Cliff Lee was nearly flawless over eight shutout innings, and the Ranger lineup scored early and erupted late as visiting Texas took a 2-1 series over the Yankees with an 8-0 blowout victory.
Though the final score sends one message, this was, for eight innings, a very close game. The Rangers were able to get out on top against Andy Pettitte and the Yankees in the top of the first, when Josh Hamilton came up with a man on and a man out and pulled a pitch into the shallow right field bleachers. The home run - Hamilton's second of the series, and second off a lefty - put the visitors on top 2-0 before many viewers had a chance to tune in.
But those two runs would be the only runs we'd see for hours, as from that point forward, Pettitte settled down while Lee pitched another gem. For the next seven and a half innings, each team remained scoreless. As a matter of fact, over the next seven and a half innings, only six men would reach base.
Three of them reached against Pettitte - Michael Young, on a single in the third, Michael Young, on a single in the sixth, and Jeff Francoeur, on a single in the seventh. Pettitte worked around each base hit and sustained no additional damage.
And three of them reached against Lee - Mark Teixeira, on a walk in the fourth, Jorge Posada, on a single in the fifth, and Brett Gardner, on a single in the sixth. Like Pettitte, Lee worked around each situation and managed to keep the Yankees scoreless. Only Gardner was so much as able to get himself into scoring position, but he was stranded there when Derek Jeter struck out and both Nick Swisher and Teixeira grounded out.
After eight, with the score still 2-0 Rangers, the Yankee bullpen was in the game, but Lee's pitch count was up to 122. That mark represented a season high for Lee, and there were questions about how much he had left in the tank, and whether Ron Washington would go to his bullpen. At that point, the Yankees had a glimmer of hope.
But all hope was lost when, in the top of the ninth, the Rangers sent ten batters to the plate against Boone Logan, David Robertson, and Sergio Mitre. Hamilton got things started with a leadoff double, and the runs started to pour in as quickly as the fans started to pour out. Nelson Cruz, Bengie Molina, Mitch Moreland, and Elvis Andrus all came away with RBI hits, and another run scored on a wild pitch as the Rangers pushed six across, turning a two-run margin into an eight-run cushion.
At that point, Washington elected to give Lee the rest of the night off so he could give some work to Neftali Feliz. And Feliz picked up three outs with little incident to seal the deal. Despite Pettitte turning in New York's best start of the series, Game 3 went to Cliff Lee and Texas, who have now at the very least guaranteed themselves a return trip home.
Lee has now worked 24 innings over three starts in the 2010 playoffs, allowing two runs while walking one and striking out 34. By striking out 13 Yankees Monday night, Lee reached double digits for the third consecutive playoff start, tying Bob Gibson for the all-time record.
Game 4 will be played Tuesday night, and is currently scheduled to feature Tommy Hunter and A.J. Burnett. Burnett's start has been in question, as he's been ineffective down the stretch while CC Sabathia is available on short rest, but Joe Girardi appears committed to starting Burnett regardless.