Cliff Lee is giving credence to the old saying that life begins after 30 -- or maybe it was 29 in his case.
In his final start before the 2007 All-Star break, Lee allowed six runs on six hits in four innings and took the loss to fall to 5-5. Over the final two-plus months of the season, Lee would suffer through a demotion to the Minors and would go winless in seven Major League appearances. From that July 6 start through the end of the season, Lee was 0-4 with a 10.17 ERA in 25 2/3 innings. At the age of 29, he looked finished.
Instead, beginning with the next season, Lee has more often resembled Clark Kent after spending a moment in a telephone booth. From his first appearance in 2008 through his effort Thursday night, Lee has ranked among the top five in the Majors in wins (64), ERA (2.83), ERA+ (147), complete games (23), shutouts (11), WHIP (1.096) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.54). In this same span of time, he has held opponents to a .637 OPS.
Basically, since the start of the 2008 season, Lee has been reducing the opposition to a lineup of Adam Everetts.
In the second game of a doubleheader Thursday, Lee allowed one run in nine innings and struck out 12 with no walks in the Phillies' 2-1 win over the Marlins. Over his past eight starts, Lee is 6-0 with a 0.56 ERA in 64 2/3 innings. In those eight starts, he struck out 64, walked 10, allowed two home runs and held the opposition to a .450 OPS.
Lee has struck out 10 or more batters in nine starts this season. That total leads the Majors, is the most for a Phillies pitcher since Curt Schilling had 15 double-digit K games in 1998, is the most for a Phillies left-hander since Steve Carlton had nine in '83, and is the most for any left-hander in the Majors since Johan Santana had nine in 2006.
Lee has six made starts in which he has struck out at least 10 and walked no more than one. He's tied with Clayton Kershaw for the most such starts in the Majors.
Since the start of the 2008 season, Lee has had 18 games with 10-plus strikeouts. That total is the second most over this span, with Tim Lincecum having 29 such games.
Lee's start Thursday produced a game score (a formula used to measure a pitcher's dominance) of 85. It marked the fourth time this season he had put up an 85 or better. Over the past 10 seasons, those four in a season are tied for the third most for a left-hander. Randy Johnson had five such starts in 2002, as did CC Sabathia in '08. Johnson also had four starts with an 85 or better game score in '04.
Lee's 12-K, no-walk start improved his season's strikeout-to-walk ratio to 5.31. Philadelphia teammate Roy Halladay's ratio stands at 7.03 -- a figure that leads the Majors. If Lee and Halladay both finish the season above 5.00, they will make the 2011 Phillies the sixth team to have two (or more) qualifying pitchers with such a ratio, joining the 2005 Twins (Santana, Brad Radke and Carlos Silva), the '01 D-backs (Johnson and Schilling), 1996 Braves (Greg Maddux and John Smoltz), '67 Twins (Jim Kaat and Jim Merritt) and '66 Giants (Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry).
Lee's start lowered his ERA to 2.38 -- a figure just slightly above Halladay's 2.34. Halladay's ERA+ stands at 166, while Lee's is at 163.
The last time two qualifying teammates finished a season with ERAs below 2.40 was in 2005, when Houston's Roger Clemens owned a 1.87 ERA and teammate Andy Pettitte finished with a 2.39 mark. Since 1972, four other tandems have done it: Phil Niekro and Buzz Capra for the '74 Braves, Burt Hooton and Jerry Reuss for the '81 Dodgers, Bob Knepper and Nolan Ryan for the '81 Astros, and Orel Hershiser and Bob Welch for the '85 Dodgers.
The last time two qualifying teammates each finished the season with an ERA+ of at least 160 was in 2005, when Clemens and Pettitte did it. Over the past 50 seasons, four other tandems have accomplished this feat: Sam McDowell and Luis Tiant of the 1968 Indians; Carlton and Bob Gibson of the '69 Cardinals; Tom Glavine and Maddux of the '98 Braves; and (as the first trio since 1907): Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Tim Wakefield of the 2002 Red Sox.
Paced by Ian Desmond's career-high five hits and Tom Milone's first career win, the Nationals beat the Mets, 10-1, to complete a four-game sweep. The Expos/Nationals franchise had not swept the Mets in a four-game set since Sept. 18-21, 2003.
The Nationals allowed a total of five runs in the series, and have given up two or fewer runs in five straight games. For the season, their 3.68 team ERA ranks seventh in the National League and gives the Nats a better-than-league-average ERA for the first time since 2005.
Michael Young went 1-for-3 with a three-run double in the Rangers' 7-4 victory over the Indians. Young now has 197 hits, 101 RBIs and 40 doubles on the season and is batting .334. In the American League, he is tied for second in batting, is ninth in doubles, fifth in RBIs and second in hits.
Young is three hits shy of his sixth 200-hit season. At six, he would be tied with Jesse Burkett, Sam Rice, George Sisler, Al Simmons, Bill Terry, Stan Musial and Steve Garvey for the 11th most in history.
Young's 101 RBIs have come along with 11 home runs. The homer total is the lowest for a 100-RBI season since Jeff Cirillo drove in 115 runs and hit 11 home runs for the Rockies in 2000. The last AL player to have at least 100 RBIs and no more than 11 home runs was Paul Molitor (nine homers and 113 RBIs) in 1996.
Melky Cabrera went 4-for-5 with his 41st double and 18th home run in the Royals' 7-2 win over the White Sox. Cabrera matched his career high for hits and now has 57 multihit games on the season. Cabrera's 57 multihit games are tied with Jermaine Dye (2000) for the ninth most in franchise history, and are the third most for a Royals switch-hitter. For switch-hitters, the top two marks are held by Willie Wilson: 71 multihit games in 1980 (also the franchise high for any batter) and 58 in '82.
Cabrera's double was his 40th of the season as an outfielder. With the two-base hit, he and teammates Alex Gordon (45 doubles as an outfielder) and Jeff Francoeur (45 doubles as an outfielder) made the Royals the first team in history to have three players with 40 doubles as outfielders. Gordon and Francoeur are tied with the Rays' Ben Zobrist for the most two-base hits in the AL. Cabrera is eighth in the league, and Royals designated hitter Billy Butler is tied for 10th, with 38.
In addition to the volume of two-base hits, the Royals' outfield trio has also combined for 49 outfield assists, with Gordon leading the league with 20, Francoeur second, with 16, and Cabrera tied for fifth, with 13.
Pablo Sandoval went 4-for-4 and became the second player (joining Milwaukee's George Kottaras) to hit for the cycle in 2011.
Sandoval is the first Giants player since Fred Lewis on May 13, 2007, to hit for the cycle. Like Lewis, Sandoval accomplished the feat at Coors Field. The last Giants player to hit for the cycle in a different ballpark was Randy Winn, who achieved the feat on Aug. 15, 2005, in Cincinnati.
Sandoval is the first switch-hitter to hit for the cycle since Cabrera on Aug. 2, 2009. Before Sandoval, the most recent Giants switch-hitter to do it was Winn in '05.
Sandoval is the 23rd player in Giants history to hit for the cycle. The others: Mike Tiernan (1888, '90), Sam Mertes (1904), Chief Meyers ('12), George Burns ('20), Dave Bancroft ('21), Ross Youngs ('22), Bill Terry ('28), Mel Ott ('29), Freddie Lindstrom ('30), Sam Leslie ('36), Harry Danning ('40), Don Mueller ('54), Jim Ray Hart ('70), Dave Kingman ('72), Jeffrey Leonard ('85), Candy Maldonado ('87), Chris Speier ('88), Robby Thompson ('91), Jeff Kent ('99), Winn (2005) and Lewis ('07).
Here and there
The Phillies swept a doubleheader against the Marlins, allowing a single run in each of the games. With the two victories, Philadelphia improved to 97-51. The Phillies have allowed one or fewer runs in 40 games this season -- the most in the Majors.
2011: Most Games Allowing No More Than One Run
Jay Bruce's game-ending home run in the Reds' 8-6 win over the Cubs marked the 99th homer of his career. If he can get to 100, he will become the third Reds player and 42nd player overall to reach the century mark through his first four seasons. Frank Robinson (134) and Adam Dunn (118) did it for Cincinnati.
The Rays defeated the Red Sox, 9-2, to close to within three games of Boston for the lead in the AL Wild Card standings. Tampa Bay has won six straight games against Boston and leads the season series, 10-5. Since Aug. 1, the Rays are 27-15, while the Red Sox are 20-23.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.