Philadelphia Phillies MLB Playoffs: Can Cliff Lee Still Win in the Postseason?

Manny RandhawaCorrespondent IIIOctober 3, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 02:  Cliff Lee #33 of the Philadelphia Phillies is pulled by manager Charlie Manuel in the seventh inning of Game Two of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park on October 2, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

In his first eight postseason starts, Cliff Lee went 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA. Over that span, he struck out 77 and walked just seven.

Talk about the very definition of dominant.

In his last three playoff appearances, however, Lee has gone 0-3 with a 7.33 ERA. That includes Sunday's implosion in which Lee was staked to an early four-run lead but couldn't hold it, taking the loss as the St. Louis Cardinals evened up their best-of-five ALDS against the Phillies at one game apiece.

As last year's World Series began in San Francisco, Cliff Lee went to the mound for the Texas Rangers as an undefeated and untouchable postseason force. No one could overcome his mastery of the strike zone...until the Giants tagged Lee for six earned runs on eight hits through just 4.2 innings.

And that began the downward spiral of Cliff Lee in the postseason. His love-hate relationship with the playoffs continues into 2011, which makes his poor performance in last year's World Series seem like more than just a hiccup.

While the Cardinals are a hot-hitting team as of late, Lee was his usual, overpowering self against the Red Birds in the regular season, tossing a complete game and posting a 1.76 ERA against St. Louis in two starts against them in 2011.

So, when being spotted four runs is a great cushion for any starter in the postseason, it certainly could've felt like an eight-run deficit to the Cards.

Whatever it may have felt like, St. Louis overcame the deficit against Lee, one of the premier starters in the game, but one who is struggling mightily in any game that is played in October these days.

Will Lee ever win in the postseason again?

Probably. He is, after all, just 33, and with the type of stuff this guys has, as well as the club he's playing for, he should see many postseason starts in the future.

But the Cliff Lee on the mound Sunday was not the Cliff Lee that was traded to the Texas Rangers in mid-2010 for the specific purpose of getting to, and through, the postseason.

Lee is just not the postseason force to be reckoned with that he once was. And the big question for the Phillies is: Will he regain his elite form before it's too late?