McAdam at the ALCS: Lee solidifying his place in history

191542.jpg

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

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

cleveland-indians-andy-marte-killed-12217.jpg

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. He was 33.

Marte was killed the same day that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Ventura was 25. Coincidentally, Ventura was the Royals starting pitcher in Marte's final major league game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.

Marte, drafted by the Braves in 2000, was ranked the No. 9 prospect in baseball in 2005 when the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Atlanta and Marte became the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization.  

Marte was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 2006 in the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and spent five seasons with Cleveland. His best season was 2009 (.232, six home runs, 25 RBI in 47 games). After a six-game stint with Arizona in 2014, he played in South Korea the past two years.  

Metropolitan traffic authorities in the Dominican told the Associated Press that Marte died when a car he was driving his a house along the highway between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.
 

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

kansas-city-royals-yordano-ventura-killed-12217.jpg

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to multiple reports. Ventura was 25 years old.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo told the Associated Press that Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Ventura was killed the same day former major leaguer Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Coincidentally, Ventura was the starting pitcher in Marte's final MLB game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014. 

Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners. 

Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014. 

Ventura is the second current major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.