Filthy Lee dominates

NEW YORK — Perhaps the urgency for the Yankees in what had essentially become a best-of-five American League Championships Series is that Cliff Lee could pitch in the last one.

That essentially makes the next two games in Yankee Stadium must wins, because Lee looks unbeatable — nearly unhittable — against them. And, for that matter, against almost everyone else.

With Lee yielding just two hits and striking out 13, the Rangers subdued the defending world champions 8-0 Monday and grabbed a 2-1 lead going into Tuesday's Game 4.

"I don't think we're in trouble," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We're down 2-1, not 3-0 in the bottom of the ninth. You play a good game tomorrow and the mood can change. We've lost two games in a row before and bounced back."

At least the pitcher on Tuesday won't be Lee, who also beat the Yankees twice in the regular season. This one was even better than those.

"I would say so, yes," Lee said. "It's the postseason. The regular season is big, but any time you get that deep in the postseason and not give up any runs, it's important."

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

Lee, who has won his last six starts in the Bronx, "is as good as anyone in baseball right now," the Yankees' Derek Jeter said, before Lee's effort.

And he has the statistics to back it up, improving to 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA this postseason.

Lee became the first pitcher to record three 10-strikeout games in one postseason and only the second (the Cardinals' Bob Gibson) to have three postseason games with that many.

And while the final score was lopsided, Lee pitched with a two-run lead for his eight innings before the Rangers tacked on six more in the ninth and Neftali Feliz finished the game.

He struck out two Yankees in each inning from the second through fifth, and allowed singles in the fifth and sixth innings. He didn't allow a baserunner until Mark Teixeira walked with two outs in the fourth and didn't allow the first hit until Jorge Posada lofted a single into right field with two outs in the fifth.

The Rangers got all the runs they needed off Yankees starter Andy Pettitte in the first inning when Michael Young singled and trotted home on Josh Hamilton's second homer of the ALCS.

"Regardless of what happens before, every game is a new game," Lee said. "For me, the key is to put (games) in the past and move forward. Just because I had a good game the last time and the time before that doesn't mean it will happen the next game."

dvandyck@tribune.com

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