video thumbnail

PHI@CHC: Lee throws seven shutout innings vs. Cubs

A couple of quality changeups will be on display Thursday when Milwaukee's Marco Estrada and Philadelphia's Cliff Lee square off in the teams' series finale at Citizens Bank Park, with the Brewers seeking a perfect opening road trip.

After winning three games in Boston to spoil the opening series at Fenway Park, the Brewers have won their first two games of the opening series in Philadelphia by scoring 19 runs.

"It doesn't surprise us that we're in this position," Brewers outfielder Logan Schafer said. "We know how good of a team we are, and we enjoy other people underestimating us and kind of pushing us to the wayside. We don't really worry about that."

If history holds, walks will be rare and swings and misses common with Lee and Estrada on the mound.

Among Major Leaguers who have worked at least 200 innings since the start of 2012, Lee leads the way with 7.15 strikeouts per walk and Estrada is fifth at 4.38.

Lee is already off to a good start in that department, thanks to a six-strikeout, no-walk performance over seven scoreless innings against the Cubs on Saturday. It was much better than his Opening Day outing against the Rangers, in which Lee was tagged for eight runs in five innings and struck out only one batter.

The good news for Lee is that he won both games. He'll be aiming for a 3-0 start against Estrada and the Brewers.

"Yeah, I mean I still had to battle a little bit," Lee said. "[The Cubs] had their fair share of hits. I was able to make pitches when I needed to. But yeah, seven innings, no runs, I'll take that every time."

Estrada was solid in his only start this season, holding the World Champion Red Sox to two runs (one earned) over 5 2/3 innings in the Fenway Park opener. He took a no-decision.

"It was hard to feel that ball, I'm not going to lie," said Estrada, who felt the temperature fall from 43 degrees at the start of the game. "I didn't really have fastball command today, but I felt I made the right pitch when I needed to."

Brewers: Change of pace
• What makes Estrada a strikeout pitcher?

"That changeup," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "When you have a great changeup, it makes everything else better."

Estrada didn't even throw a changeup when he debuted as a professional. A pitching coach named Paul Menhart suggested in 2006 that he add the pitch to his fastball/curveball combination, but the pitch was only "OK, not great" at first, Estrada said.

The breakthrough came in 2007, when Estrada learned a new grip for the pitch from Clint Everts, a former first-round Draft pick of the Expos. In time, Estrada mastered the art of throwing changeups with the same arm speed as his fastball.

"All of a sudden, it felt really good," Estrada said. "It went from there, it got better and better, every year. Not only can that be a swing-and-miss pitch, but it makes your fastball that much better. That's big, because obviously I don't have much to work with with my fastball."

Phillies: Could Utley be back?
Phillies second baseman Chase Utley has not started the past two games because of the flu, but was available to pinch-hit Wednesday.

The Phillies could use him in the series finale against the Brewers.

"He's about half better," manager Ryne Sandberg said before Wednesday's game.

Utley's absence from the lineup is a noticeable loss for the Phillies. He entered Wednesday with a .458 batting average, two home runs, six RBIs and a 1.369 OPS, which leads the National League.

Catcher Carlos Ruiz filled in for Utley in the No. 3 hole in the batting order for the second straight game on Wednesday and Cesar Hernandez made his second straight start at second base.

Worth noting
• All signs point to Triple-A right-hander Jonathan Pettibone starting Saturday against the Marlins. Saturday is the first time the Phillies need a fifth starter this season. Jeff Manship and David Buchanan are candidates, but Sandberg ruled out Buchanan after he threw 93 pitches in five innings Tuesday. Sandberg said Manship, who opened the season in the bullpen, could only give the Phillies about three innings.

• Phillies third baseman Cody Asche did not start Wednesday after he tweaked his left hamstring. It is not believed to be serious.

• With Lee starting for the Phillies on Thursday and another left-hander, Francisco Liriano, starting for the Pirates on Friday night at Miller Park, right-handed batter Rickie Weeks should get back-to-back starts at second base for the Brewers. Manager Ron Roenicke spoke Wednesday about his desire to get Weeks into a groove at the plate, and hopes two days of regular at-bats will help. Comments