Ace alert: Lee tosses gem to lift Tribe
Starter allows one run while going distance for fifth victory
CLEVELAND -- Cliff Lee wasn't chosen to represent the Indians in the All-Star game, but he made up for it Thursday with an All-Star-like performance.Lee shut down the Mariners, and a new-look lineup gave him all the runs he needed in a 4-1 win in front of 22,371 fans at Progressive Field. The Indians needed Lee to start the second half of the season well following the team's worst first-half performance since 1991. Not much had gone right for the Tribe before the All-Star break, but after three days off, Lee and the Indians came out refreshed and fighting. "Everybody needs a break," manager Eric Wedge said. "We had a lot of tough, emotional losses. [The break] was good from both a physical and mental standpoint." Lee especially needed the break, if only to stop his string of tough-luck starts. The left-hander hadn't won a game in more than a month despite quality starts in four of his past five outings, but that didn't appear to bother him Thursday. Lee pitched his second complete game of the season, giving up one run on nine hits while striking out six and not walking a batter. The win was Lee's first since June 14. "He doesn't let that get to him," Wedge said. "He pitched as good as you can ask someone to pitch." And Lee finally got the run support he had been craving. Lee had received an average of just more than two runs of support in his past four starts. But with the Indians' hitters finally healthy, Wedge got a chance to put out the lineup he had hoped to use since the beginning of the season. Grady Sizemore was back in the leadoff spot for the first time since May, and Asdrubal Cabrera hit second. Shin-Soo Choo and Victor Martinez also swapped spots in the order. And the results, at least for one game, were exactly what Wedge wanted. Sizemore led off the bottom of the first inning with a single. Cabrera then doubled to score Sizemore and give the Indians an early 1-0 lead. But they weren't finished. The Tribe added to its lead in the second when left fielder Ben Francisco reached on an error by first baseman Russell Branyan with one out. Third baseman Chris Woodward's throw appeared to be well within Branyan's reach, but the first baseman missed the ball completely and the results were costly for the Mariners. Francisco scored when the very next hitter, Jamey Carroll, doubled. After a walk by Kelly Shoppach, Sizemore singled to put the Indians up, 3-0. In the end, Sizemore and Cabrera were a combined 4-for-9 with two RBIs. "It was really good to see those two working at the top together," Wedge said. "I liked our approach." In the very next inning, Sizemore came up big again, this time with his glove. Ronny Cedeno hit a ball deep to center field, and Sizemore made a leaping grab before hitting the wall to preserve the Indians' early lead. But Cedeno was able to chip away at the lead in the fifth inning with a solo homer. The Indians, though, would answer with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning. Choo reached on a fielder's choice and then moved to second on a wild pitch by reliever Chris Jakubauskas. He later scored when Jhonny Peralta hit a Texas Leaguer that fell in front of left fielder Ryan Langerhans to put the Tribe up, 4-1. Cedeno was victimized by yet another great play in the bottom of the seventh. He hit a ball right in front of second base, and Cabrera picked it up and, in one motion, flipped the ball behind his back to Carroll, who threw to first to complete the double play. "It was pretty special," Sizemore said. "He made it look easy." Not even Wedge saw the play coming. "I don't think anyone saw it coming," Wedge said. "I'm just glad Jamey did." Lee was close to 100 pitches before the start of the ninth inning. But Wedge said that when he pitches like he did Thursday, you can't even think about going to the bullpen. "It was Cliff's ballgame," Wedge said. "He was in control." Lee backed up his manager's confidence by pitching a scoreless ninth to give the Indians their third win in five games. "We started with a win and played the game the right way all the way through," Lee said. "That's what we need to keep doing [it] the rest of the way."
Matt O'Donnell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.