A start after falling one out short of a shutout, Cliff Lee made sure to finish the job in the Phillies key National League East showdown with the second-place Braves as the Phils won 9-0 Monday night.
Lee (16-7) allowed just five hits while striking out six to become the first Phillie since Hall of Famer Steve Carlton in 1982 and first Major Leaguer since Randy Johnson in 1998 to record six shutouts in a season. He has now thrown 29 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.
The lefty -- coming off an amazing August -- needed just 100 pitches to dispose of the Braves.
"I guess that's pretty good," Lee said nonchalantly. "It is what it is. Obviously that's a good thing anytime you pitch the whole game and not give up any runs. But I don't think this is a time to pat myself on the back."
He got plenty of help from his offense and some shoddy Atlanta defense.
In the first Hunter Pence got things going with a two-run single. Then in the fourth, Shane Victorino plated two more with a two-out single after Braves’ shortstop Alex Gonzalez booted a possible double play.
The next inning the Phillies piled it on with an RBI double by Pence and a two-run single by Carlos Ruiz.
The Phils added another run in the seventh on Ryan Howard’s 31st homer of the season and in the eighth when Lee scored on Placido Polanco’s RBI single.
It was also good to see Chase Utley put together a two-hit, two-run night (including a triple) after a tough road trip -- he was 2-for-28 over the past few games.
Atlanta starter Derek Lowe (9-13) was shaky allowing seven runs (five earned) while allowing eight hits, four walks and striking out four in five innings.
The Phillies (89-48) now lead the Braves by 8 ½ games. They send rookie right-hander Vance Worley (10-1, 2.85 ERA) against Atlanta right-hander Tim Hudson (14-8, 3.05) weather permitting Tuesday night.