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September 18, 2010 at 9:57 PM

Cliff Lee had “a little extra incentive” in facing former Mariners team

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Caught up with Cliff Lee after the game. I asked him whether it felt a little strange to be back pitching at Safeco Field, even though he’d only been here a few months with the Mariners before his July 9 trade.
“It’s the first time I’ve gotten to play against a team I’ve played for previously,” Lee said. “Any time you get a chance to pitch against a team that you’ve played for, you want to do well. There was a little extra incentive there to do that.
“I mean, I want to pitch well every time. But like you say, when it’s against a team that you’ve played for, there’s a little extra incentive.”
I found that fascinating. The fact that Lee has never faced the Cleveland Indians since being traded last summer. But when you think about it, Lee went straight to the National League last summer, and the M’s didn’t play the Indians this year until Lee was already traded.
Same deal with Texas.
Lee didn’t mean anything malicious about wanting to beat the M’s. Not like he wants to bury them or anything. Simply a competitive thing.
I asked him whether playing alongside the M’s gave him a better “book” on their hitters this time.
“Getting to watch them play every day from the bench, it’s going to help,” Lee said. “I had an idea of how I feel my stuff will work against them and obviously, I tried to do that.”
Lee needed all the help he could muster in the fifth inning, when, with runners at second and third with nobody out, he struck out Matt Tuiasosopo, got Michael Saunders to pop out to the shortstop and then Josh Wilson to pop out foul down the right field line. That was huge, because it kept the score at 3-0.
“Any time you’ve got second and third with nobody out, it’s hard to get out of there without giving up any runs,” Lee said. “You want to try to limit the damage to one run if you can. After you get the first guy and they haven’t scored, you want to try to get a strikeout or an infield fly, or an infield ground ball. Fortunately, I was able to get a pop fly to the shortstop.
“Those were two big outs right there. It helped us keep the momentum and I think we scored some more after that.”
Bengie Molina, who went 3-for-4, hit a two-run single the next half inning to make it 5-0.
“You get a team like that, they’re on the brink of busting open an inning and you shut it down, it’s a momentum builder for your team.”
Lee didn’t have everybody figured out.
Photo Credit: AP


Ichiro managed a pair of infield hits off him.
“Obviously, Ichiro is pretty unbelievable,” Lee said. “He’s got a knack for getting hits no matter what’s going on. He got a few, huh? I don’t know how many he got. Two or three at least, right? And that’s his game. He knows how to do that. He’s got unbelievable hand-eye coordination.
Speaking of coordination, Lee might be headless at the moment had he not ducked just in time to avoid a line drive single up the middle by Justin Smoak that got Seattle’s ill-fated rally going in the fifth.
“I thought it was going to hit me for sure,” he said. “I don’t know how it didn’t. it was pretty close.”
So, make it two knockout blows avoided by Lee in that one inning alone. As usual, the Mariners went on to take a pummeling the rest of the way.

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