If not for one huge inning in the opener, the Yankees would have lost each of the first three games this series and scored just three runs in the process. That’s not to hypothetically say the Yankees are lucky to be down two games to one, it’s to say the Yankees offense hasn’t only struggled against Cliff Lee.
“I know Cliff Lee is good, but he is human,” Joe Girardi said. “He has given up a run before. I know he’s a great pitcher — we have seen it time and time again — but this is a ballpark that you can give up some home runs (in) from time to time, and it only takes one guy to get on and a good swing of the bat.”
Problem is, those good swings of the bat never came. Jorge Posada singled, Brett Gardner singled and Mark Teixeira walked. That was the extent of the Yankees offense. Gardner stealing his way to second base was by far the Yankees biggest offensive moment. When Nick Swisher battled through that 11-pitch at-bat, the Yankees seemed to be putting up a fight, but they never made the leap from putting up a fight to winning a fight.
“Bottom line,” Alex Rodriguez said. “Two hits and one walk is not good enough for our offense.”
Of course, the Yankees have to give Lee plenty of credit. “I haven’t seen many games thrown like that at Yankee Stadium,” Andy Pettitte said. After almost a week of hype, Lee lived up to and exceeded every expectation.
“I think that people always say that Cliff just throws strikes, strikes, strikes,” Rangers third baseman Michael Young said. “It’s really not that easy. He’s not firing balls down the middle of the plate. He’s throwing quality strike after quality strike, and there’s a big difference. He’s forcing the action which is something our team has done really well recently. We want to make sure that we are being aggressive in our game but Cliff makes it happen. He forces the action and makes hitters make decisions.”
The Yankees never had a chance against him tonight. He’s the third straight Rangers starter who kept this offense quiet, and that’s the reason the Yankees are in a hole going into Game 4.
• Andy Pettitte gave the Yankees every chance in the world. This was another vintage Pettitte start, one mistake away from being a scoreless game heading into the eighth. “Andy, you’re never surprised by anything he does,” Derek Jeter said. “He threw the ball well, but it’s hard to win if you don’t score runs.”
• Pettitte on the Josh Hamilton home run: “It was just a bad pitch by me. I hung a cutter, left it on the inner half. I was trying to get it down and away, and, you know, he hit it out. And at the time you don’t think that’s going to win the ballgame.”
• Hamilton on the home run: “I could lie and say I was looking for that pitch and just got the barrel on it.
I was not looking out for that pitch. Andy did a good job of painting, but he would come inside once in a while. One of those things, I caught it on the barrel, caught it up front, and it went.”
• The ninth inning was a mess. “Our bullpen had been really, really good up until that point,” Girardi said. “Boone had done his job. Robby had done his job. We were down 2-0 and if you bring in Mo, you may not have him available for multiple innings tomorrow if you want to use him, so we went with guys that were throwing well in a situation where we were down.”
• Robertson on the ninth: “It’s frustrating. I’m trying to find a way to get out of that jam, minimize the damage, and I just couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t get it done today.”
• Still no word on who’s catching tomorrow.
• Hamilton’s home run was the sixth left-handed homer ever hit off Pettitte in the postseason. It was the third left-handed homer off Pettitte this year, the first two were both by Carlos Pena.
• Lee was going to go back out for the ninth if the Rangers didn’t blow the game open. “Basically when I came in, (Ron Washington) said, ‘How do you feel?’ I said, ‘I feel good.’ That was it,” Lee said. “It was a five-second conversation”
• The Yankees have played 360 postseason games. This was their 21st shutout. It was the most lopsided shutout in franchise history, topping a 6-0 loss to the Tigers in 2006.
• This was the third postseason start in Pettitte’s career in which he pitched at least seven innings, allowed two earned runs or less and did not get the win. He has 11 wins under those circumstances.
• We’ll give the final word to the Captain: “He shut us down,” Jeter said. “This was one of those games where you try to forget about it as soon as possible.”
Associated Press photos of Rodriguez, Pettitte and Jeter