Cliff Lee throws shutout in 1-0 victory
Lee allows six hits and strikes out seven in fifth career shutout as the Mariners blank Cincinnati
Seattle Times staff reporter
Once again, Cliff Lee slavishly devoted himself to the routine that saved his baseball career.
Not the one that sees the Mariners ace constantly saving the day when his offense can't score runs, though there were times throughout a 1-0, complete-game victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night when that was the case. No, when Lee talks routine, it's about the daily, self-imposed physical and mental paces he forces himself through; a process that lifted him off baseball's scrap heap in 2007, then helped him win a Cy Young Award in 2008 and two World Series games last year.
That routine, which enables him to methodically attack hitters after days of intense preparation and focus, is the one that now has winning teams across baseball drooling in anticipation of the Mariners trading their most valuable asset.
"I've had a pretty good stretch over the past few years, but I think it's because of the routine I've developed," Lee said, moments after capping his fifth career shutout with a strikeout of Chris Heisey. "Having that mindset of not worrying about what happened last time. What can I do now to prepare for tomorrow, and thinking along those lines."
A crowd of 43,362 fans at Safeco Field, on hand largely for a double-bobblehead giveaway featuring Ichiro and Ken Griffey Jr., roared with thunderous approval as Lee completed the six-hitter. They'd seen the left-hander fan six more batters against zero walks, boosting an already record-trending 15-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio he'd entered the night with.
And when Josh Wilson delivered a two-out single to center off Johnny Cueto in the sixth, bringing home Jose Lopez from second, Lee had the only run he would need.
Lee's devotion to his routine is similar to that of the staff ace who took his vacated spot in Philadelphia during a four-team trade over the winter.
Phillies starter Roy Halladay, like Lee, found his career at a crossroad early on, then developed a strict routine he's never abandoned, as if almost fearful that doing so will plunge him back into the depths from whence he came. The hallmark of both pitchers is how their routines enable them to maintain a consistent level of excellence, regardless of in-game challenges they face.
Seattle's lack of offense, so visible again in this outing, is a major reason the Mariners are 13 games out of the American League West lead and why Lee will most likely be dealt before the July 31 trade deadline. But his routine enables him to block out things like trade talk ahead of his outings and to not worry about what his offense does those half-innings he isn't on the mound.
"It's out of my control, so there's no point in me even worrying about that," he said.
Lee admittedly didn't have his best stuff in this game, gave up at least three fly balls early that could have been homers in another ballpark.
But he came armed with a plan and found a way. He has five pitches and knows they won't all be working on any given night. But his routine has given his mind a road map of alternative routes to take — and pitches to throw in key situations — depending on the roadblocks in his way.
"I felt like I wasn't really throwing the ball in to righties the way I'd have liked to," he said. "My cutter wasn't there either, so I had to use more change-ups. It worked out fine, though. And that was really the key to my game."
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu has heard the growing questions about how he's dealing with the knowledge that his team's poor performances will hasten Lee's departure. Rather than answer them directly, he's chosen to simply marvel at what Lee keeps doing.
"He just attacks," Wakamatsu said. "It doesn't matter who it is. He attacks hitters."
Wakamatsu added that: "It's nice to watch him pitch like that right now, and that's what I care about. It's pretty special."
And with consistency being the byproduct of Lee's routine, he should stay special for most of the handful of Seattle outings he likely has left.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
(The Associated Press) Fuel rules get support A Consumer Federation of America survey conducted in April found that a large majority of Americans R...
Post a comment