When the Phillies signed Cliff Lee during the 2010 offseason, no one could have predicted what he'd do over the course of the 2011 season. Everyone expected him to be a great pitcher, yes, but no one expected him to have a June that made grown men weep with joy and women throw their undergarments onto the field.
That may come off as hyperbole, but I assure you it's not far from the truth. In Lee's previous four June starts, he'd pitched 33 innings and allowed one lone run -- good enough for a 0.27 ERA. He was coming off of two straight complete game shutouts. When Lee started the June 28th game against Boston, he'd pitched 23 straight scoreless innings.
There were a few milestones on the horizon. 27 consecutive scoreless innings was Lee's personal best (at that point). No Phillies pitcher had tossed three consecutive shutouts since Robin Roberts in 1950. With another gem against Boston, Lee could surpass his personal scoreless innings mark and match Roberts' 1950 record. But no matter how amazing Lee had been in June, it just seemed unlikely -- wholly improbable, even -- that he'd pitch another complete game, let alone another shutout.
Of course, we know now that he actually did do that. In nine innings and 112 pitches, Cliff Lee allowed two hits, gave out two free passes, and racked up five strikeouts. He was in control from the first pitch to the last pitch. As the game went on, it started to feel like a no-hitter to me. Every time the ball left Lee's hand, every time it was put into play, I would cover my face and peer out through my fingers, overcome with that excited, delightful stress that comes with tense games and excellent pitching performances.
It was a great feeling watching him close out a month of complete and utter dominance. In hindsight, there are several ways to look at Lee's June. You can look at it from a purely statistical standpoint: 5-0, 0.21 ERA, 42 IP, 1 R, 8 BB, 29 K, 32 straight scoreless innings. Yeah, that's right. Over five starts and 42 innings, he allowed just one run. That's incredible. You can also look at Lee's June from the "Holy shit, did he actually do that? Oh my God he actually did that!" perspective. Because good Lord, the man tossed three straight complete game shutouts, and capped it all off with a beaut.
- From what I could gather, this game also had hitting. The Phillies won 5-0 against Josh Beckett. Dom Brown had a double and a 2-run home run.
- Lee's next start, which was against the Toronto Blue Jays on July 3, was the opposite of every single one of his June starts. He went 7+ innings, but allowed seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits.
- Regrettable Larry Anderson Quote of the Game: "Some are calling this a World Series preview!"