Cliff Lee spent eight-and-a-half of his 14 major-league seasons playing in the American League. However, he made his time in the National League count.
In Lee’s first start with the Philadelphia Phillies on July 31, 2009, he tossed a four-hit, one-run complete game. What’s more, after spending parts of eight seasons not hitting when he was a member of the Cleveland Indians, Lee cashed in as he came to the National League and got a chance to hit. In four at-bats, he went 2-4, including an eighth-inning double that narrowly missed exiting Oracle Park, one of the least hitter-friendly stadiums in the sport.
Nearly two years later, Lee would launch his first career home run. On Saturday, July 9, 2011, Lee smoked a ball over the right-center field wall. The best part? On the FOX telecast, Atlanta Braves righty Jair Jurrjens was being interviewed and his reaction to the home run was priceless:
Lee had a remarkable game that day, as he limited the Braves to just three hits and one run over eight innings. Unfortunately for him, the only run support he got came off of his own bat. The late Tommy Hanson limited the Phillies to just four hits and one run in seven innings himself. A Brian McCann two-run home off Michael Stutes highlighted a three-run 11th inning for the Braves, who won the game 4-1.
The next month, Lee would homer off of Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Ted Lilly, a 398-foot shot that propelled the Phillies to a 2-1 win. Lee also struck out 10 Dodgers across eight scoreless innings in one of the most dominant performances of his career.
In 291 career at-bats, Lee hit .175 with two home runs and 19 RBIs, We can debate whether the occasional home run is worth having pitchers bat, but among pitchers that do hit, Lee was above-average.
As Phillies Nation celebrates Cliff Lee in June, you can read the 33 numbers that defined his career, a piece written by our Jonny Heller.
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