Lee wins third straight complete game

Lee wins third straight complete game

NEW YORK -- Left-hander Cliff Lee ended one of the best months of his career the way it started, and he did a number on one of the best offenses in the Major Leagues to boot.

The potential American League All-Star tossed his third consecutive complete game and fifth overall this season, winning his fourth game in June on Tuesday night as the Mariners started a three-game series against the Yankees with a 7-4 victory before 45,780 at Yankee Stadium.

"Offensively, it was one of the most efficient games we've played all year," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. "You take the seventh inning out, and other than that, it was pretty flawless. We had a sac bunt, were 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position and had five extra-base hits tonight."

A 10-hit barrage against Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes, another potential AL All-Star, included two doubles and two RBIs from catcher Rob Johnson, as well as two hits, including a home run, from center fielder Franklin Gutierrez.

Every player in Seattle's starting lineup had at least one hit.

"I thought we came out playing aggressive baseball," Wakamatsu said. "I do think just having Russell Branyan in the lineup freed up some guys a little bit. I saw some confidence. I saw an aggressive approach. We were pretty patient, I thought, too."

Branyan, acquired in a trade with the Indians on Sunday, made his first appearance for the Mariners since last Aug. 28. A bad back ended Branyan's first season with Seattle prematurely, but he still led the team with 31 home runs.

He contributed a single in his first game back.

Unlike the majority of his 12 starts this season, Lee (7-3) had some breathing room. The first of two Nick Swisher home runs gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but the Mariners retaliated with single runs in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings, then delivered a knockout punch on Hughes with three runs in the sixth.

The Yankees made things a little interesting in the ninth, scoring their final two runs, but Lee made it from start to finish by getting the last two hitters to pop out to shortstop Jack Wilson.

"It obviously is a very good lineup," Lee said. "They are the defending world champions, and some additions make them that much better. With [Curtis] Granderson in there, it's a much better lineup."

The first Yankees out in the ninth inning was Alex Rodriguez's routine grounder to Wilson, ending an 0-for-4 game for A-Rod.

"The big out was with Alex in the ninth," Wakamatsu said. "It kind of gave himself a little breathing room. It was just a tremendous performance -- [115] efficient pitches. I thought he had command of almost all of his pitches. I thought his cutter was extremely effective."

The Yankees were impressed with Lee's performance.

"I actually thought we swung the bats as good tonight as we have the last three or four times that we've seen him," manager Joe Girardi said. "We squared some balls up; I thought they played good defense behind him. We didn't strike out. We were making contact, but when they got to seven [runs], that was pretty big.

"[Lee] never beats himself. He never walks people. He has the ability to strike you out, and he locates extremely well. He knows how to change speeds extremely well. He's got a little sink to it, he's got a little cut to it, he's got a curveball, a slider and a changeup. He just knows how to pitch, and his command is very, very good."

Lee's streak of consecutive walk-free innings ended at 38 1/3 when he issued a full-count free pass to designated hitter Jorge Posada in the second inning.

Lee had faced 144 batters since walking Nick Punto of the Twins on June 2.

The streaks were the longest in Mariners history. Jamie Moyer previously held the longest streak of innings without a walk at 28 1/3 in 2002. Lee's three consecutive starts without a walk were also a club record.

Lee has now issued five walks in 95 2/3 innings this season.

"Whatever," Lee said. "[Posada] fouled off a 3-2 pitch and took a pretty close pitch [for ball four]. You have to credit him for getting a walk there. I was ahead of him, 1-2, and had chances to get him out but missed too much, and he drew a walk."

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.