CINCINNATI (AP)—Cliff Lee(notes) wanted one more out. Instead, the dominating left-hander had to settle for the biggest share of another shutout, one that swept the Philadelphia Phillies to new heights.
Lee got his sixth straight win on Wednesday night, coming up one out short of another complete game, and Hunter Pence(notes) homered for the second straight game, setting up a 3-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds that gave the NL East leaders another big number.
They are 40 games over .500 for the first time this season, holding the majors’ best record at 86-46. And there’s no wonder why. The Phillies lead the majors with 19 shutouts.
“I didn’t know we have 19 shutouts,” Lee said. “I know we’ve got good pitching and any day we’re capable of going out and shutting down another offense.”
They have blanked the Reds the last two games and allowed a total of two runs and 16 hits while taking the first three games of the series. It’s even more impressive considering the Phillies had two unexpected days off over the weekend because of Hurricane Irene, throwing the pitchers’ routines out of whack.
“The starters—it’s unbelievable,” said closer Ryan Madson(notes), who got the final out. “It just doesn’t seem like anything fazes them. They can do anything. And it gives the whole team confidence when they’re out there.”
Cincinnati entered the series on a hot streak, winning four straight. The Reds ran into an old problem—they can’t do anything against the Phillies’ pitching.
Lee (15-7) gave up only five hits through the first eight innings, then retired the first two batters in the ninth. He gave up Joey Votto’s(notes) double, walked Jay Bruce(notes) and hit Miguel Cairo(notes) with his 117th pitch, prompting manager Charlie Manuel to let Madson finish it off.
Lee tried to talk Manuel out of making the pitching change.
“He asked me,” Manuel said. “I said I want Madson. He said, ‘You’re sure?’ I said, ‘Damn sure.”’
“It’s not very often you go 8 2-3 and not give up a run and somehow not feel good about it when it’s over,” Lee said. “It worked out. Madson came in and got the guy out. It’s hard to question the move.”
Every time Lee takes the mound these days, it works.
Lee, who celebrated his 33rd birthday on Tuesday, hasn’t lost since July 25. The left-hander has given up only six earned runs in his last six starts. He’s been especially tough on the road, where he hasn’t allowed a run in his last 30 2-3 innings since July 19.
He went 5-0 in June and did an encore by going 5-0 in August.
“I hope I have a good September and October, too,” Lee said.
Philadelphia scored in the first inning when the Reds failed to turn a double play with two runners aboard. Pence led off the sixth with his 18th homer off left-hander Dontrelle Willis(notes) (0-4), extending his hitting streak to seven games. Philadelphia scored another run on a forceout in the seventh.
No matter how well he pitches or hits, Willis can’t get a win. He gets the lowest run support among Reds starters, and the bullpen has blown save chances in three of his starts.
“Guys on the other side of the diamond are pitching well,” Willis said. “So I’m not frustrated. I like being in those type of games anyway.”
Earlier Wednesday, the Phillies made a move to strengthen their bench, acquiring outfielder John Bowker(notes) from Pittsburgh. Bowker spent most of the season in the minors, batting .306 with 15 homers.
Bowker bats left-handed and can play left field, right field and first base. He drove over from Triple-A Indianapolis to join the team for the game.
Notes: Lee was loudly booed in the fourth, when he grounded to second baseman Brandon Phillips(notes), took a couple steps toward first, waved his right hand and headed back to the dugout. … Reds SS Paul Janish(notes) extended his career-worst slump to 0 for 26. … The Phillies have won all seven of their four-game series this season. They have never had a four-game sweep in Cincinnati. … The Phillies will start RHP Vance Worley(notes) in the final game on Thursday afternoon. Worley had a no-decision in his May 24 start against the Reds, giving up three runs in five innings. The Reds will go with RHP Mike Leake(notes), who has given up 11 runs in 14 1-3 innings of his two starts against Philadelphia. … The Reds plan to call up seven players from the minors on Thursday, including C Devin Mesoraco(notes), their top draft pick in 2007. It will be his major league debut.