OK, Cliff Lee, I get the point – you’ve earned your way back in my good graces.
I’m sorry for devoting no fewer than three columns to you last July as you incessantly struggled - a 6.29 ERA and 17 home runs allowed in under 100 innings pitched. Your refusal to throw nothing but an 88-mph four-seam fastball, generally down the middle of the plate, made you an easy target for me.
Heck, I even started dubbing you “Clifford the Big Red Dope” – clever, I know - as you failed to get out of the fifth inning in start after start.
But now – now, I don’t even know what to say to you, Cliff Lee. You’ve allowed four earned runs in six starts, covering 44.2 innings. You’ve only allowed 25 hits all season, striking out 38 and – most importantly – only allowing two walks.
Or how about this fact: you’ve only given up earned runs in two of those 44+ innings. That’s right, 42 of your 44+ innings have been scoreless. And you haven’t given up an earned run in four starts on the road.
I don’t know where or when you learned to throw that curveball. But Hideki Matsui and Shelly Duncan are still fishing for it. You’re not throwing it a lot, but man, it has some wicked snap to it.
About three or four of New York’s hits tonight were slow rollers, seeing-eye, well-placed balls. The Yankees only hit three or four balls really well off of you, Cliff, and even without A-Rod or Posada, this is still a very good lineup.
You’re getting ahead in the count. You’re locating and mixing and your pitches. You’re getting groundballs. You’re getting strikeouts.
I’m going to be blatantly honest – you have pitched as well as any pitcher could, at any level. You are performing as well as any professional athlete right now. You are DOMINATING the opposition. If a pitcher has had a six-game stretch as great as yours, I’d like to see it.
(Well, any pitcher not named Orel Hershiser in 1989 or Bob Gibson in 1968, that is. I guess baseball is due one every 20 years or so. Gibson, Hershiser…Lee?)
So keep it up, Cliff Lee. Keep it up. And while you’re at it, you think you could help Travis Hafner’s swing, or would that be asking too much?