Cliff Lee ... win No. 17.
Cliff Lee just keeps putting together one impressive season of pitching for the Indians. The left-hander improved to 17-2 Friday night with a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels, keeping baseball's best team off balance. The Indians turned four nifty double plays behind him -- bringing up the question: Do they play better behind Lee or is it his pitching that gives his defense a chance to do it?
"Cliff has had as good a year as anybody," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "He's been so consistent.
"After his struggles of a year ago, he made a committment, worked hard in the off-season, came to camp in great shape and has stayed the course. With all that's gone on this year (the Indians' falling from contention), he has never wavered."
After going 46-24 over the previous three years, Lee struggled to a 5-8 record and 6.29 ERA in 2007, even getting sent back to the minors to work on his game.
While Fausto Carmona and CC Sabathia stepped up to become 19-game winners, Lee had to fend off a challenge from young Jeremy Sowers, Aaron Laffey in others in training camp just to regain his spot in the rotation.
Not only did he do that, but he is now on track to become Cleveland's first 20-game winner since Gaylord Perry in 1974 and follow Sabathia as the AL's Cy Young Award winner, too.
"I'm just trying to go out and do my job," Lee said. "Sure, it would be more fun if we were in first place. Everybody would be happy. But it is up to all of us to go out every game and do the job we are paid to do. That's just the way I look at it."
Lee got plenty of defensive help Friday and made sure to point it out.
"The guys made a lot of big plays behind me, Asdrubal (Cabrera) especially," he said. "I've told him about it four times since the game ended.
Cabrera took part in three of Cleveland's four double plays -- one each in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings. He also went to the shortstop side of second base to barehand a hopper hit by Torii Hunter and throw out the Angels' speedy outfielder at first.
Lee started the first twin-killing, bouncing off the mound to backhand a popped bunt by Chone Figgins and doubling Jeff Mathis off first.
"It was a one-run game all night and I just did what I had to do," Lee said.
The Angels took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Cleveland tied it in the fourth on consecutive doubles by Ben Francisco and Jhonny Peralta.
Juan Rivera homered off Lee (he's 5-for-12 with three homers in his career against the lefty) to put Los Angeles ahead in the fifth.
Ryan Garko tied it with an RBI single in the sixth and a four-pitch walk to Cabrera with the bases loaded later in the inning gave Lee a 3-2 lead.
He made it stand up, despite allowing eight hits. He walked two, struck out six, and pitched his third complete game of the season -- matching his career total coming into 2008.