Maybe it was the extra day of rest. Maybe it was a little healthy competition after excellent weekend starts from Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick and Pedro Martinez. Or maybe it was just a predictable return to form from a superior pitcher. Whatever the case, Cliff Lee was brilliant tonight in a six-hit shutout of the visiting Nationals as the Phillies took a 5-0 win.
Lee had it going from the outset, striking out the side in the first inning with an array of low-90s fastballs, sharp curves and deceptive change-ups. He scuffled only once, in the 4th inning when he walked the bases loaded--battling not so much the Nats as spotlight-craving home plate ump Joe West--and ended the game with strikeouts of Elijah Dukes and Josh Bard, giving him nine for the night. Lee threw 124 pitches as he ran his Phillies record to 7-2 and dropped his National League ERA down to 2.67.
Offensively, the Phils struck early against Washington's Garrett Mock, as Jimmy Rollins led off the bottom of the first with a double and came around to score on Chase Utley's single. An inning later, Carlos Ruiz came up with the bases loaded and none out and drove in all three runners with a double down the left-field line; Ruiz came around to score on a Rollins single. Though the bats were silent thereafter, Lee's virtuosity ensured that five runs were more than enough.