DETROIT -- Cliff Lee throwing another masterpiece, one that his manager called "a clinic" on pitching? Yawn.
The Seattle Mariners supporting Lee's latest gem with not one, but two three-run home runs?
Now that's something totally different.
With Russell Branyan and Casey Kotchman delivering the big blows off Detroit pitcher and Pasco native Jeremy Bonderman, the Mariners ended their nine-game road trip Sunday by blasting the Tigers 8-1 at Comerica Park.
Kotchman's fifth-inning homer, which made it 7-1, came after a pitch that Bonderman clearly thought should have been a called strike. Bonderman was ejected by home-plate umpire C.B. Bucknor for arguing while leaving the mound at the end of the inning. Catcher Gerald Laird was thrown out while Lee was warming up to start the fifth.
"I was definitely not getting the same strike zone as (Lee) did, but I obviously didn't throw the ball well, so I'm not going to make excuses," Bonderman said. "It gets in your head, but I'm not going to sit in here and say it was his fault I got beat, because it wasn't."
Bucknor had an embarrassing moment in the seventh when he made a dramatic called-third-strike call on Johnny Damon before realizing it was only strike two.
Bonderman (4-6) allowed seven runs in five innings, and fell to 0-2 with an 8.44 ERA in three starts against Seattle this season.
Meanwhile, each start by Lee these days could be his last for Seattle. But while they have him, the Mariners continue to marvel at the breadth of his skills. On the day he was named to the American League All-Star team, Lee racked up a season-high 11 strikeouts (matching his career high) to go with one walk -- his sixth free pass of the year in 103 2/3 innings. He actually saw his 15.6-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio go down slightly.
On a sweltering Detroit day, Lee's streak of complete games was snapped at eight, but he worked eight solid innings, limiting the Tigers to a first-inning run and subsequently squelching every attempt at a rally.
"I don't know if you can ever say enough about Cliff Lee," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "I think the most amazing thing to me, he gives up the run early, and then with runners in scoring position, (Detroit) was 0 for 12 after that. It shows you how he bears down."
Wakamatsu also talked about how Lee "has fun pitching," and the left-hander didn't disagree with that assessment. He's managing to stay loose despite the trade rumors that continue to swirl around him.
"It's a game," Lee said. "I haven't lost perspective that we play a game that a million people on the planet would trade places with us. I totally have not lost respect for that. It's my responsibility to take advantage of it and not take anything for granted."
Branyan, serving as designated hitter Sunday, delivered his homer with two men aboard in the third inning to give the Mariners the lead to stay. In six games since returning to the M's, Branyan has two homers and seven RBI.
Kotchman's homer was his first since April 19 against Baltimore. He finished with three hits in the game to go along with two walks, and has five hits in the last two games to get his average over .200 (.206) for the first time since May 21.
Wakamatsu said Kotchman has been working hard with hitting coach Alonzo Powell in recent days.
"They're looking at some of the mechanical thing," the manager said. "He's staying back better, for me. That's where you see the power. Not only that, but pitch recognition, eliminating some of the ground balls he was hitting earlier."
Said Kotchman: "I just do the same thing I always do and get my work in and try to be ready to play, if and when my name is called."
The Mariners pounded out 15 hits, with Chone Figgins also getting three. With the big lead, the only mystery was whether Lee would rack up another complete game. Instead, Wakamatsu let Brandon League work the ninth. Lee threw 111 pitches -- 83 of them strikes.
"You get that kind of lead, it's tough, because you know he wants to finish the game no matter what," Wakamatsu said. "He probably could have."
"Wak came down after the eighth and said that was it," he said. "There was no debate. It was his decision, and it's always that way. I could have pitched the ninth, but it's his call to decide when you're done. If he would have asked me if I wanted to go, I would have said yes, but he said I was done, so that was it."
Now the Mariners, and their fans, will continue to wait and see how long Lee keeps pitching for them.