Cliff Lee remained perfect in the postseason, striking out 13 New York Yankees in eight scoreless innings to give the Texas Rangers a 2-1 lead in the American League Championship Series.
Lee and reliever Neftali Feliz held the defending World Series champions to two hits as the Rangers won 8-0 at Yankee Stadium last night.
Lee improved to 7-0 with a 1.26 earned run average in eight career Major League Baseball postseason starts, numbers that put him in the company of Hall of Fame pitchers such as Sandy Koufax, Christy Mathewson and Bob Gibson.
“To do that to that lineup, you definitely have to tip your hat to Cliff Lee,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said in a news conference. “He was the thoroughbred we needed.”
Josh Hamilton hit a two-run home run in the first inning and the Rangers added six runs in the ninth to improve to 4-0 on the road this postseason.
Game 4 of the best-of-seven series will be played today at Yankee Stadium. New York will start pitcher A.J. Burnett, who has a 1-7 record with a 6.61 earned run average the past three months.
The Rangers will counter with Tommy Hunter, who is 13-5 this season with a 3.75 ERA and is 5-4 since the start of August. Texas lost Game 4 in the first round of the playoffs 5-2 with Hunter as starter, allowing the Tampa Bay Rays to force a decider, which Lee won for the Rangers.
In the past 19 ALCS that were tied 1-1, the Game 3 winner has advanced to the World Series 14 times.
The National League Championship Series also continues today, with the San Francisco Giants hosting the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 3 at AT&T Park. That series is tied 1-1.
Lee Beats Pettitte
Lee, 32, outpitched Andy Pettitte -- baseball’s leader with 19 postseason victories -- to become the third major leaguer to win his first seven postseason decisions, joining Orel Hershiser and Orlando Hernandez.
“Any time you can get that deep in the game and not give up any runs in the postseason, that’s huge,” Lee said.
Lee has won six straight postseason starts dating back to last year’s NL Division Series, one short of Gibson’s record of seven in a row from 1964-68.
Lee struck out at least one batter in every inning last night and became the first pitcher with three 10-strikeout games in a postseason. Gibson was the only other pitcher to record 10 or more strikeouts in three career postseason games.
Koufax and Mathewson
With nine earned runs allowed over 64 1/3 postseason innings, Lee’s ERA of 1.26 is the third lowest among pitchers with at least five starts, trailing Koufax and Mathewson.
“He was outstanding,” said Pettitte, who allowed two runs over seven innings. “You can’t say enough about what he did in this ballpark.”
Pettitte’s undefeated postseason streak ended at nine starts, the third longest. It was his first defeat since Game 1 of the 2005 NLCS for Houston.
After a one-out single by Michael Young in the first inning, Hamilton pulled a pitch on the outside corner into the second row of seats in right field. It was his second home run in the series for the Rangers, who have homered in all eight of their games this postseason.
While Pettitte held Texas scoreless over the next six innings before giving way to the bullpen, he lost for the third time in 13 career LCS starts.
‘One Cutter Up’
“He pitched a great game,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He left one cutter up a little bit and Josh Hamilton hit it out of the ballpark.”
Lee retired the first 11 Yankee hitters in order before allowing a two-out walk to Mark Teixeira in the fourth inning. The only hits Lee surrendered were singles by Jorge Posada in the fifth and Brett Gardner in the sixth.
Lee is the fourth pitcher to strike out at least 13 batters in a postseason game against the Yankees. He joins Koufax (15 in Game 1 of the 1963 World Series), Carl Erskine (14 in Game 3 of the 1953 World Series) and Gibson (13 in Game 5 of the 1964 World Series).
Texas’s ninth-inning outburst came against Yankees relievers Boone Logan, David Robertson and Sergio Mitre. New York’s bullpen had allowed one earned run in 16 postseason innings entering the game.
Last Yankee Shutout
The last time the Yankees were shut out in the postseason was by Detroit’s Kenny Rogers and two relievers in Game 3 of the 2006 AL Division Series.
“We haven’t swung the bats great, but we have seen some pretty good pitching and we’re not the only lineup that they’ve shut down,” Girardi said. “I still believe that we’re going to hit. Tomorrow’s a new day.”