Lee's pitching performance caused Hal Steinbrenner to have to check under the Yankees sofa cushions for a few more millions.
"He made himself more money today," Rangers teammate Jeff Francoeur said.
As the Yankees deal with the uncertainty of their playoff rotation beyond CC Sabathia, Lee -- an impending free agent -- further cements his postseason reputation.
In seven innings, he struck out 10, did not issue a walk and allowed one run.
Add that to his Phillies experience last year, and Lee's postseason resume reads: 5-0, 1.52 ERA, with his team 6-0 in his starts. In 47 1/3 innings -- at least seven in every start -- he has allowed 32 hits, one home run and six walks while striking out 43.
In three Game 1s, Lee is 3-0 with a 0.72 ERA.
"I like pitching on a big stage," Lee said. "Just pitching in the big leagues alone is an honor, but when you get an opportunity to make it to the postseason, that's what it's all about. That's what you play all year for, and I enjoy it and I try to have fun with it.
"Regardless of what it is, I like to compete and I hate to lose. You know, any time you get a chance to play in a situation like the postseason when you're playing against the best of the best, that's what it's all about. That's what I thrive on, that's what I enjoy, and I expect to be successful. It's competition at the highest level, and that's what it's all about. I wouldn't have it any other way. I enjoy it."
|Cliff Lee, TEX||2010 ALDS||0||10|
|Cliff Lee, PHI||2009 WS||0||10|
|Cliff Lee, PHI||2009 NLCS||0||10|
|Sterling Hitchcock, SD||1998 NLDS||0||11|
|Tom Seaver, NYM||1973 NLCS||0||13|
|Don Newcombe, BKN||1949 WS||0||11|
|Deacon Phillippe, PIT||1903 WS||0||10|
"He had the kind of game I thought he would," said Rangers team president Nolan Ryan, who in his Hall of Fame career had 216 games (including one in the postseason) with double-digit strikeouts but no walks in just eight of them (all regular season).
Lee didn't cruise from the beginning. He allowed three singles in the first four batters, giving the Rays the bases loaded with one out.
Then Carlos Peña felt he was hit by a 2-1 pitch from Lee, but umpire Tim Welke ruled the ball tipped his bat for strike two.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said he asked Welke why it was a delayed call and that Welke responded that he was waiting for Peña's reaction.
"I said, 'Well, his reaction was that he got hit,' " Maddon said, "but (Welke) had chose to say that the ball hit the bat."
(Essentially, Peña pulled the reverse Derek Jeter three weeks after Jeter's infamous acting job at Tropicana Field. Peña didn't sell the hit-by-pitch well enough, so Welke called a strike. Jeter faked being hit when the ball hit his bat and was awarded first base.)
"I knew it either hit his hand or hit the bat," Lee said. "It definitely hit something. I could hear it from the mound. When he did not start jumping around and didn't want to go to first base, I had a pretty good feeling it hit the bat. He wasn't really arguing that strongly, so I'm willing to bet it hit the bat."
Two pitches later, Lee got Peña on a called third strike. Then Lee struck out Rocco Baldelli on three pitches.
And when Texas got two runs off David Price in the top of the second, that was that.
"You could kind of just tell in the dugout," Francoeur said, "from his face -- he started smiling (as if to say), 'Boys, this thing's over.' He didn't say it. You kind of knew he was feeling it by then."
In the sixth, with Texas up 5-0, Evan Longoria came up with Carl Crawford on first and a chance to get Tampa Bay back in the game.
"The biggest thing I think for him, he really makes pitches when he needs to," Longoria said. "I had a real good at-bat against him, battled to 3-2, then he makes a backdoor cutter that's the best pitch that I saw all game."
That cut fastball broke over the outside corner for a called third strike.
In all, after Peña's controversial at-bat, Lee retired 19 of 22 batters on just 83 pitches (only 21 balls).
"He throws a lot of fastballs," Longoria said, "but he mixes in and out good and sinks the ball, cuts the ball. He has the ability to do a lot of different things with the baseball.
"He doesn't really keep you off-balance because he throws so many fastballs that you're pretty much keyed to the fastball. But he does a good job of going in and out and moving your eyes from inside to outside. That's what really makes him tough."
And even tougher in October.
Think about this: the Yankees gave CC Sabathia $161 million over seven years, and at the time, his postseason record was 2-3 with a 7.92 ERA.
The Rangers, with their ownership finally settled, plan to try to keep Lee. The Yankees, of course, are expected to come hard with their wallets too.
"It's been a good ride so far," Lee said Tuesday. "And yeah, I could see myself being here in the future. But only time will tell on that. I'm not going to corner myself into anything with that. But yeah, I definitely enjoy it here, and it looks like it's going to be a good team for years to come. And that's what I want to be a part of. I want to be a part of a winner, and that's what this team looks like it's going to be for a little while."
As Francoeur said, the price tag just went up.
"We kind of anticipated that," Ryan said.
Added general manager Jon Daniels, "That's a good problem to have."