10/16/10 8:26 PM ET
Pettitte, Lee headline marquee Game 3 matchup
By Mike Bauman / MLB.com
Game 3 of the 2010 American League Championship Series, to be televised on TBS, is scheduled for Yankee Stadium on Monday at 8 p.m. ET, and the headlines are already screaming "LEE VS. PETTITTE!!"
Of course, not to get lost in the glamorous pitching matchup is an integral Game 3 that will break the ALCS stalemate.
However you want to view it, with the Texas victory in Game 2, Game 3 has become particularly pivotal. And whatever attention the two left-handed starters have achieved, on their own or in this pairing, is well-earned.
Says Lee of Pettitte: "In my opinion he's probably the best postseason pitcher of all time just by the number of wins and the number of rings he's got."
Pettitte, asked what he sees in Lee, responds: "You see everything that you want to see in a starting pitcher to be successful. He throws strikes. He throws quality strikes. He gets ahead. He changes speeds. And, you know, I think what is separating him from any other pitcher right now is really his cutter, how late it is."
For the record, Pettitte is the all-time leader in postseason victories with 19. While he has been pitching in the postseason since 1995, some of his best work has come recently. He was 4-0 in the 2009 postseason as part of a three-man rotation, winning one game in each of the first two postseason rounds and then winning two starts in the World Series.
If anything, though, there has been more focus on Lee, because he has been the dominant pitcher of the past two postseasons, for the Phillies in 2009, for the Rangers now. He won two starts in the 2009 World Series against the Yankees. This October, he won two starts in the Division Series against Tampa Bay, including the Game 5 clincher. For his seven postseason starts, Lee is 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA.
Lee's work has been extolled to the point that Yankees manager Joe Girardi contends that his man, Pettitte, is being shortchanged in the discussion.
"There's been talk about Cliff Lee before he even started this series and people were talking about Game 3," Girardi said. "But let's not forget that we have a pretty good guy on the mound, too, that's won a lot of postseason games and has won a lot of clinchers in his career. I can go back to catching him in 1998 when he won the [World Series] clincher against San Diego, and he's been doing it a long time.
"The guy that's getting lost in this is Andy Pettitte, and he's pretty good."
Whether or not Pettitte has been lost in this discussion, Girardi is correct in saying that before either Game 1 or Game 2 had been played anticipation was already building for Game 3. That's not a typical postseason pattern, but this isn't a typical postseason situation.
The Rangers were supposed to be at a disadvantage because they could not start their ace, Lee, at the top of the ALCS, rotation, since they had to pitch him in Game 5 of the Division Series. Now, with the series tied, that same situation now appears to be an advantage for the Rangers.
On the other hand, anyone who underestimates Pettitte has not been paying particularly close attention in a whole series of Octobers.
The thing about the Pettitte vs. Lee hoopla, justified though it might be, is that the pitchers themselves cannot possibly view the game that way. They have two very difficult lineups to face.
"I've got to look at it as it's really Andy Pettitte trying to get his stuff going," Pettitte said Sunday before the Yankees worked out at Yankee Stadium. "It's can Andy go out there and get locked in and get a good feel for his pitches and throw a game that I would like to throw, really. That's the meat and potatoes of it right there. It has nothing else to do with it."
As the series shifts to the Bronx, two factors seem indisputable. The Game 3 outcome will be crucial. In the 19 previous AL Championship Series that were tied at 1-1, the Game 3 winner won the series 14 times. And, this should be, OK, a classic October pitching matchup.
"You would think that it would be a great matchup on Monday night," Girardi said.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.