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Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Lee dominates Yankees in historic fashion


Cliff Lee turned in a performance for the ages on Monday, holding the Yankees to just two hits over eight innings while striking out 13 to give the Rangers a 2-1 series lead in the American League Championship Series. While the 8-0 victory was a team affair, the superlatives regarding Lee’s performance are many. Here are our five favorites:

1 -- Lee lowered his postseason ERA to 1.26, the third-lowest mark for anyone with at least five postseason starts, behind only Sandy Koufax and Christy Mathewson.

2 -- His 13 strikeouts tied his career-high and marked the third-most vs the Yankees in a postseason game.

3 -- He now has six consecutive starts of seven innings and a win, one behind the all-time record (Bob Gibson).

4 -- Lee now has three straight postseason starts with at least 10 strikeouts, tying the all-time record.

5 -- Lee’s five career 10+ strikeout games in the postseason is tied for the all-time record with Randy Johnson and Bob Gibson.

On the other side of the fence, the performance was an all-time low for the Yankees:

The three baserunners for the Yankees is the fewest they've ever had in a postseason game. They had four baserunners in Game 2 of the 2001 World Series and in Game 4 of the 1958 World Series.

The two hits recorded by the Yankees ties the fewest in their postseason history. It happened twice before - the 2001 ALDS Game 3 vs Oakland Athletics and the 1958 World Series, Game 4, vs the Milwaukee Braves.

The 8-0 shutout loss marks the worst shutout loss for the Yankees in their postseason history.

The Rangers have outscored the Yankees 20-8 in this series, including 14-2 before the seventh inning. The Rangers have led 25 innings while the Yankees have led only two.

The Yankees 1-through-6 hitters were 0-20 with 10 strikeouts in Game 3.

How Cliff Lee dominated the Yankees:
Lee relied on his cutter yet again, continuing the trend from Game 5 of the ALDS against the Rays. Lee threw 41 cutters in Game 5 and 37 on Monday against the Yankees, the most he's thrown in any two starts this year.

The Yankees have struggled against Lee's cutter all season. Before Jorge Posada's single broke up Lee's no-hit bid in the fifth, Yankee hitters were 0-for-27 this season against Lee's cutter. They finished with two hits (Posada, Gardner singles), making them 2-for-30 this year, including eight strikeouts.

Relying more on his cutter of late has helped Lee miss more bats. The Yankees swung-and-missed on 17 of their 57 swings (29.8 pct) on Monday, Lee's highest miss percentage in a start this season. He also recorded 17 swings-and-misses in Game 5 against the Rays. Nine of Lee's 13 strikeouts were swinging, tying a career-best.

Lee didn't pound the strike zone as well as usual -- an impossible standard he's set -- instead relying on Yankee hitters to expand their strike zone and chase. He threw just 62 of his 122 pitches in the strike zone (50.8 pct), his second lowest percentage in a start this year and well below his regular season average of 60.6 pct, which led all starters. He recorded eight outs on pitches out of the strike zone, second most in a start this year. All of those eight outs came with two strikes, and seven came via the strikeout.

Lee also mixed in more changeups than usual to keep the Yankees off balance. With hitters likely looking for the lefty to pitch off his fastball, Lee threw 10 of his 15 changeups in early in the count (first three pitches). The 15 changeups were the third most for Lee this season. Yankee hitters put just one of their nine swings against the pitch in play (A-Rod groundout).