Blog Entry

If Cliff Lee keeps this up . . .

Posted on: September 5, 2011 10:58 pm
 
PHILADELPHIA -- If September is like August, Cliff Lee wins the National League Cy Young.

If October is like August, Cliff Lee takes the Phillies to another World Series.

Cliff Lee insists that he separates each and every one of these games, and that works for him. We run these games together, because that works for us.

Cliff Lee thinks about his next start, five days away. We think about the last month, and the rest of this month, and the next month.

If Cliff Lee keeps this up . . .

Well, if he keeps this up, he does win the Cy Young. He allowed one run in 42 innings in June, and two runs in 39 2/3 innings in August, and now no runs in nine innings against the Braves in his first start in September.

If he keeps this up, then he's the guy we're watching when October starts, even more than his rotation-mates Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, just as much as the incredible Justin Verlander or the oh-so-important CC Sabathia.

"We can't deal with October until it gets here," Lee said Monday night, after his 9-0, five-hit win over the Braves.

He deals with his seasons nine innings at a time. He insists he doesn't feed off the success of other Phillies starters, insists that his runs of shutouts and success don't make him feel any more confident the next time out.

"I've had success," he said. "It's not the first time. I expect to be successful every time. I'm kind of over needing to have success to have confidence."

He says this all in the same matter-of-fact way he pitches.

He's not a no-hitter waiting to happen every time out, the way Verlander is, the way Halladay can be. He doesn't throw single pitches that leave you in awe, but at the end of the night and the end of the month, you look back and realize he's not giving up any runs.

"On nights he commands his curve, he's pretty tough," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's tough, anyway."

Does he deserve the Cy Young over Halladay, or over Clayton Kershaw, or Ian Kennedy?

"It's not up to me to answer questions like that," Manuel said.

It is up to him to put Lee, Halladay and Hamels in order for a playoff rotation, but as Manuel said, there's time for that.

There's time to figure out whether Lee is the Cy Young, time to figure out whether he's the guy who leads the Phillies in October.

There's time to decide whether this version of Lee is even better than the Lee the Phillies saw in 2009.

"I don't know," Lee said. "I really don't know. I've definitely got confidence. I think I'm a good pitcher. And any time you go through things, you should get better."

You watch him, and he seems to be doing the things he always did, or at least the things he has always done since his breakout season with the Indians in 2008.

It only stands out when you put it all together, when you say that his six shutouts this year are the most by a major-league pitcher since Randy Johnson had six in 1998, or that no pitcher has had more than six since Tim Belcher had eight in 1989, or that he's the first Phillie with six since Steve Carlton in 1982.

It stands out when you put it in context, when you realize that Lee has been exactly what he was supposed to be, what the Yankees hoped he would be for them, what the Rangers hoped he would be for them.

You realize that Lee has been exactly what the Phillies knew he would be, and that they've been exactly what he knew they would be.

"I knew what this team is about," Lee said. "That's why I came here."

He really does keep things that simple. He really does make it all seem so simple.

It works for him.

Obviously, it works for him.


Category: MLB
Comments

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