Cliff Lee for Cy Young? Shutouts in his last Three outings make him a Worthy Candidate

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray

I don’t know if Cliff Lee is going to win the National League Cy Young Award considering that his teammate Roy Halladay (16-5, 2.49 earned run average), Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw (17-5, 2.45 ERA), and Arizona’s Ian Kennedy (18-4, 2.96) are probably among the favorites.

But if look at the way he’s been pitching in his last three outings where hasn’t allowed a run and has a 0.96 earned run average during that span or if you want to look at the fact that he leads the National League in complete-game shutouts with six, you know he’s going to get his share of votes.

In his latest against the Atlanta Braves, Lee pitched another complete-game shutout , scattering five while striking out six in the Phillies 9-0 win. While his teammates and his manager Charlie Manuel continue to be amazed by his performance on the mound, it’s just another day at the office for Lee, who doesn’t like to get excited about what he does on the mound.

“I don’t look too far back or too far forward,” Lee said. “I’m trying to keep my mind in the moment and what I can do right now to make myself the best player. When that’s over, move on to the next day.”

Manuel said Lee has had good command of his pitc

Lee has not allowed a run in 29 and two-thirds of ining.

hes, especially his curve ball in his last thee outings and he has done a good job of keeping hitters  .

“He’s moving the ball all around, putting it anywhere he wants to, and using all of hit pitches,” Manuel said. “On nights when he commands his curve ball, usually with a fastball, slider, cutter or changeup when he has that curve ball going, he’s pretty tough.”

Lee, according to Manuel, has become an even better pitcher in 2011 than he was during his first stint with the team back in 2009. The Phils skipper said that’s because he has a strong grasp of the hitters in the National League.

“I think the more he pitches in this league, I think he learns the hitters better. I think that helps him,” Manuel said. “(Monday Night) for instance, Atlanta has some good fastball hitters and (Lee) knows when to go get his breaking ball. The more he pitches in the league, the better he should become and he is.”

What I think is most impressive about Lee is that while he expects to win, he’s not fazed by those bad outings. For him, it’s about being confident in the face of both victory and defeat. Lee’s own brand of self-assurance. His kind of poker-faced focus is reminiscent of the late Baltimore Colts great quarterback Johnny Unitas who always kept the same calm demeanor whether his team won or loss.

“If I have a bad game, it’s not going take anything out of me, I’m still going to go out there and expect to win everytime,” Lee said. “I know I’m going to have bad games, it happens. If you play the game long enough or if you play a full season healthy, not everyone is going to be the way you want it to go. But the confidence level and your frame of mind can still be the same.”

Lee’s shut out of the Braves was the first time a pitcher in baseball had-six shutouts since 1998 when Randy Johnson, who played with the Seattle Mariner and the Houston Astros. He has hrown 29 and two-thirds innings of shut out baseball and has not allowed an earned run since Aug. 17.

I’m sure if you looked at the entire pitching staff, the Phillies certainly have their share of potential Cy Young candidates and you can make an argument for guys like Halladay and Cole Hamels. If you examine the rest of the National League candidates like Kershaw and Kennedy, you could make a strong argument for those guys.

But Lee has been one of the National League’s most dominant pitchers this season and considering the current streak he’s on right now, he is definitely making a strong case to win his second career Cy Young award.

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