Lee delivers on Phillies' great expectations

Lee delivers on Phillies' expectations

CHICAGO -- It has been just two starts, but so far Cliff Lee has been everything the Phillies could have hoped for.

He is 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA.

He has allowed just 10 hits, two runs and three walks in 16 innings. He has struck out 15. He has thrown a complete game. He has been the rock in the rotation the Phillies have needed as Cole Hamels struggles to find his way.

Lee, who starts the series finale Thursday afternoon against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, has not pitched since Aug. 6 against the Rockies at Citizens Bank Park, where he allowed six hits and one run and struck out nine batters in seven innings in a 3-1 victory.

He has had such a long layoff for a couple reasons. First, the Phillies did not play Monday. But second, the Phillies inserted right-hander Pedro Martinez into the rotation Wednesday against the Cubs because they wanted to split up J.A. Happ and Lee, who are both left-handers. That also allows the Phillies to split up Lee and left-hander Hamels with right-hander Joe Blanton, who pitches against the Braves on Friday at Turner Field.

Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said Lee preferred not to have the extra days off, but they hope that in the long run that benefits him. Specifically, they hope it makes him a little stronger in the postseason.

Pitching matchup
PHI: LHP Cliff Lee (9-9, 2.95 ERA)
In 16 innings with Philadelphia since being acquired from Cleveland on July 29, Lee has surrendered 10 hits and two runs (1.13 ERA), striking out 15 and walking three. He is the first Phillies pitcher since Paul Byrd in 1998 to win his first two appearances in red and white while allowing fewer than two runs in each. The 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two career starts against the Cubs.

CHC: RHP Ryan Dempster (6-5, 4.04 ERA)
Dempster snapped a four-game road losing streak with a 6-5 win at Coors Field on Saturday night. He pitched into the seventh inning, but left after yielding a leadoff homer to pinch-hitter Clint Barmes. It was only Dempster's second earned run of the night. He threw 95 pitches, striking out three and walking none. He faulted himself for giving up a two-run single to the Rockies' eight-hole hitter, who entered the game hitting .150. Earlier in the frame, Dempster's wild pitch and his negligence in covering the base on a grounder to third extended the inning.

Tuesday's 4-3 victory over the Cubs in 12 innings was the second time this season the Phillies won a game with three or fewer hits. They also beat the Mets on July 5, 2-0. It was just the sixth time this decade the team had won a game with three or fewer hits. ... If left-hander Jamie Moyer, 46, makes a relief appearance for the Phillies, he will not be the oldest pitcher in Phillies history to make a relief appearance. Right-hander Kaiser Wilhelm was 47 years, 121 days old on Aug. 26, 1921, when he pitched for the Phillies.

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•  Gameday
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Up next
• Friday: Phillies (Joe Blanton, 7-6, 4.02) at Braves (Jair Jurrjens, 9-8, 3.01), 7:30 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Phillies (TBD) at Braves (Kenshin Kawakami, 5-9, 4.12), 4:00 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Phillies (TBD) at Braves (Javier Vazquez, 10-7, 2.90), 8:00 p.m. ET

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.