McAdam at the ALCS: Lee solidifying his place in history

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McAdam at the ALCS: Lee solidifying his place in history

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

NEW YORK -- Already, just halfway throgh the playoff calendar, the 2010 postseason has become, like the regular season which preceded it, dominated by pitching.

There was a no-hitter by Roy Halladay and a dynamic playoff debut by Tim Lincecum a day later.

But great as those performances were, they were merely the opening act for the 2010 postseason headliner. Cliff Lee isn't competing with them; he's up against history.

Rare is the modern athlete who manages to somehow top expectations in an era of 247 hyperbole, but Lee cleared that bar with ease in Game Three of the ALCS with his eight shutout innings, 13 strikeouts and only one walk.

Box score Play by play

The best this season? Wrong question.

"He's the most consistent pitcher I've ever seen,'' marveled Texas club president Nolan Ryan after his Rangers shut out the New York Yankees 8-0. "He's walked, what, one guy in 24 innings? He's unbelievable.''

Asked if Lee's performance the last two postseasons put him in the conversation with all-time October greats like Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson, Ryan didn't hesitate.

"I think very much so,'' said Ryan. "He's as consistent as anyone who's ever pitched postseason. It's a carryover from last year and he's doing it again this year. I don't know anybody you really can compare him to as far as his command and the kind of games he's consistently pitched.''

You'll get no argument from the Yankees, who managed to get four balls out of the infield -- two flyouts and two singles -- in eight innings. It got to the point that Yankee fans were standing up and applauding Nick Swisher for pushing an at-bat against Lee to 10 pitches. Of course, Swisher swung and missed at the 11th pitch.

Talk about small victories.

In three playoff starts this month, Lee has now given up two runs in 24 innings while allowing 13 hits. But the key might be his outrageous strikeout-to-walk ratio, which sits at 34-to-1.

"And it's not just that he strikes so many people out and doesn't walk anybody,'' said teammate C.J. Wilson, "but he gets everybody out, too. It's one thing to throw strikes and throw the ball down the middle. But he actually gets outs, too. You put all that together and it's like, wow. It's like he's got turbo boost in a video game.''

Lee has won six straight postseason starts dating back to the NLDS last year, one shy of Gibson's mark, which ran from 1964 to 1968. His 7-0 career postseason record is tied for second-best all-time without a loss. Only Orlando Hernandez -- coincidentally, on hand Monday night at the Stadium -- had more wins (eight) before suffering his first postseason loss. And Lee is the first pitcher in history to post three straight double-figure strikeout games in the same postseason.

Of the 31 games in postseason history in which a pitcher has struck out at least 10 and walked one or fewer, Lee has pitched five of them.

Not just great in the moment. Historically great.

There's a feeling of inevitability when Lee takes the mound in a postseason game, and according to Wilson, you can see it in the eyes of even the best hitters in the game.

"He's got this reputation that when hitters dig in, it looks like they're 0-and-1 already,'' said Wilson. "They're like, 'I just know he's going to throw a first-pitch strike.' Mentally it just puts them behind the eight-ball.''

Because the Rangers now lead 2-to-1 -- and are a one-inning bullpen meltdown in Game One from being on the verge of sweeping the Yankees -- and Lee would pitch a deciding Game Seven Saturday in Texas, there's a feeling that the Yanks actually need to win the next three in a row, to take Lee out of the equation.

There's an aura of invincibility that now surrounds Lee, but the pitcher himself finds such talk embarrassing.

"Just because I had a good game this time and the previous time,'' warned Lee, "doesn't mean it's going to happen again.''

Speaking of inevitability, there's the side matter of Lee's asking price escalating with every strikeout, every shutout inning. Lee might yet pitch the Rangers to the title, and, even with the team's new 3 billion TV deal, he may be too costly to re-sign.

How much will he cost, someone wondered?

"You can go next door and ask them,'' drawled Ryan, tilting his head toward the New York clubhouse with a smile. "I think he's got their attention.''

The Yankees and everyone else's, too.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Young, Vazquez homer for Red Sox in 9-2 win over Twins

Young, Vazquez homer for Red Sox in 9-2 win over Twins

BOSTON - Chris Young hit a three-run homer and Christian Vazquez homered for the first time in more than a year as the Boston Red Sox routed the Minnesota Twins 9-2 on Tuesday night in a game delayed twice by stormy weather.

Drew Pomeranz (7-4) pitched five innings, three after a 1 hour, 16 minute delay between the second and third as a thunderstorm slowly passed over Fenway Park. Despite the interruption, Pomeranz held the Twins to one unearned run and four hits, struck out seven and didn't walk a batter.

Dustin Pedroia had three hits and scored twice and Xander Bogaerts had two hits and scored twice for the Red Sox as they won consecutive games for the first time in nearly two weeks.

The two rain delays totaled 2:06.

Drellich: MLB could explain umpire rulings more often

Drellich: MLB could explain umpire rulings more often

BOSTON — We know that Red Sox manager John Farrell did something wrong. In the absence of any sort of formal announcement otherwise, we’re left to assume the umpires did everything properly — but there’s room for MLB to make that clearer.

If the NBA can put out Last 2 Minute reports, why can’t MLB provide more regular explanations or reviews of contested calls?

Farrell on Tuesday said he’d like to see more public accountability in the umpiring realm, hours before the manager was to sit out Game No. 77. Farrell was suspended one game for making contact with crew chief Bill Miller on Saturday night as manager and umpire rained spittle on each other over a balk call that went against the Sox.

Well, was it a balk or not? Did Miller do anything wrong as well?

“I don’t know if there was anything levied on the other side,” Farrell said. “I don’t know that.”

But would he like such matters to always be public?

“I think there have been strides made in that way,” Farrell said. “I guess I would. I think everyone in uniform would prefer that to be made public. Whether or not that happens, I don’t know, but that would be a choice I would make.”

The league has a thorough internal review system. But it is just that: internal. Most of the time, any way.

On most every night at Fenway Park, there is someone on hand watching just the umpires and reviewing them.

MLB, to its credit, has announced suspensions for umpires in the past. The league has made public acknowledgments when calls have been made incorrectly. More of that seems viable — even if it’s an announcement to reaffirm that the call was made and handled properly, and here are the reasons why.

“I haven’t received any further determination or review of what transpired,” Farrell said. “My position, my stance, remains steadfast. I still firmly believe that time was called [before the balk call was made]. I wasn’t arguing the balk. I was arguing the timing of it. As I reiterated today to those that I spoke with, I still stand by my side of the argument. Unfortunately, there was contact made.”