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Among colorful Philadelphia athletes, Cliff Lee stands out

Steve Carlton’s silence towards the media.

Dr. J’s windmill dunks for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Cliff Lee’s steely stare.


They are all trademarks that mark Philadelphia athletes as special.

And for me, Cliff Lee has the chance to become one of the most special athletes in Philadelphia history.

His performances in June and August tied him with the greats Walter Johnson and Bob Gibson as being one of only three pitchers to have sub 1.00 ERA in two separate months.

Lee might complete his third historic month in the way he started out on Sept. 5 in the opening game of a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves.

Lee shut the Braves down on five hits, no runs and six strikeouts in a complete game victory.

Lee now has the most shutouts for a Phillies pitcher since Steve Carlton recorded six in 1982. He is also the first pitcher since Randy Johnson in 1998 to record six in a season. The Dodgers' Tim Belcher, who threw eight in 1989, was the last to record as many in a season.

Lee hasn't allowed a run since the second inning of his Aug. 17 start against the D-backs, a span of 29 2/3 innings. He has allowed only two runs in his last six starts, and he recorded the first 200-strikeout season of his career when he struck out Freddie Freeman for the first out of the second inning. He joins Carlton, Cole Hamels and Chris Short as the only Philadelphia lefties to reach 200 strikeouts in a single season.

He also earned his 16th win, tying him with Roy Halladay for the team lead, and his 2.47 ERA tops Halladay's 2.49.

And Lee is not concerned about his regular season stats. His eye is on the prize, a World Series title.

"I don't think it's time," he said to a Press of Atlantic City reporter."to sit here and pat myself on the back."

Why is Lee so cool on the mound?

Remember his catch of a pop fly against the Yankees in 2009?

(By the way, Lee owns the Yankees, going 3-0 in two postseason games.)

It could be traced back to his son’s bout with Leukemia in 2001.

From the Dallas Morning News during last year’s playoff:

"You ask me how he keeps so calm," his wife, Kristen, said. "I think it's because he knows that baseball isn't life or death."

The realization came, devastatingly, in 2001. Cliff and Kristen's 4-month-old son, Jaxon, was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia and given a 30 percent chance to live.

Today, Jaxon is a healthy, active 9-year-old whose dad has a chance to pitch the perpetually woebegone Rangers to a 2-1 series lead over the 27-time world champion Yankees.

By the end of it all, Lee could have it all: A healthy family, his second Cy Young Award and most importantly, a World Series title.



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