Lee outduels Buehrle for finale win
Starter strikes out season-high nine; Martinez, Garko homer
CLEVELAND -- Cliff Lee turned in an outing reminiscent of his Cy Young season.That wasn't news. What was news was the fact that Lee's offense actually backed him up Wednesday afternoon. Lee went seven impressive innings, and the offense got to Mark Buehrle, as the Indians came away with a 4-0 victory over the White Sox at Progressive Field. Over his previous four starts, Lee (2-5, 3.00 ERA) had allowed just six runs. But all he had to show for it was an 0-3 record. So when the bats went to work for him, it was a major development. "Anytime we win and I pitch, that's good," Lee said. "The goal is to give the team a chance to win. Getting an early lead is nice, and I was able to stay away from hitters' counts. That's the name of the game." This game was significant to the Indians on multiple fronts. They won the three-game series -- something that's only happened one other time in '09, back on April 21-23, against the Royals. It's not a winning streak, but it's nonetheless an achievement and a step in the right direction. "You're not going to catch lightning in a bottle," said Ryan Garko, who cranked out a two-run homer off Buehrle in the fourth. "You're not going to win 20 games in a row. But we can win a bunch of series in a row. Everybody was so down [Tuesday] night, but we were talking about it at dinner. We said, 'We still have a chance to win the series.'" They won it in a manner not seen from this club all season. For the first time all year, the Tribe shut out its opponent. Rafael Betancourt worked the eighth, and Kerry Wood closed it out in the ninth. "We did our jobs as pitchers today," Lee said. No one did his job better than Lee. He pounded the strike zone and commanded his pitches, working out of bases-loaded jams in the sixth and seventh innings and allowing just six hits and a walk with nine strikeouts over seven innings. Perhaps such a strong outing should once again be expected of Lee, who has posted a 1.43 ERA over his last six starts. "He's throwing the ball as good as we've seen," manager Eric Wedge said. That's high praise of a guy who went 22-3 last season. And Lee might have had a fighting chance at another 20-win season, had the bats not let him down of late. This time around, however, the bats went to work for their ace. Victor Martinez hit a first-inning solo shot, and, with one on in the fourth, Garko belted Buehrle's first-pitch offering into the left-field bleachers. Garko came in 10-for-19 in his career against Buehrle. And for all of Buehrle's success this season -- a 5-0 record and 2.61 ERA entering the day -- he's 9-13 in his career against the Indians. They're the only AL Central team with a winning record against him. "He's a strike thrower, and we're a pretty aggressive team," Garko said. "That's a part of it. We can run a lot of right-handers out there against him. He's a guy in our division who we see all the time. He's gotten us plenty of times, but we're definitely more familiar with him." In the fifth, when Matt LaPorta walked, moved to second on Kelly Shoppach's sacrifice bunt and scored on Grady Sizemore's RBI single, the Indians gave Lee a rather unfamiliar 4-0 lead. And Lee took advantage of it. The Sox loaded the bases on singles with two out in the sixth, but he got Jermaine Dye looking at a 2-2 fastball on the inside corner. Dye argued the call, as did Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. Both were ejected. "That was a good pitch," Lee said. "I watched the replay, and I still think it was a strike. I felt a made a good pitch right there, and it was a key part of the game for us." Another key came in the seventh, when the Sox again loaded the bases with two out. This time, Lee got pinch-hitter Carlos Quentin to fly out to center. "Cliff really stepped up," Wedge said. "He made pitches in big situations." The Indians find themselves in a rather dire situation, just six weeks into the season. They have the worst record in the AL and are trying to claw their way back into coherence. A series win, then, was a major advancement. "Right now," Wedge said, "anything from a positive standpoint is important."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.