Nine times the Yankees came to the plate needing at least two runs. Nine times they failed to produced even one. Josh Hamilton’s first-inning home run held up through the next eight and a half, and the Rangers took Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. They now lead the series two games to one.
Andy Pettitte did his part to keep the game close. After the Hamilton home run Pettitte pitched 6.2 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and walking none. He left with the score 2-0. So did Kerry Wood. David Robertson did not. He let the game get out of hand in the ninth, removing any chance for a mystique and aura guided comeback.
It felt as though the Yanks were slowly making progress against Cliff Lee. Very slowly. But progress nonetheless. By the fourth they had earned a walk. In the fifth it was a hit. In the sixth they put a runner into scoring position — to third, even. But that was as far as they’d get. Lee cruised through the order one last time, concluding his night with his 13th strikeout. It was his third straight postseason start in which he recorded at least 10 strikeouts, and his fifth in his last six.
I wish this were a mid-June start rather than a postseason one. Not because the loss would have been essentially meaningless to the Yankees, though that does help. But because I wanted to more fully appreciate Lee’s performance. He worked into a few un-Cliff-Lee-like deep counts, but only one time did he lose a hitter. Some of that has to be attributable to the Yanks’ offense, but that doesn’t really matter. The mythical Cliff Lee showed up. You have to score a runner from second with none out if you want even the remotest shot of besting mythical Cliff Lee.
The Yanks can only hope now that mythical A.J. Burnett follows mythical Cliff Lee’s act. The Yanks are down 2-1 and need the win to ensure the return trip to Texas. Right now it doesn’t matter how comfortable anyone is with Burnett pitching Game 4. It’s all in his, and the offense’s, hands.