On Friday, we quoted Daily News writer John Harper’s dire scenario for the Yankees: “On second thought, what if it’s not such a break for the Yankees that Cliff Lee can’t pitch until Game 3? Really, it’s only natural to presume that delaying Lee’s impact on the series helps the defending champs, but that’s also presuming they go back to New York with two wins in their pocket. Anything less than this thing gets real scary real fast for the Yankees.”
And so it has come to pass. Once again the Yankees could not lay a glove on Cliff Lee — the pitcher they thought they had in the bag back in July. Once again, Andy Pettitte was brilliant in a postseason game — just five hits and two runs over seven innings — and the Yankees were never in the contest.
In fact, so far they are scarcely in the ALCS at all.
Here’s how dominating the Texas Rangers have been: except for the Yanks’ spectacular five-run outburst in the 8th inning of Game One, they have been outscored 20-3. It looks very much like the team that has shown up in the ALCS is the team that played over the final month of the season — not the one that knocked off the Twins in three games.
Now Yankee fans get an early Halloween scare. A.J. Burnett, who lost 15 of 25 decisions while pitching for the league’s best run-scoring team, must beat Tommy Hunter, who was 13-4 in the regular season, for the Yankees to have a realistic chance at winning the pennant and moving on to the World Series.
The Yanks did, however, get a gift from Ranger’s manager Ron Washington. Inexplicably, with an 8-0 lead in the ninth, Washington went to his closer, Neftali Feliz, who used up 20 pitches from his tank, the same 20 pitches that Texas fans wanted him to throw in the 8th inning of Friday night’s game.
In any event, Burnett and the Yankees can at least console himself tonight with the knowledge that Mariano Rivera could, if necessary, pitch two innings, while the Rangers’ closer might not be at his sharpest. Thanks for small gifts, Ron.