April 15 Camden Courier-Post:
“Cliff Lee didn’t throw his curveball until the sixth inning Thursday.
He didn’t have to.
Lee’s fastball stayed down and had plenty of bite. His cutter kept the Nationals off-balance. For five innings he worked effortlessly through the Washington lineup.
And then came the curve, and the Phillies’ lefty went from good to flat-out dominant.
“He got ahead with his fastball and then started getting his breaking ball over, and they started chasing his breaking ball,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “I knew from that point on he might be pretty tough.”
Tough was an understatement.
Lee dominated Washington, allowing only three hits and striking out 12 for his sixth career shutout, a 4-0 victory.
When Lee finally unleashed his curve, the Nationals were utterly helpless against it.
Lee went to the curve seven times in the game — six for strikes, five for swings-and-misses and four times for strikeouts.
The devastating curve was the catalyst behind a brilliant stretch in which Lee retired 12 of 13 hitters, eight by strikeout.
“The first couple innings, we threw more cutters and change-ups and fastballs,” catcher Carlos Ruiz said. “I think we started throwing that pitch at the right time, and now they had to start thinking, “Now we have to worry about the curveball.’ It was a big pitch for him.”
While the breaking ball was baffling, Lee’s command made all the difference.
Thursday’s gem came only six days after he was bounced in the fourth inning in Atlanta. He had allowed six runs in that game, the result of poor location. His fastball was up in the strike zone throughout, and the Braves teed off.
Against Washington, Lee had pinpoint command of his four pitches.
Lee threw 99 pitches — 74 for strikes. Seventeen of his 99 pitches resulted in swings and misses. He walked only one batter — the leadoff man in the eighth — a mistake Lee was still upset about when the game ended.
In other words, Lee didn’t have a lot to critique.
“Early in the game, it was locating the fastball, keeping the ball down, working ahead in the count,” Lee said. “The difference from last start to this start was (that) everything was a little bit elevated in Atlanta, and this start it was a little more down.””
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