PHILADELPHIA — Perhaps Big Papi can help the suddenly slumping Boston Red Sox.
Cliff Lee tossed a two-hitter for his third consecutive shutout and the Philadelphia Phillies beat Josh Beckett and the Red Sox 5-0 Tuesday night.
In a series hailed as a potential World Series preview, Lee (9-5) and the Phillies dominated the opener.
The Red Sox have lost five of six after a 14-2 stretch. They’ve scored 14 runs in that span.
But the offense might get a spark Wednesday if David Ortiz returns to the lineup. Ortiz hasn’t started the last four games because the designated hitter isn’t used in NL parks.
“That’s what I hear. I’m pretty excited about it,” Ortiz said when asked if he’s starting.
Manager Terry Francona wouldn’t reveal his plans and it’s unknown if Ortiz would start in place of Adrian Gonzalez at first base or if Gonzalez would play the outfield.
“I haven’t made the lineup yet,” Francona said.
Domonic Brown and Shane Victorino each hit a two-run homer for Philadelphia, which improved its major league-leading record to 50-30.
Lee didn’t allow a hit until Marco Scutaro led off the sixth with a line-drive single to left-center. The left-hander ran his career-best scoreless streak to 32 innings with his ninth career shutout and fourth this year.
“It’s been a good run, no doubt about it,” Lee said. “I’ve had a few in my career, but I don’t look back and compare them. I want to throw a shutout every time out there. I never want to give up a run.”
Beckett (6-3) gave up five runs and five hits in six innings, his worst outing of the season. Beckett entered with a major league-best 1.86 ERA and left at 2.20. He hadn’t pitched because of the flu since tossing a one-hitter against Tampa Bay on June 15.
“It seems like the flu gets me every year,” Beckett said. “I hope I get it in the offseason so I don’t have to deal with it anymore.”
Darnell McDonald led off the eighth with a double to left, putting Lee’s shutout bid in jeopardy. But shortstop Jimmy Rollins made an outstanding play on Jason Varitek’s hard one-hopper up the middle for the first out. Lee then fanned Mike Cameron looking at a slow curve and retired Scutaro on a grounder to third.
Lee finished with five strikeouts and two walks. He has been sensational since a slow start. The lefty was 4-5 with a 3.94 ERA through May. Since then, he’s 5-0 with a 0.21 ERA in five starts this month.
“He’s one of the best pitchers in the game, and he’s riding a hot streak. That is a bad combination for any team to face,” Francona said. “I haven’t seen all of his starts, but from what I have seen, he’s been quite impressive. He’s working counts, and he’s throwing strikes when he has to. He’s really got it going right now.”
Lee threw a two-hitter against Florida on June 16 and blanked St. Louis on six hits June 22. He needed 112 pitches to get through this one.
The most popular player on the Phillies, Lee received several ovations from the 180th straight sellout, including postseason play, at Citizens Bank Park.
Brown gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead when he connected with two outs in the second. The lanky rookie ripped a 2-2 pitch into Philadelphia’s bullpen in right-center.
Brown came in slumping. He was 4 for 34 in his previous 10 games and got a scolding from manager Charlie Manuel after not hustling out a grounder against Oakland on Saturday night. Brown was booed by fans for not running hard that game, but heard loud cheers as he circled the bases and again when he went out to right field.
Brown got things started in the fifth with a leadoff double to left. He advanced to third on Carlos Ruiz’s deep fly to right-center and scored on Lee’s sacrifice fly to make it 3-0. Lee, a good-hitting pitcher, has five RBIs in his last eight games.
Victorino put the Phillies up 5-0 in the sixth. He drove a 3-1 pitch into the seats in right for his ninth homer.
NOTES: Lee’s previous best was a 27-inning scoreless streak during his Cy Young Award season with Cleveland in 2008. … The last time the Red Sox had just two hits was June 9, 2010, against Cleveland. Their previous low this season was four hits, done five times. … Boston’s Dustin Pedroia was 0 for 3, snapping an 11-game hitting streak. … The Red Sox activated relievers Bobby Jenks and Franklin Morales from the DL before the game and optioned Scott Atchison and Tommy Hottovy to the minors. … The Red Sox are 26-18 against the Phillies, including 18-7 since 2004. … Beckett had allowed only four homers this season.
Rays 4, Reds 3
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Evan Longoria hit a game-ending solo homer in the ninth inning to give the Tampa Bay Rays a 4-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.
Longoria, who has struggled at home this season, sent an 0-1 pitch from Logan Ondrusek (3-3) into the left-field seats for his fifth homer in the last eight games. The previous four homers in this power stretch occurred on the road — the All-Star third baseman has just three homers and four RBIs in 24 games at Tropicana Field in 2011.
Johnny Damon homered and drove in three runs for the Rays, who have won nine of 11.
Jay Bruce connected in the top of the ninth for the Reds, tying it at 3 with a leadoff drive against Kyle Farnsworth (2-2). It was Bruce’s 18th of the season and ended a drought of 84 at-bats without a homer.
Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto gave up three runs and four hits in 7 2-3 innings. The right-hander had won his previous three starts, allowing two runs in 21 innings over the stretch.
Cueto retired 10 in a row before allowing consecutive one-out singles in the eighth to John Jaso and Sam Fuld. He retired Reid Brignac on a fly ball before Bill Bray entered and allowed Damon’s bloop two-run double that landed just out of the reach of diving left fielder Chris Heisey and gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 advantage.
The Reds had scored two runs in the top half of the inning to take the lead. Drew Stubbs got it started with a triple off David Price, who took a perfect game into the fifth. Stubbs scored on Edgar Renteria’s single, and Joey Votto added a tiebreaking RBI double with two down.
Price tied a career high with 12 strikeouts while yielding two runs and six hits in 7 2-3 innings.
Damon got the first hit off Cueto, a leadoff homer in the fourth. Damon has gone deep nine times this season, one more than all of last season with Detroit in 145 games.
Price struck out four of his first five batters, with the final three — Votto, Scott Rolen and Bruce — all going down on fastballs that the scoreboard radar gun had at 97 mph.
Jonny Gomes became the Reds’ first baserunner when his hard one-hop liner with two out in the fifth went off the glove of Brignac, who attemped a backhanded grab at shortstop. It was first ruled an error, then changed to a single later in the game.
Ramon Hernandez followed with a single to right that advanced Gomes to third. But Price struck out Stubbs to end the inning.
Brandon Phillips doubled and Votto walked with two out in the sixth, but Price got a grounder from Rolen on a 3-2 pitch.
NOTES: Damon, with 2,653 hits, is one away from tying Ted Williams for 71st place on the career list. “That’s probably going to be the most special on the list,” Damon said. “I think Ted Williams is top for me.” Damon played four seasons with the Red Sox, including the 2004 World Series championship team. … Phillips finished 1 for 4 on his 30th birthday. … The Rays are planning t o have RHP James Shields (8-4) pitch on the Sunday before the All-Star break. … Renteria has 899 career RBIs.