video thumbnail

TEX@PHI: Lee fans 10 over eight shutout innings

PHILADELPHIA -- Cliff Lee loved the fact he threw eight scoreless innings Saturday against the Rangers.

He hated the fact he walked two batters.

The man is a perfectionist. He allowed just five hits, two walks and struck out 10 in a 2-0 victory over Texas at Citizens Bank Park.

He was impressive, but the Rangers were not impressed.

It isn't what it sounds like.

"I don't know if he was special," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "It's not special when that's what he normally does."

Lee faced the Rangers for the first time since he left more money on the table from them and the Yankees and signed a five-year, $120 million contract with the Phillies in December. Lee said Friday he would not be overcome with emotions when he faced his former teammates, whom he helped lead to the 2010 American League championship, and he held true to form.

"It was a little different, but not something off the charts different," the lefty said. "It was still an opposing team I know is a very good offense."

Lee knew the Rangers just like they knew him. So he mixed things up. He said he tried to throw fewer fastballs than normal because he knows the Rangers know how much he loves to attack the strike zone. No matter what pitch he threw Saturday, he threw it effectively. The Rangers never had a runner reach third base, and never had a runner reach second base after the sixth inning.

Lee (3-4, 3.38 ERA) picked up his first win since April 14, but that's not because he has pitched poorly. It is because runs and hits have been scarce.

Ryan Howard snapped his 0-for-23 slump, which was the worst hitless streak of his career. He hit a solo home run to right field in the second inning to give the Phillies the lead. He then singled to right field in the fourth inning to put runners on the corners with one out.

He finished 2-for-4.

"I felt better," Howard said. "I had a couple hits and just missed the last ball [a flyout in the eighth]. I felt like it was a step in the right direction."

The Phillies tried to muster another run for Lee, who has had some of the worst run support in baseball. In his previous five starts, the Phillies scored just three runs over 33 1/3 innings. His 0.81 runs of support per nine innings since April 25 were the second worst in baseball.

The Phillies had runners at the corners in the fourth, but Raul Ibanez hit into an inning-ending double play. Domonic Brown flied out to right in the fifth to leave the bases loaded. Lee actually singled and stole second base in the fifth. The Rangers did not hold Lee on first base, and right-hander Colby Lewis completely ignored him. Lee said he thought about stealing, but when he heard Shane Victorino yelling from the dugout to go, he decided to go.

It was the Phillies' first stolen base by a pitcher in the regular season since Cole Hamels stole one Sept. 1, 2009, in San Francisco, although Lee stole a base in Game 1 of the 2009 National League Division Series against Colorado.

The Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the sixth -- a huge cushion for Lee these days -- when Lewis walked Ibanez and Carlos Ruiz with two outs, and John Mayberry Jr. singled to left.

Jimmy Rollins' single to left field with two outs in the seventh got Philadelphia its seventh hit. It snapped a streak of seven consecutive games of six or fewer hits, which was the Phillies' worst stretch since a nine-game streak in June 1908.

The Phillies still have not scored four runs in a game since May 13, a streak of eight consecutive games with three or fewer runs. Philadelphia had a 12-game stretch like that last season.

But Lee was on, so two runs were plenty.

"When Cliff Lee pitches, he's a lot like [Roy] Halladay," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "When he comes on that day, he's there to beat you. He doesn't care who you are. I don't think it sits with him at all. He comes to win that game. He comes to beat you. Actually, I get the impression he wants to impress you when he beats you."

But sometimes it's tough to impress when the people on the other team have seen this before.

Impressive? Sure. Unusual? Hardly.

MLB.com Comments