Lee's curveball and completing games

Cliff Lee struck out 12 hitters on his way to a complete game shutout on Thursday. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

WASHINGTON -- The 60th pitch Cliff Lee threw Thursday night was a curveball. It was his first curveball he threw. Ian Desmond swung through the 77 m.p.h. hook after seeing a 93 m.p.h. fastball on the pitch before.

That must have given Lee a bright idea.

He threw Desmond a curve on the next pitch and he swung at air again for strike three to end the sixth inning.



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"It just kind of happened that way," Lee said.

That might be the most amazing part of Lee's complete-game shutout. He threw seven curves from the sixth inning on. Washington hitters whiffed at five of them. Four were on strike-three pitches.


"When he started getting his hook over, it set up his fastball that much better," Charlie Manuel said. "I knew from that point on he might be pretty tough."

To begin the seventh, Lee struck out Rick Ankiel on a curve. Then he fanned Jayson Werth on one. And then Adam LaRoche swung and missed for the circle K -- all on curveballs. The Nationals hadn't seen the pitch all game and Lee broke it out third time through the order and dominated with it.

Four straight strikeouts, all on the curve.

Lee will always be a fastball guy first because that's who he is. He made it through the Washington order throwing fastballs, cutters and changeups for five innings.

In 2010, Lee pitched a career-high seven complete games. He said he believes he can equal Roy Halladay, who has thrown nine complete games in each of the last three seasons.

"I want to," Lee said. "I think I can. I throw enough strikes to do it. It's just a matter if I can get away with the mistakes to get deep enough into the game."

As noted in today's Inquirer, the Phillies threw back-to-back complete games for the first time since 1999 when Paul Byrd and Curt Schilling did it. What happened in the next game? Chad Ogea allowed six runs to the Mets in 4 1/3 innings.

This time, the Phillies have Roy Oswalt to follow Roy Halladay and Lee.

If the first 12 games are any indication, there could be more than a few special trips through this starting rotation during the 2011 season.

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