Cliff Lee completes masterful job interview with the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALCS

By Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 19, 2010; 12:25 PM


Perhaps once in a generation the New York Yankees' money actually works against them. Oh, you're not buying that idea? Okay, how about once a century? All right, how about never - until Monday night. That's when Cliff Lee held his $100 million free agent job interview on the pitching mound in Yankee Stadium.

Perhaps no man in any profession has ever made such a public and indisputable case for his future salary - and done it at such an astronomical and demoralizing cost to his future employer.

The Rangers' lefty, who's become the King of October the last two seasons, beat the Bombers, 8-0, with eight brilliant two-hit innings of 13-strikeout majesty as Texas took a 2-1 lead in the American League Championship Series.

What Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum couldn't deliver in their Saturday duel in Philadelphia, Lee placed on glorious display in the packed but almost silent Big Ballpark in the Bronx. Lee, who held a 2-0 lead from the first inning through the eighth, until the Rangers exploded for sixth runs in the ninth and left Yankee Stadium almost 90 percent empty.

Afterward, Rangers President Nolan Ryan was asked how much it would cost to re-sign Lee this winter. "Go across the hall and ask them," Ryan said. "I think he got their attention."

So, relish watching Lee ruin the Yankees' season while the torture lasts. Next year, he'll just be one of them. Until then, enjoy.

"Cliff was great tonight, to say the least," said Andy Pettitte who worked seven fine, two-run innings. "I haven't seen many games like that pitched [against us] in Yankee Stadium. Maybe Josh Beckett in the ['03] World Series." Freudian slip? That game ended the Yanks year.

Name a pitch - fastball, cutter, change-up or curve - then pick a specific spot slightly bigger than a baseball and, for 122 pitches, 82 of them strikes, that's where the 6-foot-3 Lee hurled the ball. Greg Maddux had such command, but not the lanky Lee's power-pitching repertoire. This evening left behind one grave question: how can Lee's ERA possibly be 3.85? Doesn't it seem like the true number has mistakenly been multiplied by two?

"Cliff Lee is human. He has given up runs before," said Yankee Manager Joe Girardi testily. "I don't think we're in trouble. We're not down 3-0 [in games] and it's the bottom of the ninth."

Suddenly, the Yankees are a desperate conglomerate. Actually, the Yanks aren't so much in a hole as a kind of half-dug Ranger grave. Should there be a Game 7 they'd see Lee.

Oh, how the Yankees lust after the lefty who seems to have perfected the mechanics of the pitching motion to the point where almost every pitch not only hits the catcher's glove but, is it possible, smacks the pocket. They tried to trade for him in midseason, thought they had a deal with Seattle, but didn't. Texas did. Now they'll have to wait until he's no longer a Ranger to buy him.

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