First things first. Andy Pettitte was everything the Yankees could've hoped for in their 8-0 Game 3 loss to the Rangers. After the dual miserable outings from CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes, Pettitte delivered seven brilliant innings of two-run ball -- the only mistake coming on a two-run home run to Josh Hamilton in the first -- which would be more than enough to win most nights. Most nights that is, when the Yankees aren't facing Cliff Lee.
If you read this blog, you know we all felt that the Yankees could get to Cliff Lee tonight. Holy hell were we ever mistaken. Lee was just about as dominant as a pitcher that didn't throw a no-hitter could be, tossing eight innings of two-hit shutout ball with 13(!) strikeouts. Not only that, but Lee only allowed four balls out of the infield all night, including the two hits he surrendered. Lee threw 122 pitches, 82 of which were strikes. The Yankees were 0-17 against Lee in at-bats where he got to two strikes. Oh, and Lee had a WPA of .572, in a game the Rangers won by eight. All of this is utter insanity. All I can say is that come free agency the Yankees better Cliff Lee the Rangers with their offer; if they don't sign Lee I might go insane.
The Yankees looked absolutely clueless at the plate, and once again couldn't do anything with the very few opportunities they had. The Yankees are 4-23 with runners in scoring position in the ALCS -- including 1 for their last 20 -- and though I don't have the numbers at the moment it feels like they're hitting something like .100/.125/.150 over the last two games. Not only that, but the Yankees have been ahead for a mere two out of the 27 innings that have been played during the last three games. That's a performance that's not going to win many playoff series. The Rangers have averaged 6.7 runs per game, thoroughly out-Yankeeing the Yankees at their game, and basically looking like the better team in every single facet of the game. Oh, and the Rangers scored in the first inning again, ensuring that the Yankees would have to battle back yet again if they wanted to secure the win. Talk about utter dominance.
Unfortunately the bullpen also punted the game in the 8th, as Boone Logan, David Robertson and Sergio Mitre combined to allow six runs and put what was a potentially winnable game completely out of reach, though even if they hadn't Lee probably would've come out for the 9th to finish off his masterpiece.
The Yankees have pitched like crap, and they've hit like crap, and though it's only a 2-1 deficit, they haven't looked like a team capable of beating anyone, let alone the Rangers, right now. However, I still feel oddly optimistic about this series. They haven't even played close to their talent level, and they have a chance to even things up tonight. Maybe it's blind faith, maybe it's wishful thinking, but the Yankees will find a way to win behind A.J. Burnett and beat Tommy Hunter. Once they can even things up, the big man heads back to the hill in Game 5, and all of a sudden the ship will be righted rather quickly.