You don't leave your ace in the hole
Short rest or not, Rangers should start Lee in Game 4
ARLINGTON -- However this season turns out for his Rangers, and wherever he decides to take his services this offseason, Cliff Lee will easily be the most coveted free agent and will no doubt sign a huge contract. Frankly, he deserves it. He's one of the best pitchers in the game -- a legitimate ace, a guy that can put an entire franchise on his back.
And that brings up a major gripe I have heading into Game 4: It should be Lee starting it, and so it should be Lee starting Game 7, too.
If you're going to be considered a legitimate ace in this league, and if you're going to be mentioned among some of the greatest in history, you need to be able to pitch on short rest, and you need to demand to do so when you've reached this stage.
I wonder what Rangers president Nolan Ryan -- he of six seasons with more than 250 innings -- thinks of Lee needing that extra day in the World Series.
And how are you feeling about it?
No disrespect to Tommy Hunter -- he's had a fine season and by no means is a hindrance to this rotation -- but ask yourself this as a Rangers fan: Would you rather have Lee starting on short rest in Game 4 so you have him as a starter two more times, or a fresh Lee starting Game 5 and available only in a limited role out of the bullpen in Game 7?
Lee has started 227 games -- regular season and playoffs -- in his nine-year career, but he's never done so on less than four days' rest. That doesn't mean he can't do it, though. Considering the advantage the Giants have in the starting rotation, and the unavoidable importance that advantage is in the World Series, this should've been Lee's chance to try.
He would've matched up with rookie Madison Bumgarner on three days' rest in Game 4. (Advantage, Rangers.)
And, if everything holds steady, he likely would've gone up against a struggling Jonathan Sanchez in a potential Game 7 on three days' rest. (Advantage - and perhaps Series - Rangers.)
Rangers manager Ron Washington scheduled a four-man rotation heading into this Series, and after the Rangers won Game 3, he confirmed Hunter would indeed be his starter in Sunday's Game 4, saying Saturday night: "Tommy Hunter always had the start tomorrow."
It should've been the other way around. Win, lose or draw, it should've been Lee the entire time. Fact is, the Rangers are still down 2-1 in this Series.
Sure, Lee struggled in Game 1 -- giving up an uncharacteristic seven runs (six earned) in 4 2/3 innings -- and halted what had been an unreal start for him in these playoffs. But many said that had a lot to do with Lee getting too much rest.
Nelson Cruz was one of them.
"The days off really affect everybody," Cruz said after Game 1, which Lee started after eight days off. "I mean, I haven't seen Lee throw like that in a while."
Lee is considered by many as the best left-hander in this game. But if that's the case, he needs to be able to pitch on short rest in the World Series, especially on a top-heavy rotation that is at a disadvantage against its current World Series opponent.
I seem to recall Johan Santana and CC Sabathia doing so pretty frequently.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Gonzo and 'The Show'. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.