June 30, 2010 in Sports

Lee deftly handles Yankees, trade talk

Larry Stone Seattle Times
Associated Press photo

Mariners’ Cliff Lee threw his third straight complete game, and fifth of the season, against the Yankees Tuesday.
(Full-size photo)

NEW YORK — Cliff Lee throttled the mighty Yankees on Tuesday night in a 7-4 Mariners win, and then he displayed the same deft touch in dealing with the ever-growing group of reporters monitoring his uncertain future.

After hurling his third consecutive complete game – the first major-league pitcher to do that since his former Cleveland teammate, CC Sabathia, in 2008 – Lee wasn’t about to be lured into an in-depth discussion of the swirling trade rumors surrounding him.

“There is really no other comment I can make other than it’s out of my control, so I don’t really think about it or worry about it,” he said. “I am going to continue to try to help the Mariners win every time I take the mound, and that’s it. If I wind up somewhere else, I will try to help that team win. It’s really that simple. It’s not complicated.”

Asked if he had a preference on where he’d like to be traded, Lee replied, “I mean, that is kind of a loaded question. I am going to choose not to answer it. Obviously, I do have preferences, but I’m not going to tell you who I want to play for – if I had a choice, and I don’t, so it’s pointless to consume time talking about it or worrying about it.”

What is indisputable is that Lee’s trade value continues to soar with each outing – including the one Tuesday that Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu called “just phenomenal.’

Despite giving up his first walk in five outings – and two homers to Nick Swisher – Lee was able to throw the game’s final pitch for the fifth time, tied with Roy Halladay for most complete games in the majors despite missing the first month.

The walk Lee issued to Jorge Posada with one out in the second inning broke a string of 38 1/3 innings – and 144 batters – without a base on balls. It was just his fifth free stroll of the season, and the first since Nick Punto of the Twins on June 2.

“I’m not too pleased about it,” Lee said. “My goal coming into the season is to not walk anyone for a whole season.”

He’ll have to settle for five walks in 95 2/3 innings.

“I thought out of all his starts, the Yankees tonight were as patient as you could be,” Wakamatsu said. “You have to give him credit. He made some awfully tough pitches.”

Lee was pitching at Yankee Stadium for the first time since Oct. 28 of last year, when he fired a complete-game masterpiece in Game 1 of the World Series, limiting the Yankees to just an unearned run while striking out 10 and walking zero.

He wasn’t quite as sharp this time, but he still managed to become the first Mariners pitcher to hurl three consecutive complete games since Randy Johnson in 1998. Johnson, like Lee, was on the trade block that season and was dealt to Houston on July 31.

The Yankees have had only two complete games thrown against them in the short history of the new Yankee Stadium, and Lee has both of them.

“I like pitching here,” he said. “You are going to have a sellout. They are knowledgeable fans and get into it. As a player, that’s what you like and respect. Obviously, I try to keep them as quiet as possible when I am facing these guys.”

The Mariners banged out 12 hits off Yankees starter Phil Hughes, who brought a 10-1 record into the game. Hughes had been skipped in his last scheduled start as the Yankees aim to preserve his arm, and he hadn’t pitched since June 19.

He wasn’t sharp. Ichiro and Rob Johnson each drove in two runs, and Franklin Gutierrez – dropping from third to sixth in the lineup with the arrival of Russell Branyan – hit his seventh homer in the fourth inning.

“Offensively, it was one of our most efficient games we’ve played all year,” Wakamatsu said.

“I thought we came out playing aggressive baseball. I do think… just having Russell Branyan in the lineup and being able to back guys up freed up some guys a little bit. I saw some confidence. I saw an aggressive approach. We were pretty patient, I thought, too.”

Mariners 7, Yankees 4

I.Suzuki rf 402201.335
Figgins 2b 501001.232
Branyan 1b 401001.263
Bradley dh 311010.207
Jo.Lopez 3b 411000.244
F.Gutierrez cf 322111.278
Ja.Wilson ss 411100.273
Ro.Johnson c 412200.208
M.Saunders lf 311001.206
Totals 34712625
Jeter ss 401000.286
Swisher rf 422200.292
Teixeira 1b 411000.230
A.Rodriguez 3b 400000.281
Cano 2b 411000.358
Posada dh 301111.275
Granderson cf 402000.243
Huffman lf 400000.200
Cervelli c 300001.272
Totals 3448312
Seattle 011113000—7121
New York 100001002—482

E—M.Saunders (2), Granderson (1), Cervelli (3). LOB—Seattle 4, New York 4. 2B—Jo.Lopez (13), Ro.Johnson 2 (9), M.Saunders (5), Teixeira (14), Posada (10). HR—F.Gutierrez (7), off P.Hughes; Swisher 2 (13), off Cl.Lee 2. RBIs—I.Suzuki 2 (24), F.Gutierrez (34), Ja.Wilson (9), Ro.Johnson 2 (13), Swisher 2 (47), Posada (28). SB—Figgins (22). CS—F.Gutierrez (1). S—M.Saunders. SF—I.Suzuki. RLISP—Seattle 3; New York 2. DP—Seattle 1; New York 2.

Cl.Lee W, 7-3 9843122.45
P.Hughes L, 10-2 52/31076233.58
Logan 11/3200013.93
Park 2000016.48

IR-S—Logan 1-0. T—2:30. A—45,780 (50,287).

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