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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rivalry Week or Weak?

Cliff Lee threw a 4-hit gem vs. Red Sox (Getty Images)
BOSTON, May 28, 2013 - When the Lords of Baseball developed the intricacies of Major League Baseball inter-league play, two pairs of home and home games pitting the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies was not what they had in mind. While Boston and Philadelphia have had their natural sports rivalries over the years, the Sox and the Phils and the sport of baseball are neither a rivalry nor a blip on the "Rival" radar screen.

The NHL's Winter Classic at Fenway between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers was "nice," and the two NHL behemoths had their share of brawling ice hickey games, including the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals, won by the Broad Street Bullies in six fun-filled, hatred-filled games. However, the bitter rivalry was once the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers. The very first hint of their regional rivalry was a monumental conflict built on the two greatest bigmen in the game, Boston's Bill Russell and Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain. Later, the mid-80s back-and-forth between the Larry Bird-led Celtics and the Julius "Dr. J" Erving led 76ers would fuel a generation of basketball fans in a "Who's Got Next" argument for the ages, complete with a preseason rumble when Bird and Dr. J were literally at each other's throats.

Somehow, visions of Jacoby Ellsbury and Jimmy Rollins staring down the barrel of a Cliff Lee on Clay Buchholz fastball don't instill that same sense of competition, fear and hatred.  In fact, Philadelphia's Ben Revere has quite a few friends here in the Freedom Trail that is known as the Commonwealth.

History aside, tonight's version of inter-gallactic scheduling was an entertaining pitchers duel won by Philadelphia gemstone Cliff Lee, he of 95 pitches and 69 strikes in a four-hit, 3-1 Phillies win, a victory that took the team to a 25-27 record and 3-6 when speaking of Inter-league play. The Red Sox, now 32-21 overall, snapped a four-game winning streak and have managed an 8-2 record over their last 10 inter-league games. Lee advanced to 6-2 on the year while Boston's "fifth starter" Ryan Dempster fell to a disappointing 2-6 since joining the club this year.

Dempster suffered the loss despite allowing only two runs over the season-high seven innings. Over Dempster's previous three starts, he recorded a 10.66 ERA (15 ER/1`2.2 innings pitched) but it was the sixth time in 11 starts that he held his opponent to uder two earned runs.

The Red Sox fell victim to two key "longballs" hit by Philadelphia, the first being a second-pitch of the second at bat of the game Home Run at the hands of Phila 3B Michael Young (of Texas Rangers' fame). Young crushed a ball to the front rows of Fenway Park's Green Monster to spot the Phillies a 1-0 lead that would vanish in the bottom of the 1st inning when Red Sox lead-off hitter Jacoby Ellsbury singled, stole a base and was driven in efficiently by a Dustin Pedroia base hit to right field. With Lee and Dempster settling in, the game remained knotted at 1-all until Phillies catcher Erik Kratz drove in RF John Mayberry who had singled and was bunted over to 2B by Phila INF Freddy Galvis, building the perfect run to spot pitching ace Lee the victory.

A ninth inning lead-off HR by Philadelphia left fielder Domonic Brown, last week's National League Player of the Week (May 20-26) gave the Philadelphians an insurance run and a 3-1 lead that would be protected by former Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon who drew a chorus of boos from the Fenway faithful but sooner afterward recorded his 10th save of the season by retiring the heart of the Red Sox lineup (Jonny Gomes, Pedroia and David Ortiz) in order for the win.

NOTES: The two teams travel to Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philly for two more games of inter-league play with Boston's RHP John Lackey facing Philadelphia's RHP Kyle Kendrick on Wednesday night, then Red Sox ace LHP Jon Lester battling Phillies undefeated RHP Jonathan Pettibone on Thursday, May 30th. ... Philly is now 13-12 in the month of May with three games remaining until they face Milwaukee on June 1 ... SP Cliff Lee is now 6-2 on the year but is 5-1 with a 2.08 ERA (14 ER/60.2 innings pitched) in eight starts following a Philadelphia loss. ... Phila's #9 hitter, catcher Eric Kratz went 2-for-3 with a base on balls while driving in the game-winning run with his single in the 7th. ... Kratz has hit safely in aa of his last 13 games and is batting .308 (12-for-39) during that stretch with three HRs and five RBIs.

(This story is a sampling of the regular MLB coverage on - Try it, you'll like it).

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