Cliff Lee delivers third consecutive complete game shutout

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Many hyped this week’s interleague series between the Red Sox and Phillies as a potential World Series matchup. And frankly, it’s tough to argue. But tonight was all about Cliff Lee.

Lee just finished off his third straight complete game shutout as part of a 5-0 win. He held the Red Sox to just two hits while fanning five and walking two. The southpaw is the first Phillies’ pitcher to throw three consecutive shutouts since Robin Roberts in 1950.

Lee actually hasn’t allowed a run over his last 32 innings dating back to June 11, which represents a new career-best. He has allowed just one run over five starts in June, good enough for a ridiculous 0.21 ERA over 42 innings. His ERA has dropped from 3.94 to 2.66 in the process. That’s absurd.

As Jayson Stark of ESPN.com notes, no pitcher has thrown four straight complete game shutouts since Orel Hershiser had five in a row in 1988. Lee will try to keep the streak alive Sunday against the Blue Jays.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.