MLB Philadelphia Phillies

Cliff Lee Establishing Ace Form For Philadelphia Phillies Early

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

If 2012′s team-leading 4.9 fWAR, 7.39 K/BB season wasn’t enough to convince you know who the true ace of the Philadelphia Phillies staff was, Cliff Lee kindly wishes you to consider the latest exhibition he put forth on the mound.

We all know the story by now: Lee was coming off a ‘down’ year in 2012, taking three months before recording his first win … despite having been what he always was — one of the elite pitchers in the NL.

Though wins and losses are largely lineup-dependent (which is to say he got little help from the Phillies or from lady luck, for that matter), Lee put that stuff about counting numbers and ‘knowing how to win’ to rest on Thursday, wasting no time in earning his first victory in 2013 the best way he knew how: by dominating on the mound.

Just ask the high-powered Atlanta Braves, who’d done a good job of hitting both Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay in the first two games of the series between the divisional rivals, but could do little more than flail and fall one by one against the team’s No. 3 pitcher.

Lee was never in trouble all night, allowing just a pair of hits (both singles) through eight innings of work, while walking none and striking out eight.

If you were looking for something to say about the Atlanta offense, you certainly didn’t get a whole lot of material on Friday. Then again, it’s not as though the Phillies offense gave their veteran lefty a whole lot of support either, spotting with with just a pair of runs coming in the second inning against Kris Medlen.

That said, when Lee is out there putting up 86 game score performances (that’s one of his very best, by the way, topping all of his — and both Hamels’ and Halladay’s — starts in 2012), he’s not going to need very many runs to earn a victory.

Two runs was more than enough for this night, and though ace likely could have finished the complete game shutout in most instances, the team elected to remove him in lieu of Jonathan Papelbon after 106 pitches, taking no chances with the chilly weather.

That shouldn’t bother Lee too much, though — if this night was any indication, he’ll have his share of opportunities to close out games like this throughout the season.