I don’t think even the most over-reactionary of fantasy owners had any major concerns about Cliff Lee after his second start where he managed just 3.3 innings allowing six runs on 10 hits and a walk in Atlanta. Seeing that line for your ace is never fun, but every pitcher takes some beatings over the course of 32 starts. Even Lee’s teammate Roy Halladay gave up six runs in two separate outings last year.
Just in case anyone was worried about Lee in the slightest, his performance on Thursday alleviated any and all fears a million fold. He put together an effort so ridiculous that it has only been done 11 times (2 of which were no-no’s) in baseball history (or at least the history tracked by Baseball-Reference). A complete game 3-hit effort with 12 strikeouts and a walk is excellent enough as is, but when you factor in that Lee performed the feat in just 99 pitches, it’s kind of mind-blowing.
Lee’s control has never been in doubt and it was hyperactive last night with 74 strikes out of the 99 pitches. He just dismantled the Nationals, that’s all there is to it. He induced four or more swinging strikes on four of his five offerings (two & four seam fastballs, cutter and curveball) with the curveball generating five swings and misses on just seven thrown!
He had three single digit pitch innings (2nd, 4th and 6th) and topped 12 just twice (3rd w/15 and 8th w/16). It probably won’t get the fanfare it deserves because it’s not a perfect game or a no-hitter, but it’s a brilliant effort without question. As I mentioned before, Lee’s sub-100 pitch complete game with 10+ strikeouts has happened just 10 other times and only one other matched his 12 strikeouts (Sandy Koufax, 1964). Lee’s 74 strikes were 2nd to Terry Mullholland’s 76 which came in one fewer pitch during his 98-pitch gem back in 1991.
Here is the list in full thanks to Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index (sorted newest to oldest):
|1||Cliff Lee||4/14/2011||PHI||WSN||W 4-0||SHO9 ,W||9||3||0||0||1||12||0||99||74||92|
|2||Chris Carpenter||9/7/2009||STL||MIL||W 3-0||SHO9 ,W||9||1||0||0||2||10||0||99||64||93|
|3||Chris Carpenter||6/14/2005||STL||TOR||W 7-0||SHO9 ,W||9||1||0||0||1||10||0||95||68||94|
|4||Roy Halladay||5/29/2005||TOR||MIN||W 4-0||SHO9 ,W||9||2||0||0||0||10||0||99||72||93|
|5||Roy Oswalt||4/16/2004||HOU||MIL||W 2-0||SHO9 ,W||9||3||0||0||0||10||0||94||66||91|
|6||Mike Mussina||5/1/2001||NYY||MIN||W 4-0||SHO9 ,W||9||3||0||0||0||10||0||99||69||91|
|7||Curt Schilling||4/10/2001||ARI||LAD||W 2-0||SHO9 ,W||9||2||0||0||0||10||0||93||73||93|
|8||David Cone||7/18/1999||NYY||MON||W 6-0||SHO9 ,W||9||0||0||0||0||10||0||88||68||97|
|9||Terry Mulholland||9/18/1991||PHI||MON||W 1-0||SHO9 ,W||9||2||0||0||0||10||0||98||76||93|
|10||Tim Belcher||8/30/1991||LAD||CHC||W 2-0||SHO9 ,W||9||4||0||0||0||10||0||99||70||89|
|11||Sandy Koufax||6/4/1964||LAD||PHI||W 3-0||SHO9 ,W||9||0||0||0||1||12||0||97||68||98|