Cliff Lee wins again as Phillies beat Braves, 5-1

Posted: September 02, 2012

ATLANTA - If Cliff Lee truly were cursed, a cramp in his left hamstring Saturday would have derailed a splendid game. The bullpen would have blown another lead. The Phillies would have suffered another unbearable loss in a season teeming with them.

Instead, three hours of baseball yielded a 5-1 Phillies victory over the Braves. Things are finally going Lee's way; just do not say that to him.

"I don't really look at it like that," Lee said. "To me, what happened has happened."

The victory marked the first time Lee won consecutive starts since a seven-game streak July 3 to Sept. 5, 2011. He tossed seven shutout innings. At 93 pitches, he was certain to go for the shutout until he cramped. The injury is not considered serious and Lee should make his next start Friday.

There have been few questions about Lee's stuff; he leads the majors with a blistering 6.19 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His mistakes came at inopportune times. His bullpen blew leads. His offense failed to support.

Luck is finally normalizing.

"He looked like he enjoyed pitching, didn't he?" Charlie Manuel said. "He pitched out of a couple jams."

For example: In the sixth inning, he allowed two singles through the hole and issued a rare walk to load the bases. That brought Brian McCann, who has homered six times against the Phillies in 2012, to the plate with a grand opportunity. Lee has exhibited a deadly penchant for permitting untimely home runs. This time, McCann was quietly retired on a fly ball to shortstop.

The win bumped the Phillies to five under .500 for the first time since June 27. They must go 18-11 to finish with a winning record for the 10th straight season.

"We definitely want to finish above .500," Manuel said.

His team has won seven of nine.

"What do I always say about change? Sometimes you never know," Manuel said. "Sometimes you can make changes and you start playing better. That's how I look at that. It's nothing against the people we traded. It opened the doors for somebody else to get on the field."

The Braves did not score until Lee departed and Martin Prado smashed a solo home run off B.J. Rosenberg. The bullpen leak ended there because Antonio Bastardo recorded the game's final five outs - four via strikeout.

Support for Lee arrived early and with frequency. A first-inning single by John Mayberry Jr. scored Juan Pierre. Jimmy Rollins cranked a solo blast in the third. Chase Utley doubled home another in the fifth.

Rollins reached three times, stole a base and made a handful of solid plays at shortstop. As he descended the dugout steps following his home run, Manuel became comedian.

"That's the way to get out of running right there," Manuel told him. "You can jog around the bases."

Tim Hudson's evening was doomed in the sixth by three straight weak singles and a bases-loaded walk to his counterpart. Lee worked a full count, fouled off a sinker, and then took one on the inside corner for ball four. He flicked his bat and trotted to first with an RBI as Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez came for his starter.

The final pitch was certainly close.

Hudson was peeved at the call by home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez. Once removed, Hudson stared and yelled at Hernandez from the Braves dugout.

On this day, Lee need not chuck his glove, yell at a teammate or argue with an umpire. He departed earlier than desired with a cramp, but only good followed. It was a refreshing existence for the $120 million pitcher.


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @magelb.

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