Cliff Lee was doing Cliff Lee things last night in Los Angeles while you slept and dreamed about things other than Cliff Lee.
Shame on you for valuing sleep and sanity in a world dominated by Clifton Phifer.
Last night, he was masterful. He struck out 10, allowed just four hits, no walks and no runs in the Phils' 7-0 win over the Dodgers. And after giving up 8 earned runs in 5 innings on Opening Day against Texas, Lee has given up 4 earned runs, 33 hits, 37 strikeouts and 1 walk in the 30 innings since then.
ONE WALK AND 37 STRIKEOUTS. YES.
Lee has seen his ERA drop from 14.40 to 6.00 to 5.50 to 4.00 to 3.09 in his last four starts, all of which have been amazing. And...
Cliff Lee has the lowest FIP (1.79) and highest fWAR for any pitcher (1.3) in the MLB.— Matt Borelli (@PhreshPhillies) April 22, 2014
Obviously, Cliff Lee is awesome, and he's in the middle of one of those insane stretches of dominance that have come to mark his career. But was last night's game among the best he's ever thrown?
Happily, the good folks at Baseball Reference have a way of figuring this out for us. Using Game Score, which starts at 50 points and gives additional points for innings completed after the 4th, strikeouts, and outs recorded, and takes points away for walks and hits given up, as well as both earned and unearned runs, we can tally the very best performances of Cliff's career.
So, according to that metric, here are Cliff Lee's 12 Greatest Games, because a Top 10 is for losers and saps and people who don't REALLY care that much about Cliff Lee. (click on the link for video... embed is being screwy)
#12: September 15, 2011 - Phils 2 Marlins 1
Lee pitched nine innings against the Marlins, however, was not credited with the win thanks to an inept Phils' offense. Instead, the victory went to the indomitable Michael Schwimmer, who pitched the 10th, then watched as the Phils scored the game-winner in the bottom of the inning on a walk-off Ryan Howard double. Lee, however, was brilliant, giving up 5 hits in 9 innings and one earned run, with 12 strikeouts and 0 walks, giving him a Game Score of 85.
This was one of two games the Phillies lost among Lee's 10 best, and this one really hurt. Lee went 10 innings and gave up nothing. Just 7 hits, 7 strikeouts and no walks, good enough for a Game Score of 85. However, San Francisco won it in the bottom of the 11th off Antonio Bastardo on a single by Melky Cabrera.
I hate the Giants.
This time, Lee took the "L" himself, yet pitched an eight inning complete game as the Phils were unable to score against Atlanta. In those 8 innings, Lee gave up just 3 hits and 1 earned run, struck out 13 and walked nobody, good enough, again, for a Game Score of 85.
In case you're counting, that's two runs for the Phillies in these three Cliff Lee games, two of which the team lost. Don't worry, though. Things get better.
#9: Game 3, 2009 NLCS - Phillies 11 Dodgers 0
One of the most enjoyable playoff games in Phillies history was also one of the most dominant performances of Lee's career. He pitched eight innings and gave up just three hits with 10 strikeouts and 0 walks. He also got a bit of help from the offense that night, which precluded him from finishing the game himself, otherwise this performance would be ranked higher.
#8: April 21, 2014 - Phillies 7 Dodgers 0
Yes, that's right. Last night's game was among the 10 best games Cliff Lee has ever pitched in his career. His Game Score of 86 ties him with the next two games on this list. You really did see one of the best games Lee has ever pitched last night in Los Angeles.
Lee pitched a complete game shutout against the Sox, giving up just two hits and two walks, but only struck out five in this one. Lee was in the midst of one of his patented unhittable runs of dominance, his third straight complete game victory.
#6: May 4, 2013 - Phillies 2 Braves 0
Lee went eight innings in this one, holding the Braves to just two hits and no runs with 8 strikeouts and no walks. These are starting to become old hat now.
We don't like to think about a time when Cliff Lee did not pitch for the Phillies, but a time did exist when he played for others we dare not speak of. Except the Mariners. We can remember, and giggle, as we remember he once pitched for the Mariners.
As a Ranger, he pitched a complete game shutout against Oakland in which he gave up one run (not earned) on five hits with 13 strikeouts and no walks. Those high-strikeout/no walk performances are a staple to get on this list, giving him a Game Score of 88.
It's hard to remember that Lee actually won a Cy Young Award the same season the Phillies won the World Series, only he didn't win it for them. He won it for Cleveland. Yuck.
Anyway, Lee pitched a complete game, nine-inning shutout, giving up just three hits, striking out 9 without a walk, good enough for a Game Score of 90 in this one.
In the 2010 ALCS, Lee dominated the Yankees, much like he had the year before for the Phils in the World Series. He pitched 8 innings and gave up just two hits with one walk and 13 strikeouts, further cementing his legacy of a big-time, playoff ace.
#2: August 19, 2009 - Phillies 8 Diamondbacks 1
Not too long after arriving in Philadelphia in a mid-season trade with the Indians, Lee dazzled the D-Backs, and Phils fans, by pitching a complete game, giving up just two hits and one unearned run, with 11 strikeouts and, guess what? No walks! That Game Score of 92 was tied for his all-time highest with...
This is officially tied with the previous entry as Lee's best games ever in the history of the world. He pitched a complete game shutout against the Nats, striking out 12, walking one and giving up just three hits, again, for a Game Score of 92.
You'll notice the most famous Lee game of all time, Game 1 of the 2009 World Series, is nowhere to be found on this list. While Lee was brilliant that night, it didn't quite meet the high expectations of the 12 contests listed above, with a Game Score of 83.
That being said, it would be a crime if I didn't include some video of it.