NEW YORK – Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte. The postseason ace against that ol’ October pro.
With the best-of-7 A.L. championship series tied at one apiece, the scene shifts to Yankee Stadium for Game 3 tonight, 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 after 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 (today).”
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 A.L. 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 was 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 (today) 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.