(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Only a few months into the 2011 season, the dominance of the Phillies rotation was put on full display.
Living up to the expectations heading into the season, the Phillies were a league-best 34-22 while holding a two-game lead on the Florida Marlins in the division.
It was all thanks to the pitching, that is, except Cliff Lee.
Lee was signed in December, giving the Phillies the scariest rotation in all of baseball. But it was Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels living up to the hype while Lee and Roy Oswalt took up the rear.
Lee was heading into June with a 4-5 record and 3.94 ERA through his first 12 starts. But what he did next was one of the most incredible months not only in Phillies history but baseball history itself.
By the end of June, Lee’s ERA dropped to 2.66 and his record was 9-5. That was all thanks to a 5-0 June for Lee, in which his ERA was a staggering 0.21. He had allowed only one earned run on 21 hits and eight walks in 42 innings of work, striking out 29.
His 29 K’s were the lowest strike out total for a month all season, especially after 59 in May, but it came in the best month of arguably his career. His approach was different that month, getting ahead early in the count and getting a lot of first and second pitch swings.
Lee also shut out three of his league-leading six games in June. And at one point, he went 34-straight innings without allowing a run, a streak that ironically ended in his first start of July.
With an All-Star appearance a long shot heading into June, Lee was easily named by Giants manager Bruce Bochy to represent the NL squad in the All-Star Game. It was all thanks to that month of baseball that fans would never forget.
Lee nearly matched the impressive June with a lights-out August. In that month, he allowed only two earned runs in 39.2 innings pitched, going 5-0 with a 0.45 ERA. It was that month that Lee catapulted himself into the talks for Cy Young candidacy, an honor he is sharing with teammate Halladay and Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw heading into the coming weeks.