Bronx, NY (Sports Network) – Cliff Lee added to his spotless playoff resume and continued his mastery of the Yankees by outdueling postseason stalwart Andy Pettitte, as the Texas Rangers took the lead in their American League Championship Series behind an 8-0 Game 3 victory over New York.
Josh Hamilton’s two-run homer in the first inning spotted Lee (1-0) with an early lead, and that was all the left-hander needed, as he tied a career-high with 13 strikeouts and allowed only two hits and one walk over eight innings for the Rangers, losers of 10 straight postseason games to New York before a Game 2 victory on Saturday.
Over the past two seasons, Lee has quickly established himself as the standard for pitching prowess in the playoffs. Texas’ midseason acquisition became the third pitcher in MLB history to win his first seven playoff decisions and is the first pitcher with three games of 10-plus punchouts in one postseason.
Hamilton added a double in the ninth to jump-start a six-run inning that turned a two-run game into a lopsided win.
Pettitte (0-1), unbeaten in his previous nine postseason starts, was sharp despite a 10-day rest between outings, yielding only five hits with no walks in seven innings for New York, which has dropped only two games at home the last two postseasons. Lee was the winning pitcher in both, with the other coming in Game 1 of the World Series while he was with the Phillies.
Game 4 is scheduled for Tuesday with the defending World Series champion Yankees leaning on the unpredictable arm of A.J. Burnett and Texas calling on 24-year-old righty Tommy Hunter.
It is Cliff Lee night at Yankee Stadium. The night all the talk about what will happen when Lee, the Texas ace with the great postseason track record, and the guy who was very nearly a Yankee, tries to derail the Yankees' World Series aspirations.
"It’s finally here," [Mark] Teixeira said. "Everyone’s been waiting for it. Cliff deserves all the accolades and all the attention. At the same time, we have a job to do, and we’re going to try to beat him."
With his two wins against the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS Lee is now 6-0 in his first seven postseason starts, with his teams winning all seven of those contests.
"Regardless of what other people expect of me, I expect as much out of myself or more than anybody is going to expect out of me," Lee said. "So I don't look at it any different than I would any other game. I expect to be successful and that's the game plan [Monday] and every time I take the mound."
Lee was terrific in pitching the Rangers into the ALCS with a dominating performance against the Rays in Game 5 of the ALDS, as he gave up a run and six hits and struck out 11 in the complete-game effort.
His 1.44 ERA in the postseason is the fifth-lowest in major league history for a pitcher with at least five starts. Three of the four pitchers ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame.
The Yankees know full well how good Lee, who is a free agent at season's end, has been in the playoffs, as he beat them twice in last year's World Series, including a complete-game effort in Game 1 of the Fall Classic for Philadelphia.
"I don't think there's an exact science how you approach Cliff Lee," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "But to me, he's a lot like Roy Halladay. If you try to take a couple of pitches and get deep in the count, you might be 0-2. So for me with Cliff Lee, I think you have to be ready to hit from pitch one. And if he makes a mistake, don't miss it."
New York, though, will hand the ball to a left-hander with pretty solid postseason credentials as well in Andy Pettitte, who has won more games in the playoffs than any pitcher in baseball history.
"There's been talk about Cliff Lee before he even started this series and people were talking about Game 3," Girardi said. "But let's not forget that we have a pretty good guy on the mound, too, that's won a lot of postseason games and has won a lot of clinchers in his career. I can go back to catching him in 1998 when he won the [World Series] clincher against San Diego, and he's been doing it a long time.
"The guy that's getting lost in this is Andy Pettitte, and he's pretty good."
Pettitte picked up his 19th career playoff win with a victory over the Minnesota Twins in Game 2 of the ALDS. Pettitte gave up two runs and five hits in seven innings of that one.
At 19-9 with a 3.87 ERA in the postseason, he holds major league records for wins, starts (41) and innings (256) in the postseason. He hasn't lost a postseason game since the 2005 National League Championship Series as a member of the Houston Astros.
"We've faced a lot of pitchers throughout the years that have had great reputations. Reputation doesn't win games," Derek Jetersaid Sunday on the eve of Monday night's Game 3 at the Stadium. "You still have to go out there and pitch."
Throwing a pretty good pitcher of your own is also a good idea. The Yankees feel like they are doing just that tonight.