pennant.
"He keeps good composure on the mound," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He gets the ball and throws it. He gets the game going, he gets the game in the flow. That's good."
And as he continues to dazzle his teammates, Lee is impressed with them, too.
"It's definitely a special team," he said. "They're the defending World [Series] champions. To be able to do that one accomplishment in itself is pretty special. ... You have to play every aspect of the game well, and this team definitely does that. Offensively, defensively, starting pitching, bullpen -- it's a whole unit playing as one. That's what it takes to win the World Series, and from what I've seen so far, they're continuing to do those same sort of things."
David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.