Cliff Lee is a stud. No two ways about it, Tribe fans. He has proved it for a year and a half, and did it once again last night. The current AL Cy Young award holder had a no-hitter into the eighth inning and finished off the Cardinals for a three-hit, complete game shutout as the Indians won 3-0 in a tidy one hour and 58 minutes.
Lee’s arm and the long-ball did in Tony Larussa’s ego team. (SIDE NOTE #1 – I hope you caught Larussa’s dugout interview with the ESPN crew. Dan Shulman says “thanks for taking the time to talk to us” and Larussa says “I’m sure I wont be enjoying it.” Points for an honest response.) It was 2-0 in the blink of an eye thanks to a Jamey Carroll walk and a Mark DeRosa two run shot to left, his 11th of the season. Kelly Shoppach added a solo blast of his own in the fifth to finish the scoring.
But this night was all about Lee. At one point, the Wahoo ace retired 2o straight from the first to Yadier Molina’s double to lead off the eighth and end Cliff’s no-hit bid.
It was vintage Cliff after the game when asked about his no-hit bid: “Whatever, man,” Lee said. “They didn’t score any runs, that’s the ultimate goal. I knew I had a no-hitter, but I wasn’t real excited or anything. I didn’t want to get caught up in it. When we got the win, then I was excited.”
He was painting corners and working both sides of the plate with precision. He was as close to perfect as we have seen him, and this was the guy who went 22-3 last year. Talk about precision – Cliff threw just 93 pitches on the night, 70 for strikes. “I started locating my fastball on both sides of the plate, but my changeup was key,” Lee said. “I had a good change and got some outs with it.” “Cliff had great arm action with the change-up,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “He was really selling it.”
After seeing Albert Pujols single-handedly take down his team on Saturday, Cliff didn’t shy away from the best hitter in the game. He went right at him with a rising fastball and a knee-buckling change-up. Even Pujols was no match for Lee on this night. (SIDE NOTE #2 – any particular reason that Eric Wedge and Carl Willis didn’t instruct Tomo Ohka to toss four pitches in the dirt after the first Pujols homer? I mean, look at that lineup. Other than Albert, who exactly scares you? Ryan Ludwick? Please. With that one year fluke? Avoiding Pujols Saturday for the last eight innings gives the Tribe a sweep.)
In the meantime, anyone who thinks this season is over is kidding themselves. The Tribe has now won three straight series after knocking down two of three from St. Louis. The Red, White, and Blue truly have taken on the personality of their manager Eric Wedge. Despite the fact that they are missing Grady Sizemore and 60% of their rotation, they “haven’t given into the fight,” they continue to play hard every day and are finding ways to win, unlike they had during their miserable April.
Wedge’s crew, still grinding, is now six games out of first and just two and a half games behind second place Minnesota. Make no mistake, this division is wide open for any of the five teams to grab. All it takes is one long winning streak. Look at the Tigers. They won seven in a row earlier in May and that is the sole reason they sit atop the Comedy Central. Now the Indians get two more NL Central foes in Milwaukee (Monday-Wednesday) and the Cubs (at Wrigley, Friday-Sunday), who are both scuffling at the moment. Carl Pavano (6-5, 5.40) opens the series for the Tribe tonight against Dave Bush (3-3, 4.58).