He was dominant in game one at Yankee Stadium, shutting down the vaunted New York Yankee lineup in a complete game victory. In going the distance, Cliff Lee struck out 10 hitters (including Alex Rodriguez three times), allowing only six hits and a single unearned run.
He is in his prime and is basically a win waiting to happen every time he takes the mound. The best bet for Philadelphia in winning this World Series is to have Lee pitch as often as he can.
But Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has other ideas. He will start right handed pitcher Joe Blanton in Game Four, he of the 0-3 record and an over eight ERA in his career against the Yankees. In 22 career innings, Blanton has allowed 22 hits, 20 ER's, five home runs and has issued 12 walks.
Not the greatest of numbers. And the Yankees biggest hitters, both Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have the best numbers against Blanton. Tex is nine for 27 with three home runs, seven ribbies with an OPS of 1.061.
Alex is even better with four hits in seven at bats, but has two homers and five RBI's. His OPS is a staggering 2.298 when factoring in his three walks.
Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui (though not likely to start) also have homers versus Blanton, and hitting against Blanton in cozy Citizens Bank Park just adds to the pressure on Blanton to be perfect with his pitches.
Manuel's reasoning is that Lee has never pitched on three days rest, and he trusts Blanton who pitched well this season and had a win in last years World Series.
However, Lee needs to pitch as often as possible, neutralizing the Yankees and ace CC Sabathia who surely will start game four. Maybe Manuel figures Lee is a lock win on Monday in game five against possible Yankee fourth starter Chad Gaudin.
But if the Yankees win Saturday night, a Blanton/Sabathia Game Four can easily become a 3-1 Yankee series lead.
And Gaudin might not even get the opportunity to start a game five. Word out of Yankee world is that AJ Burnett is itching to go on three days and prove his mettle again after his great game two start. Yankee manager Joe Girardi is considering just that, especially now that Pettitte and the Yankees won game three.
And if Sabathia gives the Yankees a deep inning win in game four, and Lee likely wins a day later, Pettitte could go Wednesday's game six, although on three days rest, too.
Even if Pettitte gives them five or six decent innings next Wednesday, like he did last night, the Yankees would have a fully rested bullpen, and the cce in the hole, Sabathia again for game seven.
If Girardi decides on Burnett for game five, the adrenaline would surely be flowing in Arkansas Monday night as both potential starters Lee and Burnett are from the Razorback state and share the same agent.
That agent, Darek Brauneker, made a fortune last off season with Burnett's deal, and surely will not need to fund a 401K when Lee signs his next deal.
While I love the fact that Manuel is loyal to his players (one reason why he is a good manager) this time loyalty should take a back seat to common sense.
The decision to go with Blanton over Lee for tonight's game gives the Yankees the World Series title.
The way Lee threw the ball in game one, the big Yankee bats having prior success against Blanton and the Yankees 2-1 lead in the series, Manuel needed to wait until last night after the game to make his game four decision. The Phillies need to win both of the remaining games in Philadelphia and hope to take one game in New York.
Losing tonight and hoping to take both game in New York is going to be very tough.
Just ask the Los Angeles Angels.