How many Major League Baseball pitchers can claim they own the New York Yankees?
Tonight, in Game 3 of the ALDS, the Bronx Bombers face crafty lefty Cliff Lee, who for the most part has shut them down over the last two seasons.
With the confidence that Andy Pettitte’s many successful postseason appearances afford, manager Joe Girardi is scheduled to start his wily southpaw in a bounce-back game.
Yankees' left-handed ace CC Sabathia lasted only four innings in Game 1, but New York came back to win as it does quite often.
Mariano Rivera sealed the victory that left Yankees fans in high spirits.
But the Rangers bats gnashed their wooden teeth again early in Game 2 on Saturday in Arlington, as the team bounced back to tie the series.
Manager Ron Washington feels confident that his team will be more than competitive in the friendly confines of the Bronx in Game 3.
Why wouldn't he be?
He has a pitcher who is on the short list of those who can claim they own the Yankees.
One of the names on that short list is current Philadelphia Phillies' ace Roy Halladay, who pitched a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds in the first game of this year’s NLDS.
Last year Cliff Lee, the current Rangers’ ace, was the ace of the Phillies. He pitched a complete game victory for Philly in Game 1 of the 2009 World Series against the Yankees. Lee won Game 5 in the World Series as well.
This year he has had an outstanding postseason, and he is riding his hottest streak yet.
Incredibly there have been eight postseason pitching performances of at least 10 strikeouts and zero walks in MLB history. Lee pitched the last four of them, including the two against the Rays.
In Game 5 against Tampa, he set the ALDS strikeout record and tied the MLB record with 21 in two starts. The Rays have a potent lineup, but they are known for going lame at times.
They were no-hit this last regular season.
Lee has no-hit stuff: a knuckle curve, circle change, two-seam fastball and a cut fastball.
In three starts this season he is 2-0 against the Yankees. One of those two victories came at Yankee Stadium, with another Lee complete game.
His 3.09 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and .209 batting average against the Yankees this year has been remarkable.
Those numbers are slightly better than his overall ERA and WHIP on the season.
Lefties are batting .288 against him this season. He is always around the zone and the Yankees hitters will have to step up tonight.
Bryan Gardner, Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Lance Berkman and Curtis Granderson will be the players to watch in the Yankees lineup.
Lee sealed a Rangers three-game sweep in Arlington on Sept. 12 by defeating New York, 4-1 in over eight innings.
Andy Pettitte is 1-0 against Texas this season, posting a 2.25 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and a .154 batting average against the Rangers, lasting eight strong innings.
The Yankees swept the Rangers then, back in April, when AJ Burnett was pitching well and Rich Harden was the Rangers' ace.
But the Rangers scooped Lee up in a trade with the Seattle Mariners in July after a deal with the Yankees fell through.
Lee had cursed the New Yorkers in a different way this time by adding to their angst in the light of their pitching woes around that time.
The Yankees pitching staff appeared to be in danger after a spate of injuries and poor performances, but they find themselves three wins away from yet another World Series.
Lee solidified the Rangers’ staff by providing guidance and a good example on the field for lefty CJ Wilson, who performed admirably in the first game of this series.
By all rights, Texas should have won the first two games.
Now they face Pettitte, who is widely underrated even though he is usually money in the playoffs.
This season he has even more incentive to win the championship for former owner George Steinbrenner, who passed away earlier this season.
The Boss’ sons run the club now and the Steinbrenner family wants a championship even more than ever. Derek Jeter is one of the family, and he will make sure it happens starting tonight.
Prediction: The Yankees will lift the curse and defeat Cliff Lee tonight, 5-2.