Cliff Lee was untouchable. Until Wednesday night.
He’d won two ALDS games against the Rays on the road and an ALCS game in Yankee Stadium. His 2010 postseason ERA was 0.75. He became a franchise savior. But by the bottom of the fifth inning in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night, Lee was out.
He started off the night business as usual with a three-up, three-down inning. Then he worked the offense at the plate with some claw and antler action with a double before advancing to third base on a sacrifice fly in the second inning.
But then things went sour on the mound. Giants’ second baseman Freddy Sanchez had his way with Lee, getting a World Series record three straight doubles on the Rangers’ ace. After 4 2/3 innings, Lee had given up seven runs, six of which were earned, on eight hits. Coming into the game, Lee had only given up 13 hits and two earned runs this whole post-season.
The fact that he struck out seven batters will be minutia in the morning.
Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci said in his World Series preview this week that the only way the Giants would be able to win games started by Lee would be if the Rangers’ bullpen had to take over. Well they don’t call Verducci the greatest baseball writer in the world for nothing. The Rangers’ bullpen took over early and Texas lost 11-7 and it wasn’t even that close until a three-run rally in the top of the ninth.
If the Rangers had won Wednesday night, Lee would have become 8-0 in postseason starts. That would have made him the first starter ever to win Game 1 of the World Series in two consecutive years with two different teams, and only the second pitcher to win Game 1 on the road twice.
So what was the deal? Where were those eight innings of shutout baseball he had against the Yanks nine days ago? Maybe he was distracted by the Giants fans wearing Tim Lincecum wigs.
But the Rangers didn’t lose just because of Lee. The stars just weren’t aligned. Literally, the Rangers stars of Lee, center fielder Josh Hamilton and third baseman Michael Young were not on top of their games.
Hamilton, the ALCS MVP who had six runs on seven hits against the Yankees, went 1-for-4 in his World Series debut. Young went 0-for-4 and had a crucial error in the third inning that allowed the Giants to tie the game at 2-2, starting San Francisco’s scoring frenzy.
By game’s end, the Rangers had four errors, which was more than they had in the entire ALCS. Maybe they were just getting it all out of their system in one game.
The Rangers are not the giving-up kind. They came back and beat the Yankees after giving up a five-run lead and losing Game 1, and they came back Wednesday night and rallied in the ninth inning to shorten the scoring gap to four runs.
So there’s no need to worry. Stay confident. There’s a lot of baseball to be played. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.