PHILADELPHIA -- This is why they brought Cliff Lee to Philadelphia.
The Phillies were already well on their way to their third straight division crown. But in Lee, they got yet another blue-chip arm for their World Series run.
And the 30-year-old lefty, who had no prior playoff experience, has done nothing but dominate in October. He allowed three hits over eight shutout innings in the Phillies' 11-0 Game 3 victory over the Dodgers, lowering his 2009 postseason ERA to 0.74.
His 10 strikeouts Sunday tied Curt Schilling (Game 1, 1993 NLCS) and Steve Carlton (Game 2, 1980 World Series) for the Phillies postseason franchise mark.
"I don't think I ever doubted myself," Lee said. "I always had confidence in myself and felt like I could pitch in a big game. But you never know until you get the opportunity. It's a challenge."
Lee was staked to a six-run lead after just two innings, so he did not have to be brilliant. He still was. He allowed three baserunners, one of whom was erased on a double play. He worked himself into just three three-ball counts -- two against Manny Ramirez -- and issued no walks. Only one man reached second base.
"What I always think of Cliff Lee: He's pretty damned special," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "With his delivery and how aggressive he is, I think he comes at you quick, and sometimes it startles the hitters where they're not quite ready to hit."
When Lee was warming up in the bullpen before Sunday's game, catcher Carlos Ruiz had a feeling that a special night might lie ahead.
Every pitch was working for Lee. He earned one strikeout off his slider, two off his curveball, two off his changeup and five off his fastball.
Jimmy Rollins, meanwhile, looks at Lee's dominance and has flashbacks to Cole Hamels' MVP-earning performances during last year's NLCS and World Series.
After all, Lee allowed one run during a complete-game victory in Game 1 of the Division Series against Colorado. In Game 4, he allowed three runs (one earned) in 7 1/3 innings.
All told, that's two earned runs in 24 1/3 innings.
He almost got a chance to put up another zero and to become the third pitcher in the Wild Card era to toss two complete games in a single postseason. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel let Lee hit in the bottom of the eighth -- he singled -- and was going to send him out for the ninth.
But once Shane Victorino hit a three-run home run, Manuel decided to entrust an 11-run lead to the bullpen. Lee had already thrown 114 pitches, but didn't appear to be tiring: He struck out two in a 10-pitch eighth inning.
"If I would have known that were the case," Lee joked, "I would have tried hitting into a double play or something to go back out there."
Lee's hitting proclivity may have cost him a shutout, but it did not stop his teammates from piling on praise for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.'s Trade Deadline acquisition.
"That's huge," Ryan Howard said. "When he takes the mound, you can see it in his presence. He goes out there, he shuts the other team down."
David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.