- Last Updated: 2:51 PM, July 5, 2012
- Posted: 1:13 AM, July 5, 2012
When the Phillies doused Cliff Lee with a bucket of cold Gatorade after they clinched a 9-2 victory over the Mets at Citi Field yesterday, it provided Lee with his only real surprise of this season.
“I’ve never gone from hot to cold that fast in my life,” Lee told a teammate after the game. It would be the only shock to his system he would admit to.
Entering yesterday’s game 0-5 with 13 consecutive winless starts would hardly qualify in his eyes, even though the baseball world has been wondering what is wrong with the Phillies’ ace left-hander.
“I think [the media] made more of a big deal out of it than I did,” Lee said after striking out nine and allowing seven hits over eight innings in beating the Mets. “I keep things simple. I try to give the team a chance to win every time. I would have loved to have had a win a long time ago, but to me it wasn’t as big a deal as you guys wanted it to be for me.”
Keeping things simple has helped block out the noise created by a rough start that epitomized the Phillies’ struggles during the first half of the season. Lee was signed to a 5-year, $140 million contract before the 2011 season to end losing streaks and dominate the opposition. But he has not been doing that this year, having allowed five or more earned runs in each of his last three starts (0-2, 7.71 ERA) before yesterday’s game.
But after tweaking his mechanics during a bullpen session on Sunday, Lee looked more like himself against the Mets. A solo home run by Scott Hairston in the fourth and a run-scoring blooper by David Wright in the fifth spotted the Mets a 2-0 lead. But the Phillies countered with three runs on back-to-back home runs by Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz in the seventh and never looked back. Lee retired the last nine batters he faced.
“He pitched a Lee game,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Lee threw 116 pitches, 86 for strikes, showing more efficiency than in his previous starts. “The last few [games] I was missing over the plate and getting behind in the count and getting in hitter-friendly counts,” he said. “Those are things you can’t do and be successful at this level. Today I obviously didn’t do that. I was ahead in the count more and out of the heart of the plate.”
Lee was the first former Cy Young winner to endure 13 winless starts since Greg Maddux went 0-5 over 14 starts for the Padres in 2008. He also was the second to begin a season with 13 winless starts since Vida Blue for the Royals in 1983. Prior to this year, Lee had never gone three games to start a season without a win.
“I definitely want to win more than I lose,” he said, “but sometimes weird things happen. You can’t control it. All I can control is throwing pitches and my preparation in between and trying to give the team a chance. That’s really been where my focus is.”
If Lee isn’t necessarily breathing a sigh of relief, his teammates are. “Cliff is definitely a special animal and he hasn’t made that big of deal [about his record],” Ty Wigginton said. “He knows if he goes out there and keeps finding ways to pitch into the seventh and eighth innings of ballgames, he’s going to have his wins and everything else. He’s a true pro the way he goes about everything. We all knew it was just a matter of time.
“A pitcher that has done some of the things he’s done shouldn’t be sitting here with zero wins coming into today.”
Mets manager Terry Collins had said of Lee before the game, “We know he’s going to break out of it. We just hope it’s not against us.”
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