Is Cliff Lee up to sticky tricks?

Cliff Lee has pitched so well in the postseason, some fans

started wondering whether he doctors the ball.

The Texas Rangers ace had a white patch on the back of his

weathered cap during the division series against Tampa Bay and it

became a topic on sports-talk radio in New York last week.

Lee, scheduled to start Game 3 of the AL championship series

Monday night against the Yankees, assured reporters that it’s

simply resin on his hat, which is perfectly legal.

The left-hander had a sense of humor about the commotion,

too.

”It definitely makes me way better. I know that much. Without

that hat, I don’t know if I could do it,” Lee deadpanned. ”I go

to the resin bag quite a bit. I touch my hat in the same place over

and over. And it just accumulates. I couldn’t pitch without it for

sure.”

New York manager Joe Girardi said Lee’s cap is not a

concern.

”It’s resin. It’s available to everybody,” Girardi said. ”I

haven’t seen it to be a problem.”

STILL THE STARTER: Phillies starter Joe Blanton is still on

target to pitch Game 4 – for now.

Manager Charlie Manuel named Blanton the starter going into the

series, but the nod could go to Roy Halladay on short rest if the

Phillies need him.

Blanton, 9-6 with a 4.82 ERA, did not pitch in the NL division

series.

”We’ll just take it day to day and see what happens,” Manuel

said. ”I mean, our plans are Blanton.”

Halladay threw the second no-hitter in postseason history in a

4-0 win over Cincinnati in the first-round opener. And he allowed

four runs in a losing effort Saturday in Game 1 against the

Giants.

Halladay is 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA in six career starts on three

days’ rest. He started once on two days’ rest and allowed five

earned runs in 4 2-3 innings.

Game 4 is Wednesday.

ONE RUN FUN: The Giants know how to win the close ones.

The Giants beat the Braves in four games in the NL division

series – all were decided by one run. Then they went out and beat

Roy Halladay and the Phillies 4-3 in Game 1 of the NLCS.

Manager Bruce Bochy was impressed with how his team kept their

poise in tight, pressure-packed innings.

”We’ve pretty much done this all year,” Bochy said. ”I think

they’ve gotten accustomed to it and they realize how important each

pitch, every play, every at-bat is. That goes with experience. And

now they’re used to it. I think it’s helped them here in the

postseason.”

The Giants were 28-24 in one-run games in the regular

season.

STANDING BY HIS MAN: Yankees manager Joe Girardi reiterated that

A.J. Burnett is slated to start Game 4 against Texas on Tuesday

night, despite his struggles.

Burnett, in the second season of an $82.5 million, five-year

contract, went 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA this season and was left out

of the first-round rotation against Minnesota.

Though the Yankees announced their plans to pitch Burnett before

the AL championship series, there has been plenty of speculation

that they’ll instead turn to CC Sabathia on three days’ rest in

Game 4 – especially if they’re trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven

set.

”Maybe other people have talked about it, but my message has

been clear that we’re on rotation,” Girardi said. ”We set up our

rotation for a number of reasons. We’re just staying with it. Phil

Hughes has never thrown on short rest. We have Andy Pettitte, who

is coming off an injury. There’s a lot of things that go into

making up your rotation. We believe in A.J. I know it’s been a

tough year for him at times this year, but we believe in A.J.”

Girardi said Sabathia was still scheduled to throw his bullpen

session Sunday.

”I know there’s some weather in the forecast (this week), but

our rotation is the same,” the manager said.

HOME SWEET HOME: Now that the AL championship series has shifted

to New York, Texas right fielder Jeff Francoeur can sleep in his

own bed.

The Rangers acquired the strong-armed Francoeur from the New

York Mets in August and he still has an apartment in Manhattan. He

stayed there Saturday night after the Rangers arrived and plans to

sleep at home while they play three games at Yankee Stadium this

week.

Francoeur said his familiar digs at home definitely top the team

hotel.

”It’s nice. I’ve got it through the end of the month, so it

works out well,” he said.

Any big plans now that he’s back in the Big Apple?

”Nah,” he said. ”Keeping it low key.”