Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Zombie Alert

I hate to stir up mass hysteria or anything, but I am pretty sure Cliff Lee is undead. I mean, the stony look on his face while he just goes out there and throws strikes by people is unlike anyone I can ever recall. He must be undead, it's the most sensible explanation for how someone could not just get the results Lee gets on the mound but more particularly do it how he does it. I don't ever recall someone with such ice in their veins in a huge spot over and over again -- I know I posted that video of the ridiculously blase basket catch in last year's World Series against the Yankees -- but Monday night's Game 3 of the ALCS in New York was a perfect example of the country's most famous zombie in action.

Do you realize the Yankees had just three baserunners in 8 innings against Cliff Lee last night? That Lee struck out 13 batters out of the 24 guys he mowed down on the night? You do realize this is the all-time all-star Yankees lineup we're talking about here, they of the Derek Jeter / A-Rod / Mark Teixeira / Robinson Cano / Jorge Posada and I could go on and on? Cliff Lee, even with all the spotlight in the world on him and the highest expectations one could have, he still performed.

And the thing that gets me most of all with him is he doesn't make you chase bad pitches. He doesn't set you up with three lowballs and then fire one in way high out of the strike zone to make you swing and miss. He doesn't even necessarily "paint the corners" like a Greg Maddux did so impeccably back in his heyday. Cliff Lee just throws effing strikes. You know he's going to do it. You can't just take the first pitch like so many other pitchers allow a good contact hitter to do. If you do, you'll just be behind in the count every time you get up there, which is not where you want to be against Lee. In two-hitting and shutting out the Yankees on Monday, Lee threw 122 pitches, 82 of them for strikes. I used to point this out all the time here on the blog last year when Lee was pitching for the Phillies, but this guy throws at least 2/3 strikes every time he goes out there. He just challenges every hitter with his perfectly-placed fastball, and he moves on to the cutters and the sliders once he gets ahead in the count, and the guy is deadly accurate. Forget pitching around certain guys, or being sure to avoid the top part of the strike zone against the cleanup hitter, forget all that stuff. Cliff Lee the Undead just goes out there with that same stoic look on his face and the same stoic approach to every hitter he faces: just throw it by them. Cliff Lee gives new meaning to the phrase "mowing 'em down", he really does.

I watched my own team's #1 pitcher throw a frigging no-hitter earlier in these playoffs, and I also watched Tim Lincecum throw a masterful 14-strikeout 3-hit complete game shutout of the Braves in Game 1 of this year's NLDS. But Cliff Lee's performance on Monday night at the Yankees is quite simply the most sensational pitching performance I have witnessed in the last few weeks.

With AJ Burnett slated to pitch tonight for the Yankees in Game 4, there is a very real chance that the Yankees are down 3 games to 1 in the ALCS with two more games still to play in Arlington to end the series. That is a horrible situation for the Yankees, not so much because they have to win three straight games, but because it means that under the best case scenario, they will have to beat Cliff Lee again to go back to the World Series. And this time it will be in Texas.

Nobody has really given this Rangers team a real chance to win the AL pennant (myself included) all season long, until perhaps today. For the first time this morning on the way into work, I found myself speculating about the possibilities. It's actually a pretty amazing story, albeit one I haven't even considered for one second until just today: Cliff Lee pitching against the Phillies in the World Series, the team that traded him after he dominated for us in 2009 and went and got Roy Halladay instead. Halladay vs Lee in Game 1 of the World Series....that one's gonna be even better than Halladay vs. Lincecum twice in the NLDS here.

Speaking of which, Game 3 of the NLCS kicks off at 4pm ET today, and as I mentioned yesterday this is a much bigger game for the Phillies than Game 1 was. Although winning today is certainly not crucial to either team, with Cole Hamels pitching today and Joe Blanton slated for tomorrow, clearly the Phils' best chance is to win with Hamels today and then take the pressure off for Game 4 on Wednesday.

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Blogger l.e.s.ter said...

When the Rangers started coming onto people's radars this year they probably thought "Ron Washington still has a job?" Or "Darren Oliver is still in baseball?" Phillies-Rangers could be a lot of fun.

8:55 PM  
Blogger Bayne_S said...

Yankees left the clubhouse last night feeling like they are already down 3-1 because Cliff Lee is their Daddy and they don't want to see him in Game 7

10:48 PM  
Blogger MrGoss said...

Today is a great day to be a Texan. =)


4:26 AM  

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