PHILADELPHIA -- Cliff Lee knew he had found something special in the fifth inning on Monday night -- something he doesn't find often -- and he used it to nail down a hopeless Dodgers offense.
What Lee found was his curveball, the pitch he dangles out for hitters to chase when they've been hit time after time with fastballs and cutters. When Lee trusts the command of his offspeed stuff, it's the pitch that elevates him to the top of his game and keeps hitters from sitting on hard pitches in a strike zone that he loves to pound.
"We have talked about it in the past, about how I need to use it more, and that'll get them off fastballs and cutters that I threw a lot," said Lee, who pitched seven scoreless innings and stuck out 10 in the Phillies' 3-1 win in front of 45,777 at Citizens Bank Park. "I've been told that my whole career. For whatever reason, I don't use it as much as I should, but tonight was a night that I did, and the results were there."
Overall, Lee's performance was a far cry from his previous start, in which he surrendered six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Nationals on May 31.
Lee reached cruise control in the sixth, striking out the side on just 10 pitches, six of which were curveballs, including three straight strikes to leadoff batter Matt Kemp.
That inning ended with three straight strikes to Casey Blake, resulting in Blake's ejection by home-plate umpire Mark Carlson.
It was Lee's sixth double-digit strikeout game of the year, the most by a Phillies starter since Curt Schilling recorded 15 in 1998.
Lee now leads the Majors in strikeouts with 100. Teammate Roy Halladay is second with 97.
All of this from a guy who's already just 85 strikeouts shy of matching his career high during the regular season.
"I'm not trying to strike guys out at all -- I'm trying to get them out as quick as possible," Lee said. "Just for whatever reason, it's kind of gone that way. More strikeouts, more walks -- those kind of go hand in hand."
Going hand in hand with Lee for much of the season has been a shortage of run support, and Monday was no different.
Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard connected on RBI singles in the third inning to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead.
Carlos Ruiz added a run in the eighth, ripping a double after Chase Utley and Ben Francisco drew walks.
The Phillies are once again without their projected everyday lineup as Jimmy Rollins recovers from soreness and swelling in his right knee that he's had since fouling a pitch off his leg during his first at-bat on Saturday in Pittsburgh.
"I feel like it's going to come around," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of his team's offense. "I'm waiting, though."
Dodgers starter Ted Lilly didn't help matters, allowing two runs on five hits in six innings.
Lee simply had to be better. And he was.
Lee improved his record to 5-5, which looks a bit unkind attached to the 3.62 ERA he owns.
"He knows what he's doing, that's for sure," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of Lee. "You don't get to that status without being able to make pitches and get out of jams. We were able to get guys out there, but not the hit to break through."
The Dodges finally broke through in the ninth, when pinch-runner Dee Gordon -- son of former Phillies reliever Tom "Flash" Gordon -- scored a run in his Major League debut.
It was a proud moment for Howard, standing on first beside Gordon, who regularly roamed around the Phillies' clubhouse years ago, when Flash was pitching for the Phils.
"He's still skinny, but he can fly," Howard said. "He looks the same as when he was here, probably just a little more facial hair."
Nate Mink is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.