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Lee puts Phillies back in front

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A round-and-a-half in, this postseason has already seen some unforgettable pitching performances. But what Cliff Lee did on Sunday night for the Phillies has to rank up there with any of them.

With the Phillies returning home having blown a chance to take a 2-0 series lead in Los Angeles, Lee snuffed out any momentum the Dodgers had, allowing three hits in eight shutout innings while tying a Philadelphia postseason record with 10 strikeouts. The Phillies beat the Dodgers 11-0 — handing them their worst postseason loss since the 1959 World Series — and took a 2-0 lead.

Lee, who pitched a complete game in the NLDS, now has a 0.74 ERA in the playoffs. Pretty good for a guy who’d never pitched a postseason game before this year and had only mixed results after the Phillies got him from the Indians in a July trade.

“He’s pretty damn special,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. “He attacks the strike zone. He works fast. He threw us some pitches to hit, but when he’s delivering, how aggressive he is, he comes at you quick and the hitters sometimes aren’t ready to hit. He knows how to pitch with a lead.”

Lee spent most of the night doing just that, after the Phillies tagged Hiroki Kuroda for six runs in 1 1/3 innings. They’ll have a chance to take a 3-1 lead tomorrow night, and could close out the series if they win their two remaining home games in the NLCS.

And if they need him, Lee would pitch Game 6 on Saturday on regular rest.

“I don’t know if I ever doubted myself. I always had confidence in myself,” Lee said. “I felt like I could pitch in a big game, but you never know until you get the opportunity. That’s what you play for.”

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