ARLINGTON, Texas—Cliff Lee knows what it’s like to pitch in a World Series elimination game. Remember last year.? The Phillies trailed the Yankees three games to one when Lee took the mound on a cold Monday night in Philadelphia and helped send the World Series back to New York with seven strong innings. The Phillies led big but ending up winning, 8-6, after all three hitters Lee faced in the eighth ended up scoring.
The outing proved to be his last for the Phillies, sort of like this could be his last for the Rangers because he will become a free agent after the World Series.
But not all the circumstances will be the same for this Game 5, set for tonight at Rangers Ballpark.
Last year, Lee was coming off a complete-game victory over the Yankees in Game 1. This time, he’s trying to rebound from his worst outing in more than a year. If he has figured out the cause of his struggles against the Giants last Wednesday, when he gave up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings, he’s sharing few specifics.
“I know what it was,” he said. “I was throwing balls over the heart of the plate. I wasn’t working ahead in the count as well as I would like. I hit a guy on an 0-2 pitch, I walked a guy. Those are the things I don’t need to do, especially in the World Series. But it happened. I mean, I made mistakes. Good hitters capitalize on that, and that’s what they did. That’s really it.”
Because Lee struggles so seldom, perhaps he hasn’t figured out how to accurately analyze his performance when he does. The Giants actually got key hits with two strikes, so Lee’s problem wasn’t as much working behind as finishing off hitters.
The Giants’ plan was to lay off his off-speed pitches to wait on his fastball, and it worked.
Another difference in this Game 5: Lee’s opponent is starting its ace. The Yankees went with A.J. Burnett last year, and he didn’t last three innings. Tim Lincecum will start for the Giants with a chance to clinch San Francisco’s first World Series championship. Lincecum gave the Giants their first win in the Series with 5 2/3 innings of solid but not spectacular work last Wednesday.
“I just gave up a lot of hits that game or at least more than I wanted to,” he said Sunday. “I want to be more aggressive.”
The Giants have shut out the Rangers twice in the four games, but Texas is hoping its season-long resiliency will make another appearance.
“Before the Series started, I said Tampa and New York had very good pitching but I thought (the Giants) were one of the best pitching staffs in baseball all year, top to bottom,” Jeff Francoeur said after the Rangers were shut out 4-0 Sunday night.
“It doesn’t get any easier with Lincecum. But we feel very confident with the guy we have going. Our goal is to send this back to San Francisco.”
For one reason, he’s done this before.