I’m going to miss Cliff Lee. I will admit it. I know he hasn’t been traded yet. But he will be. It’s pretty much a matter of fact at this point in time
Think about this, he gave up four runs tonight and the Mariners scored seven runs and the game still lasted about two hours and 30 minutes and pitched his third straight complete game.
“Just a phenomenal outing,” manager Don Wakamatsu said.
He’s the first major league pitcher to throw three consecutive complete games since his former Indians teammate and current Yankee C.C. Sabathia did it for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008.
“I always have,” Lee said about wanting to throw the first and last pitch of the game. “It’s nothing new. I have always tried to go right at guys and go as deep into games that I can. Obviously, the ultimate goal is to throw the whole game for sure. But you can’t do that without throwing strikes, working ahead and going right at guys.”
The last Mariners pitcher to throw three-straight complete games was Randy Johnson in July of 1998, which was the year he was traded to the Houston Astros at midseason. It’s a fate that seems to be awaiting Lee as well for the second straight season.
Lee didn’t dominate the Yankees – few pitchers can dominate that lineup. But he was pretty effective, pitching his third consecutive complete game, giving up four runs on eight hits with two strikeouts and a walk.
Yes a walk.
In the second inning, Lee walked Jorge Posada on a 3-2 pitch for his first walk in 38 1/3 innings.
“I’m not too pleased about it,” he said. “My goal coming into the season is to not walk anyone for a whole season.”
Against a solid Yankee lineup, Lee wasn’t unhittable, but effective.
He gave up a solo homer to Nick Swisher in the first inning and later gave up another solo homer to Swisher in the sixth. Swisher is just the fourth player to ever hit two homers off Lee in a game – the other three players were Edgar Martinez (2004), Carlos Lee (2004) and Jose Guillen (2008).
“I had a couple of little lapses tonight when I got behind in the count, the first inning especially, and got away with some stuff there,” Lee said. “Swisher got me there. I got behind him in the 6th, 2-0 and he hit another homer. That’s what happens when you get behind in the count. I have to do a better job of working ahead and staying ahead 0-and-2 rather than 2-0.”
But the best part about the whole night was probably afterward when Lee met with media – at least 35 people.
He was honest, but wasn’t going to bite on certain questions. And he had a good sense of humor about it.
He obviously was asked about the possibility of being traded?
“It’s out of my control so I don’t even worry about it,” he said. “I’m a Mariner until they tell me something different. That’s where my focus is and it’s really that simple. There is nothing else to it.”
As Lee often points out, it’s all in GM Jack Zduriencik’s control. Lee and Zduriencik had a few conversations about it.
“We talked about it, but I don’t expect to informed along the way,” Lee said. “In Cleveland, I found out about it on ESPN on the bottom line and all over the place before I was officially told, so if it happens, I expect it to happen the same way, out of the blue. Like I said there is really no other comment I can make other than it’s out of my control so I don’t really think a bout it or worry about it. I am going to continue to try to help the Mariners win every time I take the mound and that’s it. If I wind up somewhere else, I will try to help that team win. It’s really that simple. It’s not complicated.”
Of course, that’s not going to be completely satisfactory for that much media so the trade questions kept coming.
He was asked if it was any easier to go through this scenario again after having to go through it last season in Cleveland.
“It’s the same thing,” Lee said. “It’s not any more difficult. It is what it is. I have done it before so maybe that makes it easier, but you still have to learn another organization and what’s going on. But it is what it is. I’m a Mariner now.”
Lee was asked if he had any preference for a team or the AL or NL.
“I mean that is kind of a loaded question,” he said. “I am going to choose not to answer it. Obviously, I do have preferences, but I’m not going to tell you who I want to play for – if I had a choice and I don’t, so it’s pointless to consume time talking about it or worrying about it.”
Obviously, Lee does like playing for contenders. He played for the Phillies in the World Series last season, and would like to play in the postseason again.
“It was great,” he said. “We ended up in the World Series. It couldn’t have went any better. I did my job effectively and gave my team a chance to win when I took the mound. It was the perfect scenario for me and it worked out great.”
So that means he’s probably excited about pitching for a contender soon right?
“I am excited about being a Mariner and helping the team win,” he said. “You are not going to get anything other out of me except that I will try to help this team win every time I take the mound until I am told you are with another team. And then I will go and try to help that other team, if that happens. If it doesn’t, I will stay here and continue to help this team win. That’s the answer to all these questions. That’s all I can control and that’s all I’m thinking. I have no control over it so no need to talk about it.”
Lee knew that was all most of the writers wanted to talk about. There was a pause and he joked:
“I can see you guys thinking up different ways to see if I will say something, ” he said with a smile and getting the group of writers to laugh. “You know I’m not biting on it.”