x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Lee strikes out 13 to put Texas in series lead

Texas took an 8-0 victory over the New York Yankees to give the Rangers the lead in the American League Championship Series.

Neftali Feliz of the Texas Rangers pitches against the New York Yankees.
Neftali Feliz of the Texas Rangers pitches against the New York Yankees.

Cliff Lee delivered another gem, striking out 13 to lead Texas to an 8-0 victory over the New York Yankees that gave the Rangers the lead in baseball's American League Championship Series.

Lee surrendered just two hits in eight innings as the Rangers took a two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven series that will send one team to the World Series.

Josh Hamilton hit an early two-run homer off Yankees starter Andy Pettitte and sparked a six-run burst in the ninth inning with a lead-off double.

Lee became the first pitcher with 10 or more strikeouts three times in one postseason. He improved to 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA in eight postseason starts.

Three of those victories have come against the Yankees, including two for Philadelphia in last year's World Series won by New York.

Perhaps mindful of that defeat with the Phillies, Lee did not go overboard with his celebrations.

"We still have some work to do here," he said. "A lot of fun to come into New York and get this first one. Hopefully we can come out here tomorrow and pick up where we left off."

The Yankees, who claimed their 27th World Series crown last season, now face a tough task.

Unless they can win three straight games they could face Lee again in Texas in a decisive game seven.

"I don't think we're in trouble," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We're down 2-1, we're not down 3-0. It's frustrating we've lost two games in a row, but we've lost two games in a row a lot of times before and come back."

Game four is on Tuesday in New York, where the Yankees say struggling AJ Burnett will start. Texas will give the ball to Tommy Hunter for his first career start at Yankee Stadium.

Pettitte, seeking a 20th postseason victory, did what he could to match Lee.

But Hamilton pounced on a first-inning breaking ball from Pettitte and drove it deep to right for his second home run of the series.

"At the time I didn't think it was going to win the ballgame," Pettitte said. "I kept thinking we would get a guy on and (Lee) would make a mistake and someone would pop it out. It's what you come to expect here.

"Cliff was great tonight to say the least," Pettitte added. "Outstanding. You can't say enough about what he did, in this ballpark, it was impressive."

Lee made the two-run advantage stand up through eight innings, and Texas poured it on in the ninth.

Nelson Cruz and Bengie Molina singled in runs and Mitch Moreland's single scored two runners.

Elvis Andrus doubled over Nick Swisher's head in right field to make it 7-0, and a wild pitch from Yankees reliever Sergio Mitre allowed the sixth run of the inning to score.

Young Rangers closer Neftali Feliz added two strikeouts of his own as he sealed the victory in the bottom of the ninth. By then, many of the crowd of 49,840 were streaming out the exits.

The 15 total strikeouts were one short of a playoff record for Yankees batters.

Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and the rest of the Yankees could find no solution to the array of fast balls, curves and sliders Lee put in the strike zone. He threw 122 pitches, 82 for strikes.

Lee struck out two Yankees in each inning from the second through fifth and allowed singles in the fifth and sixth.

He did not allow a baserunner until Mark Teixeira walked with two outs in the fourth inning, and the Yankees first hit didn't come until the fifth.

"I'll tell you, what we saw tonight is what we've been seeing," the Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "The guy can pitch. ... He can do whatever you have to do."