It took Cliff Lee three months to pick up his first win in 2012. It took him one outstanding start to do it in 2013.
Lee looks to build on his fantastic season debut Tuesday night when his Philadelphia Phillies continue this series with the visiting New York Mets, who put up little resistance the last two times they faced the left-hander.
Lee didn't win his first game last year until Independence Day, when he yielded two runs with nine strikeouts in eight innings of a 9-2 victory over New York. That ended a 13-start stretch without a victory in which he went 0-5 with a 4.13 ERA.
He beat the Mets again Sept. 17, fanning 10 while allowing one run in eight innings of a 3-1 win. That victory was part of an eight-start, season-ending stretch that saw Lee go 4-2 with a 1.44 ERA.
If his first 2013 start was any indication, Lee seems to be ready to repeat his stellar finish rather than his rough first half. He struck out eight Braves while giving up two hits without a walk in eight innings of Thursday's 2-0 victory at Atlanta.
"It's nice to get it out of the way. No doubt," said Lee, who is looking to improve to 2-0 for the first time since compiling a 0.81 ERA while winning his first six starts of 2008 in his Cy Young Award-winning season in Cleveland.
The Phillies (2-5) certainly wouldn't mind a similar run since Lee is their only starter to get a win so far, and the staff has a 7.08 ERA that's the worst in the majors.
The rotation is 1-5 with a 7.68 ERA after Roy Halladay struggled in Monday's opener, surrendering seven runs in four innings of a 7-2 loss to the Mets (5-2).
"I think it's early, but I'm concerned about our pitching," manager Charlie Manuel told the team's official website. "Our starting pitching definitely has to get better for us to win some games."
Mets catcher John Buck capitalized on Halladay's struggles, connecting for a three-run shot as New York went on to win for the ninth time in 11 visits to Philadelphia.
The veteran catcher's offensive production is one of the biggest surprises of the new season considering he's a career .236 hitter. He's batting .375 with three homers and 12 RBIs - a team record for the first seven games of a season.
"The key is I just feel good and I'm not trying to do too much," said Buck, who hit .192 with Miami last year.
Though Buck is a .292 career hitter against Lee with three homers, all that success came a long time ago. Buck has two singles in 14 at-bats in their matchups since 2009.
Daniel Murphy was 5 for 16 with two doubles off Lee last season, and the second baseman has gone 6 for 16 with two doubles, one triple, two homers and five RBIs over the past four games. Both of his hits Monday were doubles, and he's 12 for 36 during an eight-game hitting streak at Citizens Bank Park.
David Wright owns a .413 average in his last 19 games there, getting two hits with an RBI Monday.
Dillon Gee would surely appreciate any help from the bats since he's 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA in four games - three starts - at Philadelphia.
The right-hander, though, was impressive in his season debut Thursday, allowing one run and three hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 2-1 loss to San Diego.
That was Gee's first start since a blood clot in his right shoulder ended his 2012 season prior to the All-Star break.
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