Lee allowed 11 hits, one run, one walk and struck out 13 in nine innings in a 1-0 loss to the Braves. He threw a career-high 128 pitches in the 29th complete game of his career. It is the ninth time since he rejoined the Phillies in 2011 that he has struck out 12 or more batters in a game. Lee is 2-5 with a 2.12 ERA in those starts, as the Phils have been shut out four times and scored just 23 runs. Lee is also the first pitcher in 100 years to lose twice despite allowing one run and striking out 13 or more batters in a complete game.
The last time it happened? In Lee's last start against the Braves on Sept. 27, 2013.
"All I can worry about is making pitches and throwing strikes," Lee said. "I can't worry about the guys behind me making plays. I assume they're going to, and I assume we're going to hit and score runs. Occasionally, you run into a pitcher that's on top of what he's doing, like tonight. He shut us out, and that's part of the game."
Braves right-hander Julio Teheran allowed three hits and struck out four for the shutout win. Ryan Howard broke up a perfect game with an infield single in the fifth. Carlos Ruiz singled to left in the eighth and Jimmy Rollins singled to center in the ninth for the only other Phillies baserunners of the night.
"It was definitely his night," Ben Revere said. "Everything went the way he wanted."
Lee, whose 3.87 run support average since 2011 is the seventh-lowest in baseball, made just one mistake the entire night on a 0-2 fastball to Evan Gattis in the fourth. Gattis, who had a career-high four hits, got enough of the pitch to put it into the first row of seats in left field for a solo home run to make it 1-0.
Lee has not been able to finish hitters in 0-2 counts this season. They entered the night batting .417 (5-for-12) with two doubles, two RBIs and four strikeouts when they put the ball in play in that count. To put that into perspective, hitters from 2011-13 hit a paltry .137 (55-for-401) with six doubles, eight home runs, 19 RBIs and 219 strikeouts against Lee in 0-2 counts.
"I made a mistake on the one pitch that cost me a run, and that's my fault," Lee said. "He had just fouled off the previous fastball that was in the same spot that he hit a home run. He fouled it straight back; he was right on it, and I tried to elevate a fastball. It wasn't a bad spot, but it wasn't the spot I was trying to go to down and in.
"I've got to do a better job than that on a 0-2 count, but other than that, I'm happy with the way I pitched. But I'd rather give up three or four runs and us get the win, but it didn't happen that way."
It often doesn't with Lee.
"That's a trend we don't want to have with Cliff," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said.
"Everyone in here is frustrated, just because he pitches so well and gets the loss," Revere said. "But with that, we know we need to come out and pick him up the next time, because we know he'll be back out there helping us out the next time."
Lee had 114 pitches after eight innings, but Sandberg said he had no qualms having him finish what he started.
"He said he was fine," Sandberg said.
Lee said the same thing.
"I felt strong on the last pitch and I felt strong on the first pitch," Lee said. "That's what you want to do, you want to be a guy that they're going to let go back out there after you've thrown 100-plus pitches and pitch the ninth inning. That's what I expect to do and I'm glad they allow me to do that. That's what I work in the offseason for and prepare my body to do, so it's not anything that's that crazy to me."
Losses following great starts aren't crazy for Lee, either. That's something the Phillies would like to change.