Red Sox Would Be Wise to Not Allow Cliff Lee’s Effort Taint View of Lineup Dilemma

Red Sox Would Be Wise to Not Allow Cliff Lee's Effort Taint View of Lineup Dilemma This is a time for reminders.

The Red Sox should be reminded that they have one of the very best offenses in all of baseball. Someone should remind them that interleague play will be over soon. Someone should tell them that even at their best, they had no chance against Cliff Lee.

If reminders mean anything, perhaps they will resist the urge to do anything rash, like, say, play Adrian Gonzalez in right field with John Lackey on the mound.

There is no confirmation that such a move will be made, and if it is, the Sox certainly have thought it through and considered all the pros and cons — it's been a topic of discussion around Terry Francona's desk for a week. But if we see "Gonzalez RF" on the lineup card Wednesday night in Philadelphia, one can only assume that what happened Tuesday night in Philadelphia is at least part of the reason.

That could be a mistake. Or not. Let's just hope the decision is not tainted by the latest effort by Lee.

Lee was masterful for the fifth straight time this month, toying with an Ortiz-less lineup for his third straight complete-game shutout. He took a no-hitter into the sixth before settling for a two-hitter in the 5-0 win.

Lee's scoreless streak is now at a career and major league-high 32 innings. In that span, he has allowed 21 hits while striking out 29. With that sort of track record, it's perfectly understandable that Boston would struggle. Does that struggle necessitate a move just to get David Ortiz into the lineup?

Despite reports indicating the move was imminent, Francona remained non-committal.

"Still wrestling with it," he said after the loss, his team's fifth in six games.  "We'll see. I need to think about it. I really want to get David in there and the only way to do that is to put Gonzie in right. So we'll think about it a little bit more."

With Ortiz, the Sox may pancake the 23-year-old Vance Worley with a more complete batting order. They certainly would satisfy a fan base despondent over a lack of production from Ortiz's customary No. 5 hole, which has seen Darnell McDonald and J.D. Drew combine to go 3-for-16 (.188) with 18 runners left on base so far on the road trip.

Remember, though, that Ortiz was 0-for-8 with 12 runners on base in the two games prior to the journey into the land of no DH. His return does not guarantee a complete shift in production. What it does do is put the team's two best players at an increased risk of injury and severely sap the club from a defensive standpoint.

Against Lee, it wouldn't have made a dent.

The lefty needed five pitches to sail through the first. He walked Kevin Youkilis on four pitches to begin the second, and then threw nine straight strikes, getting a pair of strikeouts and inducing a fly ball from Jason Varitek on an 0-2 count.

The walk to Youkilis would be the only Boston base runner until Marco Scutaro led off the sixth with his team's first hit of the game. Lee would get a nice ovation for his flirtation with a no-hitter, and then another after getting a double play and an easy grounder to first to end the inning.

McDonald led off the eighth with a double, but never moved. A strikeout of Mike Cameron was part of the three straight outs. Lee coasted through the ninth.

His counterpart, Josh Beckett, was supremely impressed.

"He kind of stays at one pitch at a time and he's relentless at executing them," said Beckett, who gave up a season-high five runs while striking out a season-low one. "Three shutouts like that in a row, it's pretty impressive."

At the very least, Lee wasn't doing it in a New York Yankees uniform, as many anticipated when the offseason began. Otherwise, we might've seen this act already in 2011.

And if we had seen it, we would have already been given a reminder that Cliff Lee is, when on, virtually unbeatable. That reminder should be taken into account before any major decisions get made based on Tuesday's result.