Cliff Lee, one of the postseason’s best ever, puts the Yankees in deep hole

Cliff Lee of the Texas Rangers pitches to the New York Yankee in the first inning during game three of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium on October 18, 2010 in New York.   UPI/Monika Graff Photo via Newscom

I wonder what was going through Cliff Lee’s mind on Monday night when Josh Hamilton reached out and poked a two-run homer off Andy Pettitte out of Yankee Stadium to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the first inning of Game 3 of the ALCS.

“Thanks offense – that’ll do.”

Coming into Game 3, Lee owned a postseason record of 6-0 with a 1.52 ERA. Believe it or not, he actually lowered his ERA last night in yet another magnificent outing, throwing eight scoreless innings and striking out 13 in Texas’ 8-0 win over the Bombers. He overwhelmed Yankee hitters the entire night and even when the Rangers broke out for six runs in the top of the ninth, you already had the sense that the game was over because Lee was set to come out in the bottom half of the inning.

Lefty Gomez is the only other pitcher to have a perfect win-loss percentage in the postseason and he pitched 14 less innings than Lee. Mariano Rivera has the best ERA in the postseason, is third for win-loss percentage at .889, is first in saves and third in WHIP. Because he’s done it over 92 games and 137.2 innings, you can make an argument that the Yankee closer is the greatest postseason pitcher of all-time. But if Lee continues to do what he’s doing, then Rivera will have some company soon enough.

Speaking of Rivera’s club, they’ve got some work ahead of them now. Lee has put them in a 2-1 hole and while they’re still two losses away from elimination, they’ll start a shaky A.J. Burnett tonight in essentially a must-win situation (it’s not “must-win” in that they don’t have to win to stave off elimination, but no team wants to go down 3-1 and have to win out).

If ever there was a time when Burnett wanted to silence his critics, it’s now. A win won’t only tie the series, but will also shift the momentum back in the Yankees’ favor.

A loss and the Bombers may be watching Texas play in the World Series in two weeks.

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