Cliff Lee won’t have to wait until Independence Day to get his first victory this season.
”It’s nice to get it out of the way,” he said. ”No doubt.”
Lee allowed two hits in eight scoreless innings and the Philadelphia Phillies scored twice in the second inning to win their first game of the season with a 2-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night.
Lee (1-0) didn’t win his first game last year until July 4, but the former Cy Young Award winner outpitched Kris Medlen (0-1) with temperatures in the low 40s and a light mist falling most of the game.
Philadelphia scored two runs in the second on Ben Revere’s fielder’s choice RBI and Chase Utley’s sacrifice fly RBI.
After Lee watched Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay lose the first two games by a combined 16-7 score, the left-hander walked none and struck out eight in 106 pitches to give the Phillies’ renowned threesome a big lift.
The Braves homered six times in the first two games, but managed just two singles against Lee.
”They seemed really aggressive and were swinging the bat pretty good the first couple of games,” Lee said. ”I just tried to allow them to see the fewest amount of pitches as possible and attack the zone in good locations. For me, the key is to limit the amount of pitches they can see by throwing strikes and allow the defense to make plays.”
Lee left for pinch-hitter Freddy Galvis in the ninth. Jonathan Papelbon earned his first save by striking out pinch-hitter Ramiro Pena, getting Andrelton Simmons to ground out and striking out Jason Heyward.
The Braves lost for the first time in 24 starts by Medlen, who beat the New York Mets last Sept. 30 to surpass the mark of 22 consecutive starts set by Carl Hubbell of the New York Giants in 1936-37 and matched by Whitey Ford of the New York Yankees in 1950 and `53.
Medlen, who allowed six hits, two runs, four walks and struck out three in five innings, labored through the first three innings on 61 pitches.
”It was one of those games you had to battle through,” Medlen said. ”I think it could have been a lot worse, but overall I tried to give us the best chance I could to win. Obviously I picked a bad day because Cliff Lee was dealing.”
Lee, who either lost or received no-decision in his first 13 starts last season, improved to 4-1 with 0.77 ERA — a span of 47 innings in his last six starts against Braves.
Dan Uggla singled in the second and Justin Upton singled in the fourth off Lee, who did not allow a runner to get in scoring position.
Lee didn’t envision pitching eight innings after the Braves made him throw 41 pitches in the first two frames.
”I was pretty pleased with that,” he said. ”I felt strong the whole time, but the first couple of innings they made me throw more pitches than I would have liked to.”
Though Medlen finished the outing with respectable numbers, he hardly resembled the blossoming ace who went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts last season and was named NL Pitcher of the Month in both August and September.
Medlen issued a walk to load the bases once in the first and twice in the second. He escaped the jam in the first, but wasn’t so fortunate the next two times.
The Phillies, who were 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday, left the bases loaded in the first, but took their first lead of the series in the second.
After Lee drew a walk to load the bases with no outs, Laynce Nix scored on Revere’s fielder’s choice RBI grounder to make it 1-0. Jimmy Rollins walked to reload the bases before Utley’s sacrifice fly RBI scored Erik Kratz for a 2-0 lead.
Lee had 15 no-decisions in 30 starts last season, tied for most in the majors with Cincinnati’s Mat Latos, but against Atlanta, he extended his major league mark to 18 consecutive starts of pitching at least six innings and walking either none or one.
Since beating the Mets last July 4 in New York, Lee is 5-2 with a 1.61 ERA in 10 starts on the road.
”He sure made it look pretty easy,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ”He commanded all his pitches, got into the eighth inning. We had two baserunners in the whole game against him.”
Cory Gearrin and Jordan Walden pitched the sixth and seventh for Atlanta. Anthony Varvaro pitched the eighth and ninth.
Braves RF Heyward received his 2012 Gold Glove before the game. Heyward dived to his right near CF B.J. Upton to rob Ben Revere and end the sixth. … Utley has driven in six of Philadelphia’s 18 runs. … B.J. Upton went 0 for 3 and is hitless in 11 at-bats with six strikeouts as a Brave. … With a 4-2 win last Sept. 26 in Atlanta, Lee passed Christy Mathewson and Greg Maddux with his 15th consecutive start of at least six innings and either one walk or none. Mathewson did it in 1908 with the New York Giants and Maddux in 1997 with the Braves.