The Cleveland Indians' Cliff Lee picked up his 20th win of the season in style, pitching a complete-game 5-0 shutout against the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox.
It was Lee's fourth complete game of the season, and his second shutout.
Lee (20-2) became the first pitcher in the majors this season to reach the 20-win club, just one night after the NL's Brendon Webb of the Arizona Diamondbacks was clobbered by the Los Angeles Dodgers in his bid for No. 20 on Sunday Night Baseball.
Lee's dominant season has been remarkable for many reasons. The 30-year-old lefty leads the majors in both wins and ERA (2.32), and this for an Indians team not even playing .500 ball (66-70).
Last season, Lee was sent to the minors in late July after struggling with a 5-8 record and a 6.38 ERA. The left-hander would return in September and make four relief appearances without picking a decision, and finished the season sporting a silly 6.29 ERA.
Now, the Cleveland ace is the front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award, winning his ninth straight decision and further distancing himself from Toronto's Roy Halladay (17-9, 2.69, eight CGs), who beat the Yankees for win No. 17 on Sunday afternoon.
Incredibly, Lee's victory total accounts for 30% of the Indians' wins this season, and Cleveland basically has a chance every time he's out on the mound. In fact, the Indians are 21-6 in his 27 starts.
A lot is made of the fact this was the first 20-game winner since Gaylord Perry turned the trick in 1974, which brings me to yet another amazing—and in my opinion, the most impressive—stat:
Despite the fact the Indians were one of the powerhouses in the late 1990s, they didn't have a single moundsman win 20.
Yes, the Tribe were horrible ever since winning an AL-record 111 games in 1954, being perennial doormats in the 1970s, '80s, and early '90s. But ever since they moved into Jacobs Field in 1994, the Indians became a dominant team with the likes of Belle, Thome, Ramirez, Lofton, et al, sending out quite a few decent pitchers to the mound during their 1995-2001 run.
Orel Hershiser, Dennis Martinez, Jack McDowell, Charles Nagy, Bartolo Colon, Chuck Finley, and a host of others, all benefited from the powerful Indians bats and tons of run support during that era of great Indians baseball. Yet not one of them could win 20 in a season.
Lee didn't have nearly the same amount of offensive support to work with in 2008, and yet got the job done.
Eight times this season, including the blanking of Chicago on Monday night, Lee didn't allow an earned run. Thirteen other times this year, Lee allowed one or two earned runs. That accounts for 21 of his 27 starts.
And Lee has pitched at least five innings in every single outing in 2008.
Cliff Lee, congratulations for picking up win No. 20. There will no doubt be another congratulatory message for the Cleveland ace later this year when he receives the AL Cy Young Award.