Before the pennant races concluded, many people thought, and wrote, that the Yankees did not want to win the American League East because they did not want to to possibly face Cliff Lee twice in a five-game series.
Once again, be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
And the Yankees now have it.
They are in the same situation as the 2010 AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays were: Since they split the first two games in Arlington, they are now in a five-game series against the Rangers.
And Cliff Lee is starting Game 1 and, if necessary, Game 5.
Most Yankee fans thought they were getting a break when Lee had to pitch Game 5 in the ALDS and could not start Game 1 in Arlington.
I marvel at all the people who say that the Yankees should be happy that they got a split in Texas, "which is all they really needed, anyway." Actually, the opposite is true.
When you win the first game on the road, nothing short of winning two should be acceptable.
It seems that Yankees fans (and many in the media) are already throwing in the towel in Game 3, assuming Lee will keep his masterful pitching performances going.
That may be the case, but it also can be far from the truth.
Lee has faced the Yankees three times this season, and is 2-0, 3.09 ERA. In the first game, Lee threw a complete game, allowing four runs while striking out only two hitters.
In his second start against New York, the Yankees rallied late, beating the Rangers in Texas. Although he struck out 11, Lee also gave up four runs this game. In his third start, Lee won 4-1, but walked three, his season high.
Twice in his three starts against the Yankees this year, Lee allowed four runs—so the Yankees have gotten to Lee this season. The issue in all three of those games this season was the Yankee starting pitching was atrocious.
Dustin Moseley, Javier Vazquez and Phil Hughes all were hit around by the opposition.
Even last year during the World Series, the Yankees lost twice to Lee, but after getting dominated in Game 1, they scored five runs off Lee in seven innings in his second start.
Again, by scoring five runs off Lee in Game 5 last year, they should have won the game, but A.J. Burnett was pretty bad that day.
I have all the confidence in Andy Pettitte tonight. The major league's all-time winningest postseason pitcher is coming off a tremendous performance in the ALDS, but it was 11 days ago.
Unlike CC Sabathia, who has no command after longer rest, as he has gotten older, Pettitte is much better with longer rest between starts. Over the last three years, Andy is 4-2 with a 3.14 ERA on six-plus days rest, better than his overall numbers.
Looks like a good pitching matchup to me, a game the Yankees can win. In Lee's 28 starts this year, Lee has allowed four or more runs in 11 games. And in those games, the opposing team was not patient at the plate, working the count, but were aggressive early in the count.
Lee threw primarily fastballs the first time through the order in his two games in the ALDS. In Game 1 at Tampa Bay, he threw only fastballs in the first inning when the Rays loaded the bases.
At that point, the Rays stopped being aggressive and did not score.
If the Yankees are aggressive early, and look to attack the first pitch fastball, they can score runs. You can not "pitch count" Lee out of the game, but need to bang him around and knock him out.
If the Yankees get four runs off Lee, they will win tonight.
Be aggressive early and let Pettitte do his thing.