Monday October 18th, 2010

Cliff Corcoran will preview each day's games throughout the postseason.

Series: ALCS, Game 3, series tied 1-1 Time: 8:00 p.m. EST TV: TBS Starters: Cliff Lee (2010 postseason: 2-0, 1.13 ERA; 2010 regular season: 12-9, 3.18 ERA) vs. Andy Pettitte (1-0, 2.57 ERA; 11-3, 3.28 ERA)

Having largely dominated the Yankees at home, the Rangers head to the Bronx and start their ace, Cliff Lee, in Game 3. Mid-way through his second postseason, Lee has established himself as one of the great postseason pitchers in baseball history. Lee's teams have won all seven of his postseason starts, and he has been dominant in all of them, lasting a minimum of seven innings in each and allowing no more than one earned run in six of the seven. In his young postseason career, Lee has a 1.44 ERA and 0.78 WHIP, and has struck out nine times as many men as he has walked (54:6) while his opponents have hit just .185/.209/.249 against him. Among pitchers with 50 or more postseason innings, only closer Mariano Rivera, and dead-ball-era Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Eddie Plank have lower ERAs, and only Rivera has a lower WHIP.

Lee has also recorded 10 or more strikeouts four times in his seven postseason starts. Only Bob Gibson and Randy Johnson have five 10-strikeout games in the postseason, a record Lee could tie tonight, and only Gibson did it four times in his first seven postseason starts. Lee also hasn't allowed a single walk in any of those 10 strikeout games. No other pitcher has pitched more than one 10-strikeout, zero-walk game in the postseason. In fact, there have been just eight such games in postseason history, four of them pitched by Lee. One of those came in Game 1 of last year's World Series at Yankee Stadium, when Lee, then a member of the Phillies, completely dominated a lineup featuring many of the same hitters he will see tonight.

Pettitte, Lee's opponent, has a glittering postseason resume of his own. He has made more postseason starts (41) and won more postseason games (19) than any pitcher in baseball history. However, he has struck out 10 men in a game just once in the postseason, walked three men when he did, and hasn't limited his opposition to one or no earned runs over seven or more innings since 2003, seven years and 11 postseason starts ago. Pettitte held the Rangers to two runs over eight innings in his only start against them this season back on April 18 and held the Twins to a pair of runs over seven frames in his only start thus far this postseason, but one wonders if even a repeat of one of those performances would be enough to beat Lee.

The outlook for the Yankees heading into tonight's game is indeed bleak, but they have more reason for confidence against Lee than other teams would.. Derek Jeter has hit .458/.519/.625 against Lee in 27 plate appearances, regular and postseason combined, over the last two years. Nick Swisher hit two home runs off Lee during a game in June and Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira have multiple extra-base hits off Lee in their last three games combined against him.

In fact, as a team the Yankees have had decent success in those last three matchups, one of which came during last year's World Series when Lee was still a Phillie, one was in June while Lee was in Seattle and the final one was their only time facing Lee since his early-July trade to Texas.

In Game 5 of last year's World Series, the Yankees were able to push across five runs in seven innings, drawing three walks and striking out just three times. In fairness to Lee, he entered the top of the eighth in that game having surrendered only two runs and four hits and had a six-run lead before New York finally knocked him out of the game with three consecutive hits that eventually pushed his final linescore to seven hits and five runs allowed. A-Rod doubled twice off Lee in that game.

Against Lee on June 29, Teixeira and Jorge Posada had doubles and Swisher had the aforementioned pair of homers. Much like in the Game 5 start, the Yankees were largely shut down by Lee before finally breaking out, this time getting three hits and two runs in the ninth inning, though Lee still went the distance in a 7-4 win.

On August 11, the Yankees faced Lee in Texas and again were shut down early. Lee limited them to two runs and four hits through six innings but in the seventh, the Yankees matched those totals to knock Lee out of the game. Eventually, New York rallied for a 7-6 victory. That was the first of five straight starts in which Lee allowed four or more runs, after which he sat out two turns with a bad back, then returned to his typical dominance.

In each of those three games, the Yankees eventually got to Lee, albeit in the eighth, ninth and seventh innings. With the way the Rangers hitters have battered New York's starters in this series -- scoring 12 runs in eight innings against CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes -- the Yankees would be wise to not wait so long this time.

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