Photo courtesy New York Yankees
The Yankees have to beat Cliff Lee or else fall behind 2-1 to the Rangers.
If anything, the Yankees should be loose tonight. No one expects them to topple Lee, so there's no pressure. Which is a dangerous position to be in. These guys aren't chopped liver, you know, and they're sending a pretty good left-hander to the mound themselves in Andy Pettitte. If Pettitte can turn in another strong performance like he did in the ALDS against the Twins, and if they can scrap together a few runs against Lee, the Yankees could find themselves in the catbird seat by night's end.
This was the reason the Rangers went out and got Lee as a hired gun over the summer (denying the Yankees his services, by the way). Tonight, we find out if he was worth it. Should be fun...
AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES — GAME 3
TEXAS RANGERS at NEW YORK YANKEES
Gametime: 8:07 p.m.
TV: TBS Radio: WTNT-570 AM
Weather: Cloudy, 56 degrees
RANGERS8:16 p.m. -- Wow, two really impressive at-bats from Michael Young and Josh Hamilton in the top of the first. Young took several close outside pitches from Andy Pettitte, then fouled off three more before finally dinking a single to right field. Then Hamilton flicked his bat out at a breaking ball and muscled it over the short right-field fence. Just like that, the Rangers have an early lead again, this one by a count of 2-0.
SS Elvis Andrus
3B Michael Young
CF Josh Hamilton
DH Vladimir Guerrero
LF Nelson Cruz
2B Ian Kinsler
RF Jeff Francoeur
C Bengie Molina
1B Mitch Moreland
(P Cliff Lee)
SS Derek Jeter
RF Nick Swisher
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
DH Marcus Thames
C Jorge Posada
CF Curtis Granderson
LF Brett Gardner
(P Andy Pettitte)
8:43 p.m. -- Two innings, six batters, six outs, three strikeouts for Cliff Lee. Rangers couldn't ask for a much better start to the evening.
9:14 p.m. -- Three perfect innings for Lee, but Pettitte has been equally as good since that shaky first. He's made Vladimir Guerrero look silly twice tonight, though I suppose that's not saying much the way Vlady's swinging this postseason. If I'm the Yankees, I don't give Hamilton another pitch to swing at the rest of this series until Guerrero proves he can make contact.
9:45 p.m. -- No perfect game, no no-hitter tonight. But the shutout is still intact through five. As is Texas' 2-0 lead. But if the Rangers think those two first-inning runs are going to hold up, they better be careful. Pettitte has been cruising himself since the first, and you've got to figure Lee has a slip-up somewhere along the way, right?
9:56 p.m. -- What did I say earlier about how the Yankees shouldn't give Hamilton another pitch to hit? Well, he nearly made them pay again, coming a couple of feet short of his second homer of the night off Pettitte. Just missed squaring the ball up. New York caught a break there, aided by Guerrero's third strikeout in as many at-bats. So it's still 2-0 as they go to the bottom of the sixth. Pettitte, at 100 pitches, could be done. Lee is at 80 through five, which is actually pretty high for him. Depending on how efficient he is from here, he might only be good for two more innings. Even in the best-case scenario, the Rangers bullpen is probably going to be needed tonight.
10:29 p.m. -- I know we've just come to expect these kind of pitching performances from Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee and others because they've been doing it so often. But really, this is incredible. Lee has now tossed seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball. He's got 11 strikeouts and one walk. His combined numbers in three postseason starts now: 23 ip, 13 h, 2 r, 1 bb, 32 k. Think about that for a moment. He is absolutely mastering the art of pitching right now. Let's not take that for granted. Still 2-0 as they go to the eighth.
10:46 p.m. -- I mean, this is ridiculous. He is so smooth, so relaxed, looks like he's just playing catch with Bengie Molina, not tossing yet another gem at Yankee Stadium in October. Eight innings, 13 strikeouts, two hits, one walk. He's at 122 pitches. Normally, you'd say no chance he comes back for the ninth. But did you see how easy he just made the eighth inning look? How can you not send him back out to finish this thing off?
11:05 p.m. -- Wow, talk about scoring some insurance runs. How about four of them? It's now 6-0 after a barrage of base hits. Lee was already going to come back out for the bottom of the ninth. Now he may not be needed.
11:15 p.m. -- How about 8-0? Yankee Stadium is empty right now. No Lee for the bottom of the ninth. Neftali Feliz will get a chance to pitch what is suddenly a non-pressure situation.
11:22 p.m. -- Sandy Koufax's combined line in three starts in the 1965 World Series: 24 ip, 13 h, 1 er, 5 bb, 29 k. Cliff Lee's combined line in three starts this postseason (so far): 24 ip, 13 h, 2 er, 1 bb, 32 k.
11:27 p.m. -- Ballgame. Rangers win 8-0. They now lead the series 2-1. What does it mean? This: The Yankees either need to win behind A.J. Burnett tomorrow or else they'll have to beat Cliff Lee in Game 7.