Prior to the 2010 World Series, Cliff Lee was lights-out in the postseason.
In eight postseason starts, the veteran left-hander was 7-0, giving up nine earned runs in 64.1 IPs (1.26 ERA).
Last season, the Yankees beat the Phillies 4 games to 2, with Cliff Lee pitching the Phillies to both of their wins.
After Lee had given up two earned runs in 24 IPs in the 2010 AL playoffs (0.75 ERA), More Splash Hits thought the Giants were going to have to beat the Rangers the same way the Yankees beat the Phillies.
But then something funny happened. The unhittable Mr. Lee got tagged by the offensively challenged Giants hitters.
After things looked bleak in Game with the Rangers taking a 2-0 lead on Tim Lincecum, the Giants got to Lee in the third when Edgar Renteria reached on an error and Andres Torres was hit by a pitch, a rarity from Lee. Then Freddy Sanchez roped a double to left to score Renteria, and Buster Posey followed with a single to score Torress and the game was tied 2-2. The rally ended when Pat Burrell and Cody Ross were called out on strikes, leaving More Splash Hits to yell “WHY are you looking at two-strike pitches from CLIFF LEE?!?!?”
Both batters would get a chance at redemption later.
In the fifth, after Sanchez had another RBI double, Pat Burrell worked the count full on Lee. He took another two-strike pitch from Lee, and it was a ball.
Now, how many times last season did we see Giants hitters fall behind in the count, then wave wildly at pitch a foot outside or down in the dirt. Against Cliff Lee, that didn’t happen, and it wasn’t because of anything the Giants hitters did.
With two on and two out in the fifth, Lee got ahead of Ross 1-2. So was the next pitch a foot outside? No, a letter-high fastball over the plate, and Ross slapped into center for an RBI single.
Aubrey Huff was up next. Again Lee got ahead 1-2. The next pitch in the dirt? Nope, on the outer edge at the knees. And Huff slapped it into center for another RBI single.
That was the end of Lee’s night, but not the end of the inning. Juan Uribe greeted reliever Darren O’Day by smacking his 2-0 pitch into the left-field bleachers for an 8-2 Giants lead, leading to an 11-7 Giants win.
Now let’s fast-forward to Game 5 in Arlington.
Lee was looking like he had in his earlier postseason starts. He matched Tim Lincecum scoreless inning for scoreless inning through six innings.
Now, let me know if this sounds familiar.
Lee opened the inning by facing Ross. Ross fell behind in the count 1-2. Then he slapped a single into center.
Uribe came up next and fell behind 0-2. Then he slapped a single into center.
Then Burrell came up and worked the count full, then fouled off a 3-2 pitch before Lee got a huge strikeout by throwing it past Burrell.
Now, Lee had a choice. He could pitch to Edgar Renteria, or pitch around Renteria with first base open, and potentially go after Aaron Rowand.
At this point, Renteria was 6 for 16 in the World Series; Rowand was 1 for 3. In fact, for the entire postseason, Rowand was 3 for 11.
When Lee opened with two balls to Renteria, it looked like he might just pitch around the Giants shortstop. Then he threw a 2-0 cutter that didn’t cut. Renteria pounded it over the left-field fence, and the rest is history. (By the way, Rowand followed Renteria’s homer by swinging at the first pitch from Lee and flying out to right).
So, to Cliff Lee, for your refusal to bounce two-strike pitches to the free-swinging Giants hitters, thanks!
The Top 10 List of Non-Giants Who Should Be on Every Giants Fans Christmas Card List:
No. 5, Chase Utley
No. 6, Andrew Friedman and Neil Huntington
No. 7, Roy Oswalt
No. 8, Bud Black
No. 9, Paul Emmel
No. 10, Bengie Molina