(Photo courtesy of The AP)
- Well that sucked, huh? Really not much to analyze if you watched last night's game. Andy was great again, save for the one cutter he hung to Hamilton in the first (which probably wouldn't have gone out if it wasn't hit at Yankee Stadium), but Cliff Lee was absolutely lights out, shutting down the Yankee lineup for what seems like the umpteenth time and doing it while appearing to exert all the effort with which one would loosen up before playing a rec league softball game.
- Andy appeared to be a bit sharper than in his ALDS start at the beginning of this one, and it was clear he was attacking the Rangers' righties away with back door sliders and cutters. Unfortunately he wasn't getting the calls on the outside corner from home plate umpire Jim Reynolds and that contributed to him throwing an extra 10-15 pitches in the first few innings. There were more than a few borderline pitches for Ks that a pitcher of Andy Pettitte's caliber and reputation usually gets, so it was a bit frustrating to watch him not be able to get a call here or there.
- But overall, Andy was fantastic again. He had good live on his fastball, solid movement on his slider and curveball, and his cutter was devastating, breaking enough bats to make one want to do a double take just to make sure Mo wasn't out there. All that added up to 12 swinging strikes on the night, a very good number for Andy, and only a handful of good swings that produced good contact by the Ranger hitters. Shit, Josh Hamilton's home run was off the end of the bat, certainly not a no-doubt crush job like Cano's Game 2 homer.
- Unfortunately for Andy, Cliff Lee was as on as he's ever been last night and the Yankee lineup had no answers for him. He gave them their best opportunities early in the count, exactly as I predicted, and there actually were some hittable pitches here and there but the Yankees couldn't put any good swings on them. By Lee's standards, his first-pitch strike rate wasn't that great, only 16 of 27 batters faced and 2 of those were on first-pitch balls that the Yankees swung at, but he followed those up with a steady combination of fastballs, 2-seamers, cutters, and a hook here and there to virtually every part of the plate. Generating 17 swings and misses will more than make up for a shoddy first-pitch strike percentage.
- About the only thing Lee didn't have working was his backdoor curveball, which he tried to sneak past a couple righty Yankee bats, and that was only because Jim Reynolds wasn't giving him that outside corner either. But overall, I think it would be fair to say that Lee's strike zone was just a little bit more liberal than Andy's, especially up and down in the zone. Not at it would have mattered if it wasn't last night. Lee was just that good and he made the Yankees look completely awful at the plate.
Some other notes:
- good job by Jeter taking some pitches against Lee and giving Gardner a chance to steal 2nd in the bottom of the 6th. That was the first time the Yanks had gotten the leadoff guy on all night, and when it's your quickest guy you want to give him a chance to get into scoring position. The strikeout right after the steal pretty much negated the effect of the steal, but still...
- I said to watch Teix last night and for that I apologize. He was absolutely pitiful to watch against Lee. With 2 outs and Gardner on 3rd in the 6th he got 2 very hittable pitches in his at-bat and couldn't do a thing with them, popping one foul and grounding the other to short to end the inning. Something is still off with his timing at the plate right now and it's making him embarrassing to watch.
- But that was one hell of a dig on A-Rod's throw to get Bengie Molina in the top of the 7th. On the replay it showed Teix was already turning his head out of the way when the ball skipped into his glove and he was able to hang on. Not many other first basemen in baseball who make that scoop, if any.
- Somebody explain to Ron Darling that CC being tapped to pitch Game 4 doesn't automatically mean A.J. is out of the rotation for the series. He's sitting around talking about how CC on short rest is OK but the Yankees don't want to put Hughes and Pettitte on short rest also by throwing CC in Game 4. Uhh, Ron, you could just pitch A.J. in Game 5 and keep Hughes and Pettitte on their regular schedules for Game 6 and Game 7, idiot. That's what I said the Yankees should do all along, but I guess Joe and Cash aren't as big fans of the blog as I thought.
- So how much extra coin do you think Lee earned on his next contract after last night? $15 million? 20? What's the Yankees' first offer to him in December? 6 years, $120 mil?
- I'm not going to get on Boone Logan and D-Rob for sucking in the 9th. They probably looked out in the Ranger bullpen, realized nobody was warming, and knew Lee was coming back out in the bottom of the frame to close things out. Tough to focus and be sharp when you know the game is already over. Hopefully D-Rob's blowup doesn't carry over to tonight.
- Neftali Feliz, calm the fuck down with the tongue action on that chew, buddy! It's fucking tobacco, not your girlfriend's pussy. Pack a fucking lip and leave it there, bro. Maybe spit every now and then but stop flicking your tongue around like you're trying to impress somebody. I was getting really uncomfortable watching that last night in the bottom of the 9th. He was like a lizard that was overheating in the desert sun or a hipster who smoked too much ganj and had horrible cotton mouth. Somebody please teach him how to dip before tonight!
Play of The Game: Lee's strikeout of Jeter in the 6th
I'm sure Hamilton's homer and some of the runs in the 9th had higher WPA values, but Lee K'ing Jeter right after Gardner stole 2nd effectively wiped out the steal and put him back in control of the one inning where the Yankees had a legit opportunity. The crowd quieted back down after that and Swish and Teix went quietly as well. At a time when the game was still close, thwarting the Yanks' only real attempt to get back into it was huge.
Player of The Game: Cliff Lee
8 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 0 ER, 13 K, 122 pitches (82 strikes). Need I say more?
Well that's over and done with. Now we can all sit around and chew our fingernails and cuticles to shit wondering if Joe is really going to stick with A.J. tonight and how A.J. will manage to implode this time. FUN!!