The Indians lefty won for the third time in four starts.
CLEVELAND (AP) — Cliff Lee would prefer throwing fewer pitches to getting more strikeouts. On Sunday, the Indians’ left-hander did both.
Lee struck out nine in eight innings to win for the third time in four starts, and Cleveland defeated the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 3-2.
“I’d rather get them all to make an out on the first pitch,” Lee (5-4) said. “A lot of strikeouts today came on 1-2 counts so I kind of got them early. That’s why I was able to go eight. I felt strong enough to go back out for the ninth, too.”
Lee allowed one run and four hits with two walks in his longest outing since a complete-game win May 8, a span of 10 starts. He fanned the side on 13 pitches in the first inning and went on to tie his career high for strikeouts in a game.
“It was a real good effort by Cliff,” manager Eric Wedge said. “He worked his fastball on both sides of the plate and had a good breaking pitch. I loved the way he bore down.”
Borowski gets save
Joe Borowski, pitching for the fourth straight day, gave up Delmon Young’s sacrifice fly in the ninth before recording his 24th save in 26 chances and 12th in a row since May 13. He has six saves and a win in his last seven outings.
Borowski was helped by shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who prevented the potential tying run from getting to second base with one out by making a sweeping tag on pinch-runner Dustan Mohr trying to steal.
“Jhonny turned my bad throw into a great play,” said catcher Kelly Shoppach, after Peralta snared the high toss to the right-field side of the bag, then in one motion reached behind him to tag Mohr on the hip.
“I didn’t think he tagged me at all,” Mohr said.
The Indians won for the sixth time in seven games and extended the Devil Rays’ season-worst losing streak to seven games. Cleveland has won 10 of 14 overall and Tampa Bay has lost 14 of 18.
Two Tampa Bay errors on one play helped the Indians break a 1-all tie in the sixth against James Shields (6-4), who struck out 10 in 61⁄3 innings but lost his fourth straight start.
Casey Blake and Peralta began the go-ahead rally with singles. Travis Hafner then bounced a ball that glanced off Carlos Pena’s glove at first base. Second baseman Josh Wilson barehanded it in the air and threw behind Shields covering the bag for the second error, allowing Blake to score.
“It was a tougher throw for Josh,” Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It came off Carlos’ chest. We tried to make the play, but we didn’t.”
Shields stopped the Indians from getting more, notching two more strikeouts around Hafner getting caught stealing.
“I thought he pitched really well,” Maddon said. “He did a nice job keeping his composure. Striking out the side after he loaded the bases in the second was very impressive.”
The Devil Rays’ right-hander didn’t issue a walk, and after opening the season 6-0, has struck out 27 against only one walk during his losing streak.
Shields’ stuff frustrated the Indians. Jason Michaels threw his bat to the backstop after striking out to end the sixth, and Shoppach broke his bat over his knee after whiffing to start the seventh.
“I was throwing a lot of cut fastballs,” Shields said. “They weren’t making any adjustments on it so I kept throwing it.”
Pena clouts 18th
Pena put the Devil Rays ahead with a two-out homer in the second. Pena’s 18th homer of the season was also his 19th of his career against the Indians and 12th in 30 games at Jacobs Field.
The Indians loaded the bases with none out in the bottom half, but Shields struck out the bottom three in Cleveland’s order — Shoppach, Ben Francisco and Josh Barfield — to maintain the 1-0 lead.
Shields struck out two more to start the third before Peralta tied it by hitting his 14th homer on a 2-0 pitch. Peralta had 13 homers all last season.
Cleveland made it 3-1 in the seventh. Francisco doubled with one out, finishing Shields. Shawn Camp got Barfield to ground out, but Grady Sizemore lined an RBI single off lefty Casey Fossum.
Tampa Bay OF Carl Crawford had two singles to get within two hits of 900 for his career. ... Lee last struck out nine on June 6, 2005, at San Diego. ... Shields has 22 strikeouts in 141⁄3 innings against Cleveland this season. ... All youngsters 14 and under in the crowd of 30,410 got a C.C. Sabathia mitt. The first three games of the series attracted 101,693 and pushed Cleveland’s total home attendance over 1 million.