Lee, Seattle win 1-0 to knock Reds out of first
SEATTLE — Cliff Lee earned his fifth career shutout, his 16th complete game and yet another admirer.
Lee struck out seven in a six-hitter and the Seattle Mariners beat Cincinnati 1-0 on Friday night to knock the Reds out of first place in the NL Central.
“I don’t know if you can pitch any better than that, against a really good hitting team,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. “Awfully special to watch.”
Lee’s first shutout since Sept. 15 for Philadelphia against Washington came against the only team with four regulars batting above .300 entering the day. While the left-hander needed just 110 pitches to finish off Cincinnati, Johnny Cueto (6-2) made 115 throws during his effective 5 2-3 innings for the Reds and sounded almost in awe of his counterpart.
“Someday, I want to be just like him,” said the 24-year-old Cueto, who had won his last six decisions, “one of the best pitchers in the big leagues.”
Lee showed why he could be one of the most coveted players on the market over the next two months. Told he should turn off his phone to avoid persistent calls from inquiring contenders, general manager Jack Zduriencik playfully pretended to fumble through his pockets for his cell.
Josh Wilson hit an RBI single in the sixth for Seattle, which won for just the fourth time in 14 games.
Cincinnati lost for the fifth time in seven games and fell a half-game back of St. Louis, which beat Oakland 6-4. The Reds also dropped to 13-33 on the West Coast over the last four years.
Lee (5-3) relied on Safeco Field’s pitcher-friendly dimensions against the hard-hitting Reds. He also went to his changeup than usual.
“I’ve never seen Cliff Lee other than at his best,” Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said. “The guy can pitch.”
The left-hander, who won the 2008 AL Cy Young Award with Cleveland, lowered his ERA to 2.55 with his 16th career complete game. He has pitched at least seven innings in 10 of his 11 starts this season.
“Right now, I’m in Seattle,” he said. “That’s all I can do, the best I can for this team. And that’s what I will continue to do until told otherwise.”
Lee’s contract ends after this season and Seattle, 15 games under .500, could decide to trade the ace to a contender to add some prospects to its farm system. The 31-year-old has been traded from Cleveland to Philadelphia to Seattle since last summer.
“I’ve been traded before. It’s part of the game,” Lee said. “I’m a Mariner now. I’m helping this team win. If they tell me I’m going to another team, I’ll try to help that team win, too. Whatever.
“I like this city. I have good teammates. I like it here.”
Cueto got into trouble after he hit Jose Lopez with a two-strike pitch in the sixth. Lopez advanced on Franklin Gutierrez’s hit before scoring on a close play when Wilson lined a single up the middle.
Center fielder Chris Heisey’s throw was on a line but slightly up the third-base line. That allowed Lopez to twist around and clear Corky Miller’s tag attempt as he slid across the plate.
The Reds are visiting Seattle for the first time since 2007. Ken Griffey Jr., who played for Cincinnati in between stints with the Mariners, retired last month, robbing this series of its main attraction.
But a dual bobblehead giveaway featuring Junior and Ichiro Suzuki did attract 43,362 fans. It was Seattle’s largest crowd outside of opening day.
They gasped as the Reds sent three drives went to the warning track, including a third-inning double by Phillips that banged off the wall in left-center. But Lee got Joey Votto to fly out to the track to end that threat.
“If we’re in Cincinnati, I probably give up four home runs tonight,” said Lee, who improved to 4-2 in eight career starts against the Reds. “Fortunately, we’re here.”
NOTES: Seattle signed its top draft choice, high school RHP Taijuan Walker, and included an $800,000 signing bonus. The 17-year-old was the 43th overall pick. … The Reds scratched C Ramon Hernandez with lower back pain. Baker says he’s day-to-day. … New Seahawks coach Pete Carroll greeted Wakamatsu and Baker behind the batting cage before the game. He joined Mariner Mike Sweeney for a pregame presentation for prostate cancer awareness.
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