Cliff Lee ranks among the greatest Phillies pitchers in recent memory, and his best season as a Phillie came in 2011. The southpaw was especially dominant in June of that year, when he had one of the most impressive one-month stretches in Phillies history.
Lee got things started with a seven inning, 10 strikeout outing against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 3-1 Phillies win. It was an important start for Lee, who had allowed 10 earned runs in his previous two outings.
In his next start, Lee dominated the Chicago Cubs in an eight-inning, one-run effort in a 7-1 Phillies win. But Lee was just getting started, and that one run — which came on a two-out single by Luis Montanez in the third inning — would be the final one allowed by Lee in the month of June.
Lee then threw an unfathomable stretch of three consecutive complete-game shutouts against the Florida Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox to finish out the month. He allowed just 15 baserunners in those three starts.
The only other pitcher who has thrown three consecutive shutouts since 2000 is Brandon Webb, who did it in August of 2007.
After five impressive starts, Lee finished June with 42 innings pitched and just one earned run allowed — good for a 0.21 ERA. It is the second best ERA for a month stretch with at least five starts since 2000.
Lee’s June stretch was truly historic, and ranks among the best months of any starting pitcher in recent memory. But which other stretches come close?
Jake Arrieta – August, Sept/Oct 2015
The current Phillie has struggled to live up to his hefty contract, but Arrieta had one of the best stretches ever in the second half of 2015, en route to a National League Cy Young Award. In August of 2015, Arrieta went 6-0 with a 0.43 ERA, allowing two earned runs in 42 1/3 innings pitched. He followed that up with an even better September, going 5-0 with a 0.39 ERA. The Cubs went 12-0 over that stretch, which remains one of the best in major league history.
Johan Santana – Sept/Oct 2004
Johan Santana is not dissimilar to Lee, in that both were elite at their peaks, but neither peaked long enough to be in the Hall of Fame conversation. Santana had a stretch in September of 2004 in which he went 5-0 with a 0.45 ERA for the Minnesota Twins. Santana was not very efficient in this stretch, however, throwing 40 innings in six starts.
Kris Medlen – August 2012
In five starts for the Atlanta Braves in August of 2012, Medlen went 4-0 with an ERA of 0.50. Like Santana, Medlen was not quite as efficient as Lee in his stretch, throwing just 35.2 innings. Medlen struggled to sustain his major league career following this stretch, but in 2012, he was one of the best pitchers in the game.
Cliff Lee – August 2011
Yeah, that’s right. After a shaky July, Lee bounced back in a big way and had another incredible month. In five starts, Lee went 5-0 with a 0.45 ERA. He threw one complete-game shutout in this stretch.
Corey Lidle – August 2002
Lidle’s stretch in August of 2002 with the Oakland Athletics stands out as the only one with a better ERA than Lee’s June run. In six starts, Lidle went 5-0 with a 0.20 ERA. He too could not match Lee’s efficiency, however, averaging just under 7 2/3 innings per start.
Clayton Kershaw – May 2016
Kershaw’s ERA during this six game stretch, 0.91, was higher than the others mentioned above. However, that doesn’t take away from how dominant he was, striking out 65 batters in 49 2/3 innings of work. Kershaw is one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, and this was his best month-long stretch.
Scott Kazmir – July 2015
Kazmir had a 0.26 ERA in this stretch as both a member of the Oakland Athletics and the Houston Astros. He allowed just one earned run in 34 innings pitched, but finished the stretch with a record of just 2-0. His teams went 4-1 in his starts.
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