One for the Ages

Curt Schilling, October 21, 1993.

Cole Hamels, October 1, 2008.

Who are the only pitchers to throw at least eight innings and allow zero runs in a post-season game for the Philadelphia Phillies?

Add Cliff Lee to that list. Going by game score, and assuming my calculations are correct, Lee’s start tonight against the Los Angeles Dodgers was tied for the best among the trio:

  • Schilling, 1993: 80 game score
  • Hamels, 2008: 86
  • Lee, 2009: 86

Lee pitched eight innings of shut-out baseball, allowed only three hits, walked no one, and struck out ten Dodgers. His start was the 51st post-season start, since 1903, with a game score of 86 or higher, which puts him in the ranks of Roger Clemens, Don Larsen, and Randy Johnson. It was only the 18th post-season start in which a pitcher threw at least eight innings, allowed no runs, struck out at least ten, and had a game score of at least 86. And it was exactly the cure for what ailed the Phillies following their disappointing loss in Game Two.

The Phillies would have been fine with an imperfect Lee just the same, as they punched 11 runs across home plate by game’s end. Ryan Howard continued his post-season RBI streak (the new Mr. October?), and every Phillie starter — including Lee — got a hit except for Raul Ibanez. Along with the 11 runs came 11 hits, six of which went for extra bases.

Lee was staked to a 4-0 lead after one inning and 6-0 after two. Little did the Phillies know that they could have gone on cruise control once they conquered their conqueror. Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda came into his start tonight with historic dominance over the defending World Champions: current Phillies hitters had a collective slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) of .118/.179/.157 against him in the regular season.

Kuroda was ineffective from the start, falling behind five of the seven hitters he faced in the first inning, when he allowed four runs on two singles, a two-run Ryan Howard triple, and a two-run Jayson Werth home run. All four of the hits came on Kuroda fastballs. The trend continued in the second inning. Carlos Ruiz and Jimmy Rollins each hit doubles on fastballs, and Shane Victorino and Chase Utley walked.

The Phillies would tack on two more in the fifth on a Pedro Feliz RBI triple and Ruiz RBI single. Three more runs in the eighth sealed the deal courtesy a three-run Victorino home run. Right-hander Chad Durbin pitched a perfect ninth inning to put Game Three in the books.

No drama, no blood-curdling screams, nothing. It was the first easy game the Phillies have had in a long time.

Tonight, the Phillies showed the nation that they are clearly a better team than the Dodgers. Two more wins to go with two more at home. The feeling among Phillies fans right now is a complete reversal than what it was after the Game Two heart-breaker.

The Phillies will send right-hander Joe Blanton to the mound for Game Four tomorrow night to oppose the Dodgers’ southpaw and former Phillie Randy Wolf. The Fightins look to continue their trend of only dropping one game in each post-season series. The last time they lost more than one was when they were swept by the Colorado Rockies in the 2007 NLDS.

Game graph above courtesy FanGraphs.