PHILADELPHIA – Cliff Lee has a simple explanation for his brilliant pitching.
"I'm making pitches, staying out of the zone, using my breaking ball and getting lucky," Lee said, downplaying his recent success.
Lee tossed a two-hitter for his third consecutive shutout and the Philadelphia Phillies beat Josh Beckett and the Boston Red Sox 5-0 Tuesday night.
In a series hailed as a potential World Series preview, Lee (9-5) and the Phillies dominated the opener.
Domonic Brown and Shane Victorino each hit a two-run homer for Philadelphia, which improved its major league-leading record to 50-30.
Lee didn't allow a hit until Marco Scutaro led off the sixth with a line-drive single to left-center. He ran his career-best scoreless streak to 32 innings with his ninth career shutout and fourth this year.
"It's been a good run, no doubt about it," Lee said. "I've had a few in my career, but I don't look back and compare them. I want to throw a shutout every time out there. I never want to give up a run."
Beckett (6-3) gave up five runs and five hits in six innings, his worst outing of the season. Beckett entered with a major league-best 1.86 ERA and left at 2.20. He hadn't pitched because of the flu since tossing a one-hitter against Tampa Bay on June 15.
Darnell McDonald led off the eighth with a double to left, putting Lee's shutout bid in jeopardy. But shortstop Jimmy Rollins made an outstanding play on Jason Varitek's hard one-hopper up the middle for the first out. Lee then fanned Mike Cameron looking at a slow curve and retired Scutaro on a grounder to third.
Lee finished with five strikeouts and two walks. He has been sensational since a slow start. The lefty was 4-5 with a 3.94 ERA through May. Since then, he's 5-0 with a 0.21 ERA in five starts this month.
Lee threw a two-hitter against Florida on June 16 and blanked St. Louis on six hits June 22. He needed 112 pitches to get through this one.
"He's one of the best pitchers in the game, and he's riding a hot streak. That is a bad combination for any team to face," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "I haven't seen all of his starts, but from what I have seen, he's been quite impressive. He's working counts, and he's throwing strikes when he has to. He's really got it going right now."
The most popular player on the Phillies, Lee received several ovations from the 180th straight sellout, including postseason play, at Citizens Bank Park.
Brown gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead when he connected with two outs in the second. The lanky rookie ripped a 2-2 pitch into Philadelphia's bullpen in right-center.
Brown came in slumping. He was 4 for 34 in his previous 10 games and got a scolding from manager Charlie Manuel after not hustling out a grounder Saturday night against Oakland. Brown was booed by fans for not running hard that game, but heard loud cheers as he circled the bases and again when he went out to right field.
"It was definitely a wake-up call. I wasn't thinking about it until I talked to Charlie," Brown said. "Not hustling and not running balls out isn't my style. It was out of frustration. I just knew I needed to do better. I came in early and went straight to the video room."
Brown got things started in the fifth with a leadoff double to left. He advanced to third on Carlos Ruiz's deep fly to right-center and scored on Lee's sacrifice fly to make it 3-0. Lee, a good-hitting pitcher, has five RBIs in his last eight games.
Victorino put the Phillies up 5-0 in the sixth. He drove a 3-1 pitch into the seats in right for his ninth homer.
NOTES: Lee's previous best was a 27-inning scoreless streak during his Cy Young Award season with Cleveland in 2008. ... Lee has four complete games this season, second in the NL to teammate Roy Halladay's five. ... The last time the Red Sox had just two hits was June 9, 2010, against Cleveland. Their previous low this season was four hits, done five times. ... Boston's Dustin Pedroia was 0 for 3, snapping an 11-game hitting streak. ... The Phillies placed Ryan Madson on the disabled list before the game, leaving them without three closers. Jose Contreras and Brad Lidge are also out. ... The Red Sox activated relievers Bobby Jenks and Franklin Morales from the DL before the game and optioned Scott Atchison and Tommy Hottovy to the minors. ... The Red Sox are 26-18 against the Phillies, including 18-7 since 2004. ... Beckett had allowed only four homers this season. ... The last time the Phillies reached 50 wins in fewer than 81 games was during their NL pennant-winning season in 1993. They started 50-21 that year. ... Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, who hasn't started in NL parks because the designated hitter isn't used, expects to be in the lineup Wednesday. Francona wouldn't reveal his plans.