OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Cliff Lee is much happier with his start in 2008.
Lee sat out last April with an abdominal injury and spent most of the season in the minor leagues. On Sunday, he won his first outing of the year by retiring 10 of his last 12 batters in the Indians' 2-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics.Lee gave up four hits and struck out four in 6 2-3 innings to beat A's ace Joe Blanton (0-2), who carried a shutout into seventh before Cleveland scored twice on just two hits. Just 5-8 over 16 starts during an injury-filled 2007, Lee retired his first seven hitters."The season I had last year, just the motivation from that helped more than anything," Lee said. "Going into the offseason I couldn't wait to get back to this point right here. To start it out like this feels good."Lee walked one and only gave up one unearned run in his first start of the season, helping to stop the Indians' three-game losing streak.Joe Borowski pitched the ninth for his second save in as many chances. Borowski followed Rafael Perez and Rafael Betancourt and completed the four-hitter for Cleveland.Oakland won the first two games of the series by beating Paul Byrd and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia. The A's couldn't get anything going against Lee.He needed 12 pitches to retire Oakland leadoff hitter Travis Buck in the first inning but settled down and allowed only one runner past first base."With Cliff, all the hard work he's done over the winter, his approach this spring and fighting to make this ballclub, it's just great to see him come out there and get off to a good start," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "He did a great job controlling the ballgame. He established his fastball early and commanded it throughout."Cleveland entered batting just .181 (15-for-93) over its previous three games but had seven hits and four walks off Blanton -- the most walks he allowed since Aug. 12, 2006.Three of the walks came in the seventh.Asdrubal Cabrera's groundout drove in the first run off Blanton, with first baseman Daric Barton bobbling the ball briefly as pinch-runner Jamey Carroll scored. Ryan Garko walked with the bases loaded after the A's opted to intentionally walk Grady Sizemore."I'm a pretty aggressive hitter so I was pretty proud of the way that I stayed under control and took a good 2-2 and a good 3-2 pitch," Garko said. "Last year that would have been a guaranteed strikeout so I was happy I was able to stay under control."It was another tough outing for Blanton (0-2), winless in three starts."I was just trying to make tough pitches in tough situations," said Blanton, who threw 107 pitches and left after walking Garko. "I still feel I can get better. My control isn't where I want it to be."The A's have scored only one run in each of Blanton's last two starts. Buck, 0-for-21 this season, drove in Oakland's only run off Lee with a sacrifice fly in the third.
Cleveland 3B Casey Blake did not play. Blake, who hit .270 with 18 homers and 78 RBIs in 2007, is batting only .118 and was just 1-for-11 lifetime against Blanton. ... The A's are awaiting results of an MRI exam performed on the pitching arm of RHP Justin Duchscherer before deciding whether he will skip his next scheduled start. Duchscherer left Friday's game with slight biceps bursitis. ... The Indians have not been swept at Oakland since April 25-27, 2003.