Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth delivered the clutch two-out, ninth-inning hits that provided the Phillies the clinching 5-4 win over the Rockies in Game 4 of the National League Division Series at Coors Field on Monday night.
But without the determined effort that Lee provided into what proved to be a potentially devastating eighth inning, the Phillies know that they likely wouldn't have been in position to stage a dramatic comeback that moved them one step closer toward claiming a second straight World Series championship.
"He's a big-game pitcher and he has proven that ever since he joined us," said Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, as he attempted to shield himself from the champagne, beer and ice being tossed around by his teammates during a spirited postgame celebration.
When Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. acquired Lee from the Indians on July 29, he expected the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner to carry his team toward a third consecutive NL East crown. The veteran hurler did this while helping his new club win eight of his 12 regular-season starts.
But more importantly, Amaro had hopes that the 31-year-old left-hander would prove to be the horse that he was while limiting the Rockies to two earned runs during the 16 1/3 innings that he completed in the NLDS.
That's certainly not bad for somebody who had never pitched in the postseason before last Wednesday, when his complete-game gem in Game 1 fell just one out shy of being a shutout.
"He's been fantastic, what more can you say?" Amaro said. "He's just pitched extremely well. He loves to take the ball. He really competes. I think the guys behind him know that when he takes the mound, he's going to compete."
Lee might not have been as dominant as he was during Game 1. But during his second postseason effort, the veteran hurler may have proven to be every bit as impressive while showing the poise needed to escape the inevitable pressure situations that October brings.
On his way to limiting the Rockies to three runs (one earned) and five hits in 7 1/3 innings during the clincher, Lee passed the challenge of surviving his first Coors Field experience.
"I never doubted whether I could pitch in these situations," Lee said. "This is why we play the game."
Four pitches into Monday's outing, Lee had surrendered a pair of singles, including a leadoff one to Carlos Gonzalez, who hit .588 (10-for-18) during the series. Two groundouts and a strikeout later, the Phillies ace escaped the first of many potentially damaging situations.
His one-out, four-pitch walk to Gonzalez in the third was negated by Dexter Fowler's inning-ending double-play grounder. The single that Lee surrendered to Ubaldo Jimenez to give the Rockies runners at first and second with two outs in the fifth proved inconsequential, when he finally solved Gonzalez by getting him to fly out to right field.
"He's done what he's needed to do, and that's get W's," Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino said.
Lee was denied the opportunity to be rewarded with his second win of this series because of the eighth-inning struggles that forced him to exit with runners at first and second and one out. His exit came after Utley surprised shortstop Jimmy Rollins with a lateral toward second base that hit off Rollins' glove and traveled toward the outfield grass.
Ben Francisco, who was acquired in the same deal that brought Lee from the Indians, then produced what momentarily appeared to be a game-saving diving catch in left field. While thankful of the effort, right-handed reliever Ryan Madson marred it while allowing the Rockies to score three runs within a span of his next four pitches.
Still, instead of worrying about the fact that Madson had squandered the one-run lead he'd been handed, Lee basked in the glory that was created after Howard and Werth displayed the team's desire with their consecutive hits, erasing a two-out, two-run, ninth-inning deficit.
"That was incredible," Lee said. "This is what I expected when I came over here. They're the defending world champions. I knew they had unbelievable fight and great players."