In Phillies manager Charlie Manuel's view, he has a pair of lefties that will provide a strong one-two punch at the front end of his postseason rotation. But when it came time to decide who would get the ball first, Manuel opted to go with the freshest arm.
During a Tuesday afternoon news conference, Manuel announced that Lee will be the Game 1 starter when his club opens its National League Division Series against the Rockies at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday at 2:37 p.m. ET on TBS and Postseason.TV.
"I think for a guy to have the success that he's had, I think that kind of proves that he can pitch," Manuel said. "I mean, I don't think you win a Cy Young Award if you can't pitch in a big game. I've been around the game quite a while. I'm sure he pitched some big games somewhere along the line. And if he hasn't, he sure has earned the right to pitch in one."
Lee, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, has been looking forward to this opportunity since July 29, when the last-place Indians traded him to the Phillies. The 31-year-old left-hander didn't pitch when Cleveland participated in the 2007 postseason.
"You know that I like any challenge," Lee said. "That's why we play this game. It's for the competition and it's going to be a little more amped, a little more exciting due to the fact that it's a postseason game. I'm going to try to channel the adrenaline and energy that comes along with that."
Maybe feeding off the experience he gained while making a start against the Rockies during the 2007 NLDS, Hamels had no problem dealing with pressure that surrounded him last year, when he earned victories in the first game of the NLDS, the NL Championship Series and World Series. In the five postseason starts he made last year, the 25-year-old Hamels went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA.
"Cole Hamels can pitch any game he ever wants to for me," Manuel said. "[Hamels] is pitching a second game and definitely because of the rest or whatever. But we've also got a good guy in Lee and that's a good problem to have."
|Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez||Phils' Cliff Lee|
|2009 REGULAR SEASON|
|Overall||33 GS, 15-12, 3.47 ERA, 85 BB, 198 K||34 GS, 14-13, 3.22 ERA, 43 BB, 181 K|
|Key stat||6 1/3 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 5 SO, 4 BB, no decision vs. PHI in '07 NLDS||1.01 WHIP in five starts for Phils at CBP|
|Career||3 G, 3 GS, 0-1, 2.25||First appearance|
|AT CITIZENS BANK PARK|
|2009||No games||5 GS, 3-2, 2.52|
|Career||2 GS, 0-1, 8.10||5 GS, 3-2, 2.52|
|AGAINST THIS OPPONENT|
|2009 regular season||No games||1 GS, 1-0, 1.29 ERA|
|Career||2 GS, 0-1, 8.10||1 GS, 1-0, 1.29 ERA|
|Loves to face||Carlos Ruiz, 0-for-3||Chris Iannetta 0-for-3, 3 K|
|Hates to face||Pedro Feliz, 3-for-4||Dexter Fowler 2-for-4, 2B|
|Why he'll win||9-3, 3.08 ERA since break||2.75 ERA in 11 starts this yr. w/ 5 days' rest|
|Pitcher beware||.304 batting average against in the first inning||2-4, 6.13 ERA, .331 opp. BA in last 7 starts|
|Bottom line||Make big pitch early||Regain consistent command|
Lee, who concluded his 14-win season Thursday, will have the benefit of pitching with an extra day of rest. During the 11 starts that he made this year with five days of rest, he posted a 2.75 ERA.
"I don't have to tell you how much I think of Hamels," Manuel said. "I think he's one of the top pitchers in baseball. I think he and Lee have got futures ahead of them and I think we're fortunate to have guys like them."
With the setup of this series, Manuel will now have the opportunity to bring either Lee or Hamels back with at least four days of rest for Game 5, which will be played next Tuesday, if necessary.
"We're going to need these guys to just go out and be themselves and do what they do, because they're going to be a big part of our success going through the playoffs," Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard said. "As long as you go out there when your number is called and you can pitch well, that's all that matters now."
Lee's only career appearance against the Rockies occurred Aug. 6, when he registered nine strikeouts and allowed just one run over seven innings. This outing came during his dominant introduction to Philadelphia and the NL.
During the first five starts that he made for the Phils, Lee went 5-0 with an 0.68 ERA. But he went 2-4 with a 6.13 ERA in his final seven starts for the regular season.
"I feel like I've still got my command," Lee said. "I have made some mistakes over the past few games, but that usually boils down to three or four pitches in an outing that includes 100-some-odd pitches."
While the Rockies have a heavy left-handed lineup, their numbers don't indicate that they experience a drastic offensive decline against lefties. They have hit .264 with a .791 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) against right-handed pitchers and .253 with a .765 OPS against southpaws.
"You've still got to make pitches to those guys and if you miss out over the plate, they will make you pay whether you're a righty, lefty or whatever," Lee said. "Every team that is in the playoffs right now, every lineup is full of unbelievable hitters. There's not much room for error with these kinds of lineups."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.