Rangers-Yankees Preview

Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte. The postseason ace against that ol’

October pro.

With the best-of-seven AL championship series tied at one

apiece, the scene shifts to Yankee Stadium for Game 3 on Monday

night, when a pair of pressure-proven pitchers will be back in the

spotlight.

Lee’s left arm has been baseball’s most dominant force in the

past two postseasons, carrying him to a 6-0 mark with a 1.44 ERA

and three complete games in seven starts.

He’ll be on the mound for the Texas Rangers against Pettitte,

who has an outstanding October resume of his own. The longtime

Yankees lefty is going for his 20th postseason win.

”Obviously, it’s a great matchup,” New York manager Joe

Girardi said Sunday, when the Yankees and Rangers worked out under

blue skies in the Bronx. ”I think people are looking forward to

tomorrow.”

Coming off the first home playoff win in the franchise’s

50-season history, the Rangers are back on the road – where they’re

unbeaten in these playoffs. Texas won all three first-round games

at AL East champion Tampa Bay, including a pair of masterpieces by

Lee.

Next, he’ll try to join Orlando Hernandez and Orel Hershiser as

the only pitchers to win their first seven postseason decisions.

Hernandez opened 8-0 for the Yankees from 1998-2000, while

Hershiser went 7-0 with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland

Indians from 1985-95.

”I’ve got high expectations for myself. Regardless of what’s

happened in the past or what other people expect of me, I expect as

much out of myself or more than anybody is going to expect 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 tomorrow

and every time I take the mound.”

Because of his overwhelming brilliance, most of the buzz leading

up to this matchup has revolved around Lee, nearly acquired by the

Yankees before Seattle traded him to Texas on July 9.

That’s just fine with the 38-year-old Pettitte, who is 5-0 with

a 2.88 ERA in his last nine postseason starts and always seems to

come through when New York needs him most.

After missing two months with a groin injury and making only

three starts in September, he pitched seven solid innings to beat

Minnesota in Game 2 of the division series.

”I feel like there’s not a whole lot of attention that I get

anyways. It’s been like that kind of my whole career. I guess I can

say I’m used to that. It’s always maybe the other guy that’s going

to get that. That’s totally fine with me,” Pettitte said. ”I’m

kind of uncomfortable with a whole lot of attention. I want to go

out and do my job, give us a chance to win that ballgame.”

The high-scoring Yankees, with baseball’s top offense this

season, have been as overmatched by Lee as everyone else lately.

They like to work pitchers and grind out at-bats, but their patient

approach can be countered by Lee because he keeps everything on or

around the plate.

”If he’s coming out and throwing a lot of strikes, we can’t be

taking,” Mark Teixeira said.

In his last five starts in the Bronx, Lee is 5-0 with a 1.67 ERA

and two complete games, including a six-hitter in the World Series

opener for the Phillies last year when he struck out 10 and gave up

only an unearned run.

In fact, he won both his World Series starts for Philadelphia.

New York took the other four games.

”Cliff can’t do it by himself,” Rangers manager Ron Washington

said. ”He’s only human. If anything goes wrong, he’s going against

a ballclub that can make you pay.”

Lee struggled in August, then had an injection in his aching

back and took almost two weeks off before returning to face the

Yankees at home on Sept. 12. He allowed two hits in eight-plus

innings of a 4-1 win.

In the postseason, he’s been nearly perfect, piling up 54

strikeouts while walking only six in 56 1-3 innings. He struck out

21 and did not walk a batter in two starts spanning 16 innings

against the Rays.

”I would like to throw a full season without walking anyone. I

know that’s probably unrealistic, but if you make every single team

you face swing their way around the bases, it’s going to pay off in

the end,” said Lee, who also won the regular-season opener at new

Yankee Stadium for Cleveland in April 2009.

If the Yankees have their way, this will be the last time they

see the 32-year-old Lee until they start throwing money at him this

offseason, when he can become a free agent.

But if the Rangers win Monday night, New York would need to take

the next three in a row to advance without facing him in a decisive

Game 7 at Texas.

”We’ve faced a lot of pitchers throughout the years that have

had great reputations. Reputation doesn’t win games,” Yankees

captain Derek Jeter said. ”You still have to go out there and

pitch.”

Pettitte knows that as well as anybody. At 19-9 with a 3.87 ERA,

he holds major league records for wins, starts (41) and innings

(256) in the postseason.

”He’s been through it so many times, does not become rattled,

knows how to prepare for this type of game,” Girardi said.

”Experience is an important thing when it comes to this time of

year, because you don’t expect Andy to get too hyped up. He’ll be

the same guy that he is during the regular season.”