Only two pitchers in major league history have gone winless in 12 starts to begin a season after having previously won a Cy Young Award in his career.
Philadelphia's Cliff Lee is now one of them.
Lee hopes to finally net his first victory of the year this evening when the Phillies play the first of three straight games against the Miami Marlins.
Despite a solid 3.72 earned run average, Lee is 0-4 on the season. While run support was an issue at times earlier in the year, the left-hander has pitched to a 5.10 ERA in his past seven starts while allowing five earned runs in consecutive outings.
That includes a loss on Sunday to the Rays, who touched him for six hits and three walks, while Lee fanned nine in seven innings of a 7-3 decision as the Phils were swept in a doubleheader.
"A few crucial walks throughout the game ended up costing me," said Lee. "I feel like I'm better than that. I made some mistakes and they made me pay for them."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Lee is the first former Cy Young winner to go winless in 12 straight starts since Greg Maddux in 2008 with the Padres, and the first recipient of the award to begin a season with 12 or more winless starts since Vida Blue went 0-5 in 14 starts for the 1983 Royals.
The 33-year-old Lee, though, is 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA in five career starts against Miami, which counters with a starter in Josh Johnson who was lit up in an earlier appearance against the Phillies.
Pitching in Philadelphia on April 11, the right-handed Johnson was hammered for six runs and 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings. Five of those runs came in the third, when Johnson yielded four run-scoring hits. His career numbers against the Phils fell to 5-4 with a 3.68 ERA in 15 games (13 starts).
Johnson, though, has yielded three runs or less in nine straight outings and no more than two in his past four. However, the 28-year-old is 1-2 in those four games with a 1.95 ERA and is coming off a no-decision versus the Blue Jays on Saturday. Johnson hurled seven innings of one-run, two-hit ball and walked two and struck out seven while retiring the final nine batters faced.
Johnson is 4-5 with a 3.96 ERA in 15 starts this season.
Both the Phillies and Marlins sit at the bottom of the National League East heading into this opener. Philadelphia, the five-time defending division champions, is last at nine games back of first place, while Miami is just a half-game ahead in fourth.
The Marlins plummeted in the standings thanks to a June in which they have gone 6-18 thus far. They are coming off that sixth victory, besting the Cardinals 5-3 on Wednesday.
John Buck and Logan Morrison hit back-to-back homers in the seventh inning, with Morrison's pinch-hit shot putting Miami in front. Buck, meanwhile, had two hits and Omar Infante added an RBI double and run scored.
"Any time you beat the Cardinals it's a good win," said Buck, "especially when they're playing that well. Hopefully it can be momentum we can build on and start our own little stretch."
Anibal Sanchez surrendered three runs on seven hits and two walks in seven innings, while Heath Bell worked around a single in the ninth to notch his 15th save of the year.
The Phillies, meanwhile, hit the road following a split of both a four-game series with the Pirates and a 10-game homestand. Philadelphia took the first two games of the set with Pittsburgh, but failed to secure the series win with yesterday's 5-4 loss.
Starter Kyle Kendrick threw shutout ball after giving up five runs in the first inning, but the Phils were unable to complete a rally. Erik Kratz hit a two-run homer and Hunter Pence and Placido Polanco drove in runs, but Pence also flied out to center for the final out in the bottom of the ninth with Jimmy Rollins on third.
"Our job is to find a way to win, no matter what," Pence said. "We just tried to crawl back, get a few runs. We battled, but that's not quite enough."
The Phillies and Marlins have split six meetings so far this season, with each game having taken place in Philadelphia. The Phils make their first ever trip to the brand-new Marlins Park with this series.