After winning ten in a row, crawling to within two games of .500, then losing three in a row, the Indians needed some sort of spark. Enter Cliff Lee. Baseball’s first 20 game winner of the season, Lee was masterful in a 5-0 victory over AL Central leading Chicago White Sox.
Lee pitched a complete game five hit shutout, not allowing a walk, and striking out four in the victory. His shutout comes on the heels of ex-teammate CC Sabathia’s one-hit complete game just days before.
Could the Cy-Young winners from both leagues be opening-day teammates? Probably not. While Lee is the probable winner in the AL, Sabathia is a long shot in the NL given the likes of Arizona’s Brandon Webb. Then again, Webb missed his 20th win in a meltdown during his last start.
Lee started the game by giving up a two of the five hits he surrendered all game, but with runners on first and second and nobody out, Lee got a strikeout and a Jermaine Dye line drive double play, getting out of the inning with no damage.
The Indians would get the only run they’d need in the bottom of the second. Jhonny Peralta opened the inning by drawing a walk. Ryan Garko singled Peralta over to second, and Peralta scored on a Shin-Soo Choo single, making it 1-0 Tribe.
The Indians added runs in each of the next two innings, roughing up White Sox starter Clayton Richard for six hits and four runs, three of them earned, in four innings of work.
In the third, the Indians went up 2-0 after Grady Sizemore landed on second base after a routine ground-out to Richard turned into an error and Sizemore standing on second base after the overthrow to first. Ben Francisco delivered a clutch single, scoring Sizemore.
The Indians had back-to-back-to-back doubles in the bottom of the fourth, resulting in a 4-0 lead. With two out, Franklin Gutierrez doubled. Kelly Shoppach doubled him home, and Asdrubal Cabrera doubled Shoppach in before Sizemore struck out to end the inning.
The Indians tacked on one more run in the bottom of the eighth. Garko singled. Choo doubled Garko over to third, and after Gutierrez was hit by a pitch, loading the bases, Cabrera got his second RBI of the night on a sac fly that scored Garko.
The Indians couldn’t get anyone else across the plate, but with a five run lead and Lee heading out for the finishing touch on his shutout, it didn’t matter.
Lee did allow his fourth and fifth hits in the bottom of the ninth, but closed out the game the same way he opened it, with a double play ball, this time a ground-out, that sealed the deal and made Lee the first Indians pitcher to win 20 since Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry did it in 1974.
The only other Indians pitchers to ever make 20 wins were Bob Feller and Bob Lemon, both Hall of Fame inductees—not bad company.
The Indians move to 10.5 of the White Sox with the win. The loss puts the Sox in a virtual dead-lock for first place with the Minnesota Twins at 77-66. The Indians are sitting at 66-70.
These two go again with a 7:05 start time. Fausto Carmona(7-5,4.50 ERA) takes the hill against John Danks(10-7, 3.3 ERA)