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Lee's a lock to give Rangers 1-0 lead
The Giants are an endearing bunch, with their charismatic clubhouse, title-starved fan base and strong belief they can win with great pitching and duct tape.
So, it wasn't surprising to hear the can-do attitude of San Francisco second baseman Freddy Sanchez, as he looked ahead to Game 1 of the World Series.
He even made it sound like the Giants will face a pitcher with discernable flaws.
“I'm anxious to see the video and see what we've got,” Sanchez said.
No need. We've all seen the tape. It shows us that no one -- certainly not San Francisco -- is going to beat Cliff Lee this month.
At this point, video can only do so much. Lee's 2010 postseason looks like a horror flick to anyone who swings a bat for a living. The trailer looks something like this: strikeout, strikeout, groundout … strikeout, strikeout, flyout … strikeout, strikeout, jam-shot single … strikeout.
Lee's made eight career postseason starts. He's 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA. He's struck out 67. He's walked seven. In October, at least, he can be mistaken for Sandy Koufax.
The Giants should have added a firewall to the internal network at AT&T Park, blocking any footage of Lee's outings against the Rays and Yankees. What possible benefit is there to watching Evan Longoria and Alex Rodriguez flail away?
Edgar Renteria batted .167 during the National League playoffs. Lee has as many walks (one) as complete games in this postseason. And the Cliffy Horror Picture Show is supposed to help a hitter's confidence?
“Sure, you're watching video,” San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy maintained. “But when a pitcher has the kind of stuff he has, and he's locating his four pitches, it's a tough match. It's all about competing.”
Translation: We beat Roy Halladay in the last series. It could happen again.
Understand that I'm a big believer in this Giants team. At the start of spring training, I picked them to win the NL. At the start of the playoffs, I picked them to win the World Series – over the Rangers. I'm not going to abandon them now. I just happen to believe they may not score Run 1 until Game 2.
All the evidence we have about Clifton Phifer Lee points to the same conclusion: During the regular season, he's excellent. In October, he's one of the best in history.
In order for the Giants to win Game 1, a scout told me, Lee has to “fall apart with his command."
Since Lee probably has the best command of any pitcher in the major leagues right now, you can see why San Francisco will face such long odds Wednesday night.
Giants fans are left to pin their hopes on the notion that Lee will be rusty pitching on eight days rest. (Lee offered assurances on Tuesday that the long layoff is “not really that major of a deal.”) Or maybe he'll strain a calf muscle while climbing up a hill to visit Coit Tower.
Beyond that, I'm out of Lee-loses scenarios.
“He never gets caught up in the moment,” Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said. “He's very, very even-keeled. He sticks to what's gotten him here.”
“The last game he pitched in the ALCS, that's about as focused and fired up as I've seen anybody on a baseball field,” observed Matt Treanor, the veteran Texas catcher. “He soaks in (the atmosphere). He uses that so he can execute. He feeds off it. If you can call somebody a big game pitcher, it would be Cliff Lee.”
Poor Lincecum. This is only the second time both starters in a World Series game had won a Cy Young Award during the two previous seasons, according to STATS LLC. Yet Lee's clearly the No. 1 attraction.
Lincecum's been good in this postseason – just not as good as Lee. And the left-hander's pending free agency has certainly helped his notoriety. The ballpark was buzzing Tuesday about a USA Today story in which Lee's wife, Kristen, talked about the crude behavior of New York fans during the ALCS.
“Fans being fans,” Lee said.
Could it affect your decision as a free agent?
“Who cares?” Lee replied.
Then he paused. He wanted a good zinger for the Yankees.
“They're at home right now,” he added.
A room full of reporters laughed, realizing Lee throws a clever changeup in the interview room, too.
The good news for the Giants? Juan Uribe and Aaron Rowand have decent career numbers against Lee. Cody Ross’ first major league home run – a 2003 grand slam – came against Lee, then a 25-year-old rookie.
But there's little evidence to suggest the Giants are a good candidate to score three or four runs. Even the umpiring crew checks out. Lee has performed close to his career norms with John Hirschbeck behind the plate, as will be the case in Game 1.
At one point Tuesday, Lee was asked to give reasons for his remarkable postseason success. He mentioned his confidence, consistent routine, good teammates, ample run support and veteran catcher Bengie Molina.
There's every reason to believe all five of those factors will work in Lee's favor again Wednesday night. But don't fret, Giants fans. Game 2 is only nine innings away.
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