He could be forgiven the momentary lapse, even as Tulowitzki drove in Carlos Gonzalez, turning Lee's shutout masterpiece into merely a 5-1, complete-game win. He nailed it shut by striking out Garrett Atkins to end the game and answer forever the question of how he would respond to his first playoff appearance.
"I wanted to give myself a chance to really absorb it and take it all in," Lee said. "Maybe it cost me a run, but we still won, so that's the bottom line."
Lee did more than just reach the bottom line yesterday. By pitching to the end, he also solved the problem of how to deal with the Phillies' inconsistent bullpen - keep the gate closed out there.
Three complete games would be a nice way to go through the series, but that's not likely. Cole Hamels gets the chance to make it two in a row today, though. If the Rockies, who struggled all year against lefthanders, are as hasty as they were yesterday, Hamels will benefit as well.
"Today, I was more staying away from 2-0 and 3-1 counts . . . and staying out of the heart of the plate," Lee said. "That's as simple as I look at it, and that's what you've got to do to be successful - not miss out over the plate much, and if you do consistently, bad things are going to happen. If you're locating and keeping the ball down and out of the heart of the plate, good things are going to happen."
In the last month, as Lee went 2-4 in his final seven starts of the regular season, his pitches were drifting to the outer half of the plate or he found himself falling behind in the count and needed to throw down the middle to avoid walks. In the starts when he did well, it was the reverse, but there was no way to know which Cliff Lee would take the mound. Yesterday, in merely the biggest start of his career, it was Good Cliff.
"I don't know if he missed a spot," Colorado manager Jim Tracy said. "We certainly didn't have very many good swings off him beyond the third inning. He was pretty much on the corners."
There was nothing free for the Rockies, particularly after the first two innings. They had a runner in scoring position with one out in the first inning, and another to lead off the second inning. Neither scored, and those were the only times all afternoon the Rockies had a runner in scoring position with less than two outs.
After Jayson Werth threw out Yorbit Torrealba to end the second inning, Lee went on a tear, facing just 19 batters in the next six innings, yielding one hit and no walks from the third inning through the eighth, with an economy of pitches that allowed him to come back out for the ninth.
"The flow of the game," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He handled the whole flow of the game pretty good."
Manuel tipped his hand a little on his bullpen philosophy in this series. He had lefthander J.A. Happ and righthander Ryan Madson loosening in the ninth inning. The way Lee was going, and with a sizable lead, that turned out to be mostly for show, but it will be interesting to see if Manuel would jeopardize a Happ start with an extended stint in today's game.
Lee allowed Manuel to get halfway to Colorado without pitching himself into a corner. Now it's up to Hamels to get him the rest of the way. Lee did his part.
"There's no real play or any situation that you sit and wonder what would have happened if this would have taken place or that would have taken place," Tracy said. "They just beat us today."
And after all those seasons of wondering, after being left off his team's playoff roster just two years ago, Cliff Lee found out how he would respond to the challenge. He liked the answer well enough that he took a moment to look around and forever tattoo it on his memory.
Chances are the Colorado Rockies will remember it, too.
Contact columnist Bob Ford at 215-854-5842 or email@example.com.
Read his blog at http://philly.com/postpatterns.