Cliff Lee is in the spotlight for Rangers
He has won more postseason games than any pitcher in baseball history, and he works in the media capital of the world for the most famous team in American sports history.
Yet the New York Yankees’ Andy Pettitte is being overshadowed for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Monday by a pitcher who has been traded three times within a calendar year.
Maybe it’s because Pettitte is old news, a low-key 38-year-old. But more likely it’s because of the New York media’s fascination with Cliff Lee, who almost became a Yankee but instead wound up with the Texas Rangers on July 9.
There is still time for Lee to become a Yankee — he’s an impending free agent, and the Yankees could be looking to replace Pettitte with another left-hander — but for now Lee’s goal is for the Rangers to steal an ALCS game on the road.
“I saw what everyone else saw on ESPN and stuff like that,” Lee said of the midseason rumors about the Yankees. “It seemed like that was really close to happening, but obviously it didn’t. Nothing’s final until it’s final; that’s one thing I’ve learned.”
Ever since Lee pitched a shutout against the Yankees in Game 1 of the World Series last year for the Philadelphia Phillies, and also won Game 5, the buzz that Lee would one day wear pinstripes has not subsided.
And now you know why Pettitte, winner of 19 postseason games, is being upstaged — at least spotlight-wise — in his own playground.
“Really, it doesn’t matter. Whatever,” Pettitte said Sunday. “I’m pitching [Monday] night. I’m pitching for the New York Yankees. So I’m happy about that.
“I feel like there’s not a whole lot of attention that I get anyway. It’s been like that kind of my whole career. I guess I can say I’m used to that. That’s totally fine with me.”
The pitching matchup is magnified because of the importance of Game 3, usually the pivotal point of a seven-game series. If the Yankees win, they will have wrested home-field advantage from the Rangers. If the Rangers win, they will have the defending champions down two games to one with a return to Texas guaranteed.
If Pettitte hadn’t been injured much of the second half of the regular season, the Yankees would have to feel good about their chances. But his start in the AL division series against the Minnesota Twins was only his fourth appearance after July 18.
And that start — two earned runs in seven innings — was a gem. The only trouble is, that was 11 days ago.
“That’s a little bit of length, so you are kind of concerned about that,” he said. “I think I told you all, going into my Minnesota start, I never felt so unprepared for a playoff start. And I got my stuff together.”
Lee’s stuff has been consistently together in the postseason. He has a 6-0 record, and he has the respect of the Yankees, which New Yorkers have read about and listened to for days now.
“I’ve never been one to read newspapers or watch too much media and get on the Internet and check that stuff,” Lee said. “I know there’s going to be a lot of different angles and stories and stuff. I don’t get too caught up with that.”