LOS ANGELES — It could be deemed an injustice to say we saw vintage Cliff Lee at Dodger Stadium on Monday, because Lee’s game has evolved. His evolution, however, still consists of posting zeroes. A lot of them.
By night’s end, it was a line baseball lovers were accustomed to seeing from the Phillies starter as he blanked the Dodgers in a 7-0 win Monday night.
"He was pretty good tonight, huh?" Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Yeah, that wasn’t a good riddle."
Lee went eight innings, allowing four hits and striking out 10 while leaving Dodgers batters guessing all night.
"He’s one of the best pitchers in the game," said Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, who was 1-for-3 on the night. "He pounded the strike zone and ain’t much you can really do about it."
Lee allowed a leadoff single to Kemp in the top of the second inning and then proceeded to retire the next 20 in a row. Tim Federowicz came up with a two-out single in the eighth inning to break up the streak. Lee faced just one batter after that, getting Dee Gordon to groundout on a comebacker to end the inning.
Mattingly: "The way Cliff had it going tonight, 4 runs felt like 10."
Although the results looked familiar, it wasn’t the Lee of old.
"He’s evolved over the years," Mattingly said. "You’re seeing still more of an evolution in him this year more than the past. (He’s) using more changeups, uses his curveball a little bit in different ways.
"He’s always thrown the baseball where he wanted to but it looks like he’s using more pitches now. Usually he was pretty simple, just kind of beat you with stuff and location. Now he’s using more pitches. He’s not throwing quite as hard but, obviously, we see that that doesn’t matter a whole lot."
He pounded the strike zone and ain’t much you can really do about it.
-- Matt Kemp on Cliff Lee performance on Monday at Dodger Stadium
Lee has always felt comfortable at Dodger Stadium, and Monday reiterated that. He’s now 2-0 lifetime with a 1.17 ERA in five career starts in Chavez Ravine.
While Lee continued to make himself at home a Dodger Stadium, so did his battery mate Carlos Ruiz, who had his best performance of the season Monday night.
Ruiz entered the game batting .204 without a home run or RBI on the season. He raised his batting average 41 points by the end of the night after going 3-for-4 with a home run, two doubles, a walk and four RBI. He also scored twice.
The Phillies catcher got his team on the board with a two-RBI double in the top of the 1st. In the 5th, he scored on a Ryan Howard two-run home run to put Philadelphia up 4-0 — a lead that at the time seemed nearly insurmountable to the Dodgers.
"With the way Cliff was going tonight, four runs felt like 10," Mattingly said.