Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

An appreciation for Lee

SAN FRANCISCO — One ace watched another dazzle and Roy Halladay could relate. Sort of. He's twice pitched into the 10th inning, but both times he was victorious.

Lee's performance Wednesday will long be remembered despite a Phillies loss. That's why Halladay allowed a small smile in a dejected visiting clubhouse at AT&T Park because there was so much appreciation for what he witnessed.

"It was cool," Halladay said. "He threw, what, 21 balls? I've never seen less than 20 in nine innings."

It was a historic performance; only Terry Mulholland pitched 10 innings for the Phillies in the last 29 years. Ultimately, it was recorded as a 1-0 defeat to the Giants and Lee's 102 pitches were wasted. That hardly diminished his work.

When Lee dashed to the mound for the 10th time Wednesday, Ty Wigginton took his place at third base and looked at the scoreboard. He saw Lee's pitch count (89 at the time) and only then realized how incredible it was.

"Just wow, you know?" Wigginton said.

Lee did not require more than 13 pitches to finish an inning. He threw first-pitch strikes to 25 of the 34 batters he faced. He did not run a single three-ball count to a hitter.

When he retired San Francisco for the 10th time, he pleaded to pitching coach Rich Dubee for an 11th inning of work. After all, Lee eclipsed 102 pitches 19 times in 2011. He wasn't granted another chance, but there is hardly doubt he could have continued. That's how efficient he was.

"I had a good change-up and I was throwing curveballs for strikes," Lee said. "Usually I don't do both of those. When that's happening, it's usually going to be a good game."

That could be the understatement of the season. Lee's change-up, a pitch that typically ranks third or fourth in his selection on a given night, was otherworldly. He threw it 24 times, according to Pitch F/X data, for 21 strikes. Giants hitters swung through the change-up five times, more than any other pitch.

He threw the curveball 15 times and 11 were strikes. He could use those off-speed pitches to counteract his sinker and cutter. The results were devastating.

Yet Lee allowed seven hits. Four of them were erased by ground balls turned into double plays. He was the benefit of sharp defensive plays like second baseman Freddy Galvis' unassisted putout of Nate Schierholtz at first base.

"It was really no different than any other game," Lee said. "That's what I'm trying to do every time. I was able to put it all together and they hit balls to our defense."

It probably helped Lee that Matt Cain matched him pitch for pitch. Halladay often talks about how he's sharper when the opposing pitcher works at a similar quick pace. Cain threw 91 pitches in nine innings before being lifted for a pinch-hitter.

The two teams played nine innings in 1 hour and 50 minutes. In all, it took 2 hours and 27 minutes, which was the fastest 11-inning game since June 13, 1978 when Baltimore beat Seattle, 3-2.

"A classic pitchers' duel," Lee said.

"You just wish with the outcome," Halladay said, "that we would've got something out of it."

Lee was the first pitcher to endure a no-decision despite 10 scoreless innings since Brett Saberhagen in 1994 with the Mets. No Phillies pitcher had thrown at least 10 shutout frames since Steve Carlton in 1981.

Of course, the Phillies also lost that game against Montreal, 1-0.

"It was neat," Lee said. "But I'd rather give up a couple runs and us get the win. But what's done is done."

Have a question? Send it to Matt Gelb's Mailbag.