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Lee has another gem for M’s

Cliff Lee pitched eight innings of one-run ball. (Associated Press)
Cliff Lee pitched eight innings of one-run ball. (Associated Press)

Lefty strikes out season-high 11 as road trip ends with rout of Tigers

DETROIT — Cliff Lee throwing another masterpiece, one that his manager called “a clinic” on pitching?


The Mariners supporting Lee’s latest gem with not one, but two three-run home runs?

Now that’s something completely different.

With Russell Branyan and Casey Kotchman delivering the big blows, the Mariners ended their nine-game road trip Sunday by blasting the Tigers, 8-1, at Comerica Park.

Each start by Lee these days could be his last for Seattle. But while they have him, the Mariners continue to marvel at the breadth of his skills. Lee racked up a season-high 11 strikeouts (matching his career high) to go with one walk – his sixth free pass of the year in 1032/3 innings. He actually saw his 15.6-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio go down slightly.

On a sweltering Detroit day, Lee’s streak of complete games was snapped at three, but he worked eight solid innings, limiting the Tigers to a first-inning run and subsequently squelching every attempt at a rally.

“I don’t know if you can ever say enough about Cliff Lee,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “I think the most amazing thing to me, he gives up the run early, and then with runners in scoring position, (Detroit) was 0 for 12 after that. It shows you how he bears down.”

Wakamatsu also talked about how Lee “has fun pitching,” and the left-hander didn’t disagree. He’s managing to stay loose despite the trade rumors that continue to swirl.

“It’s a game,” Lee said. “I haven’t lost perspective that we play a game that a million people on the planet would trade places with us.”

Branyan, serving as designated hitter Sunday, delivered his homer with two men aboard in the third inning to give the Mariners the lead to stay. In six games since returning to the Mariners, Branyan has two homers and seven RBIs.

Kotchman, who has mostly ridden the bench since Branyan’s return, added a three-run homer in the fifth off Tigers starter Jeremy Bonderman.

Kotchman’s homer was his first since April 19 against Baltimore. He finished with three hits in the game to go along with two walks, and has five hits in the last two games to get his average over .200 (.206) for the first time since May 21.

Wakamatsu said Kotchman has been working hard with hitting coach Alonzo Powell in recent days.

“They’re looking at some of the mechanical things,” the manager said. “He’s staying back better, for me. That’s where you see the power.”

The Mariners pounded out 15 hits, with Chone Figgins also getting three. The only mystery was whether Lee would rack up another complete game. Instead, Wakamatsu let Brandon League work the ninth.

“You get that kind of lead, it’s tough, because you know he wants to finish the game no matter what,” Wakamatsu said. “He probably could have.”

Lee agreed.

“Wak came down after the eighth and said that was it,” he said. “It was his decision, and it’s always that way. I could have pitched the ninth, but it’s his call to decide when you’re done.”

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