The eight scoreless innings Cliff Lee pitched against the Los Angeles Dodgers weren't surprising. The home run he hit against Ted Lilly was.
Lee scattered four hits and had 10 strikeouts in addition to his second career homer, leading the Philadelphia Phillies to a 2-1 victory Tuesday night. It was team broadcaster and former slugger Gary Matthews Sr. who gave him the inspiration to swing for the fences.
“On the way over, Sarge was talking about the guys that had hit the ball out of the stadium (Willie Stargell twice, Mark McGwire and Mike Piazza), and I was just jokingly saying that I was going to do it today," Lee said.
Lee drove a 2-0 pitch into the pavilion in right field with one out in the seventh against lefty Ted Lilly, who has given up a team-high 25 homers this season.
"That's going to be bothering me for a while, for sure," Lilly said. "That was a major mistake that cost us a good chance to win the game.''
Lee, who spent most of his 10-year career in the American League, did not have a home run in 51 career at-bats entering this season. His first one came July 9 against Atlanta's Tommy Hanson at Philadelphia.
“Anytime it's a one-run game and you can extend the lead, it's huge. That was a big run for us right there and it turned out to be the winning run,” Lee said.
Jimmy Rollins had an RBI single to help the Phillies win for the 11th time in 12 games and go 36 games over .500 (76-40) for the first time since 1977, when the team finished 101-61 and lost to the Dodgers in the NL championship series.
The Phils maintained their 8-game lead over Atlanta in the NL East.
Lee (12-7) allowed four singles and only two runners past first base. His last outing against the Dodgers, which was a 3-1 win on June 6, began an incredible month for the three-time, in which he became the first Phillie to throw three consecutive shutouts since Robin Roberts in 1950.
Ryan Madson got three outs for his 21st save in 22 chances, despite allowing an RBI single in the ninth by Casey Blake. Coming off a 3-0 victory last Thursday at San Francisco in which he threw 106 pitches and posted his major league-leading fifth shutout, Lee raised his strikeout total to 177 eight shy of his career-best total from last season.
Lee fanned Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier their first two times up en route to his 17th career double-digit strikeout game and eighth this season the most by a Phillie since 1988, when Curt Schilling did it 15 times.
Lilly (7-12) allowed two runs and six hits over eight innings with five strikeouts and a walk. He retired NL RBI leader Ryan Howard on inning-ending groundouts his first two times up both times with two men on base.
Rollins lined a soft opposite-field single over the head of first baseman Blake in the third inning to drive in Wilson Valdez with the Phillies' other run. Lilly gave up singles to his first two batters of the game before rookie shortstop Dee Gordon executed an unassisted double play on Chase Utley's low line drive short-hopping the ball and tagging lead runner Rollins before stepping on second for the force on Shane Victorino. Utley stole second before Howard grounded out against the shift.
The first two Dodgers got hits in the bottom half, including a bunt single by Jamey Carroll that put runners at the corners after Gordon stole second. But Lee struck out Ethier and Kemp, then retired Aaron Miles on a foul pop to first base after Carroll stole second.
“Anytime you face first-and-third with nobody out, it's a tough situation regardless of who's up much less Either and then Kemp behind him,” Lee said.
“Those were two big strikeouts. If they were able to get a run there, it's a different game. So that was definitely a big inning for me."