CLEVELAND Another victory under his belt, Cliff Lee emerged from his postgame shower, walked to his locker and began getting dressed.
He slipped on a T-shirt that said: Ace of Spades.
Right now, he s the ace of baseball.
Lee won his 11th straight decision and moved 20 games over .500 with his 22nd win, leading the Cleveland Indians past the Kansas City Royals 12-5 last night.
Unbeaten in 12 starts since July 11, Lee (22-2) allowed four earned runs in 81/3 innings to win his eighth straight start.
He s 5-0 in five outings against Kansas City, which was also Lee s opponent for wins No. 4, 8, 18, and 21. Luckily, the Royals won t have to face the left-hander again until next season.
I m tired of that guy, Royals center fielder David DeJesus said with a laugh.
It s almost unthinkable to remember that Lee, who was demoted to the minor leagues last season and was left off Cleveland s 2007 postseason roster, had to win a spot as the Indians fifth starter during spring training.
Lee is the first pitcher to have 20 more wins than losses since Oakland s Bob Welch in 1990.
Lee s season is the best Indians manager Eric Wedge has ever seen.
I know there have been some tremendous pitching seasons by starting pitchers over the years, Wedge said.
But this is without a doubt nothing like I ve ever seen.
It s very remarkable, Royals manager Trey Hillman said. He s an outstanding pitcher. You can t do what he s doing by accident. You have to be focused from pitch to pitch.
Lee s streak is the longest by an Indians pitcher since Gaylord Perry won 15 straight decisions in 1974.
He was almost machinelike in his efficiency.
Lee did not go to a single three-ball count and was three outs away from his fifth complete game when the Royals, who collected 11 hits, scored three runs off him in the ninth.
Lee barely cracked a smile when he was asked if he d ever lose again.
I don t know, he said. I m going to try not to. I m just trying to give myself a chance every time out. Lee will likely make three more starts, and he says he is hoping to finish a season no one saw coming.
It s not over yet, said Lee, the first pitcher to reach 22 wins since Dontrelle Willis in 2005. So far, it s going pretty good. But I m not going to start patting myself on the back yet.
Jose Guillen homered twice off Lee for Kansas City.
Kelly Shoppach had three RBIs off Gil Meche (11-11), Shin Soo-Choo homered and drove in three, and Grady Sizemore and Asdrubal Cabrera had two RBIs apiece for the Indians.
Shoppach pulled an 0-1 pitch from Meche over the left-field wall to make it 2-1 in the third.
NOTES: Lee is one win shy of matching Vean Gregg (1911) for the most wins in a season by a Cleveland left-hander. ... Royals OF Mitch Maier, who had three facial bones broken when he was hit by a pitch on Kansas City s last visit to Cleveland, was activated from the 15-day disabled list but did not play.
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