Work fast. Throw strikes. Change speeds.
In 1983, the World Series champion Baltimore Orioles had a pitching coach named Ray Miller who had those three keys to successful pitching stamped on T-shirts that were proudly worn by his terrific staff of hurlers.
In '83, Cliff Lee was a 5-year-old, but one of those T-shirts somehow must have found its way to his home in Benton, Ark., because the lefthander employed all three of those keys in last night's 11-0 win over the Dodgers in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park.
Lee's performance, which ranks among the best ever by a Phillies pitcher in the postseason, helped give the Phillies a two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven series with Game 4 tonight. In eight innings, he allowed three hits and struck out 10, the most by a Phils pitcher in a postseason game since Curt Schilling had 10 strikeouts in Game 1 of the 1993 NLCS. Lee faced 26 batters, two over the minimum, and even got a base hit in the eighth inning.
Asked what he thought of Lee's performance, Dodgers manager Joe Torre said, "What I always think of Cliff Lee. He's pretty damn special. Again, he attacks the strike zone and works fast. He comes at you quick, and I think that startles the hitters because they're not ready to hit. He not only throws strikes, but he does with different speeds."
When a pitcher works quickly, the defense stays on its toes and is more alert, which in turn can translate into tighter defense.
"When you have a pitcher who has good tempo and rhythm, you love playing behind him," said Ryan Howard, who continued his remarkable postseason production with three RBIs, two of which came on a first-inning triple.
Perhaps Lee's most impressive inning was the seventh, after Ronnie Belliard led off with a single. With Belliard on second and one out, Lee struck out Manny Ramirez and Matt Kemp.
"To have a guy put up zeroes, it's exciting," said Jayson Werth, who gave Lee more cushion than he needed by ripping a two-run homer in the four-run first inning.
Before this season, Lee had never pitched in the postseason, had never been on such a big stage. So far, he's looked quite comfortable on it. In his three starts, Lee is 2-0 with an 0.74 earned run average. He has allowed two earned runs and 14 hits in 241/3 innings as he continues to make the trade general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made in late July look like the best deal made by any team this season.
"He was absolutely outstanding," Phils manager Charlie Manuel said. "He didn't walk anybody, and he put zeroes on the board. When he's on and his command is good, he takes the game where he wants it. And that's exactly what he did tonight."