After the way Cliff Lee pitched in his first two 2010 postseason starts, you wouldn’t think he could get any better. He did Monday night in game three of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium.
Lee pitched eight shutout innings, allowing only two hits while striking out 13 as the Rangers dominated the Yankees 8-0 to grab a 2-1 lead in the ALCS. After striking out 10 and 11 batters respectively in his two starts of the postseason, Lee bested both of those starts by striking out 13 on this night while walking only one. The walk by Mark Teixeira in the fourth inning was the first walk allowed by Lee in his three starts this postseason. His K:BB ratio is now 34:1 in the 2010 playoffs.
Lee is now 7-0 in eight career postseason starts with a 1.26 ERA. Lee became the first pitcher in MLB history to have three double-digit strikeout performances in the same postseason. He retired the first 11 Yankees he faced and allowed only two singles on the night.
The Rangers started the scoring early once again as they struck in the first inning for the third time in three games this series. Josh Hamilton hit a two-run home run off Yankees’ postseason ace Andy Pettitte in the top of the first to get the Rangers going. Michael Young, who was 3-5, scored ahead of Hamilton’s homer after he had a solid single following a long battle with Pettitte.
Because of Cliff Lee’s mastery, you wouldn’t know that Pettitte actually pitched very well in game three. Besides the home run given up to Hamilton in the first, Pettitte didn’t allow any more runs in his seven innings. He allowed only five hits, striking out five and walking none, but his one mistake of the night was the difference.
Going into the ninth inning, the Rangers still only held that 2-0 lead, but the offense broke out against the Yankees’ bullpen to blow the game open. The Rangers scored six runs in the top of the ninth, sending ten batters to the plate. Nelson Cruz, Bengie Molina and Elvis Andrus all had an RBI in the inning while Mitch Moreland had two RBIs with a single to right field that landed right on the chalk. Moreland scored the final run of the inning on a wild pitch from reliever Sergio Mitre.
The Rangers were 5-8 with runners in scoring position while the Yankees only got three chances to hit with runners in scoring position all night as they went 0-3. Manager Ron Washington would have had an interesting decision to make if the game stayed 2-0 since Cliff Lee had already thrown 122 pitches. However, the offense made the decision easy as Wash called on closer Neftali Feliz to close the door. Feliz worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning, striking out two.
Game three of this ALCS series will take place tomorrow night with first pitched scheduled for 7:07 p.m. CT. Tommy Hunter will take the mound for the second time this postseason for the Rangers and the embattled A.J. Burnett will make his first postseason start for the Yankees.