Can the Yankees, my lifelong heroes, beat Cliff Lee?
No, I fear that they can’t. He’s just too good, too robotic, too confident, too dominant, too versatile, and what the hell is that pitch he throws, the one that rainbows in from a foot outside to pierce the strike zone? It should be illegal. (Can’t wait until the Yanks pick him up in the off-season; he’ll slide neatly into the rotation as Pettitte declines.)
But can the Yankees beat the Rangers? Yes! Here’s how.
First, a prologue: I sat in a New York City restaurant last fall watching Lee, then a Phillie, stifle the Yanks in a driving rain in Game 1 of the World Series. I had tickets for Game 2 the next night, and I must say I headed back to the hotel that night with fear in my heart.
And what happened? The sun popped up next day, we took the train to the Bronx amid the pinstriped masses, and the Yankees won Game 2 behind the now-suspect Burnett! Beautiful. And they won the Series, even though Lights-Out Lee came back to win another game. Yankees 4 Games, Lee/ Phils 2.
They can do it against the Rangers, but here’s the formula that must be followed without deviation, comrades:
PATH TO VICTORY 1: THE “EASIEST” WAY
Yankees win Games 1 and 2 in Arlington, head back to Gotham with 2-game lead.
Yankees lose Game 3 to Lights-Out Lee.
Yankees win Games 4 and 5 in New York, avoiding a trip back to Arlington. Yanks 4 Games, Rangers 1. Yankees go to the World Series yet again, seeking their 28th championship. Rangers depart with plenty of pride and a sense they are the team of the future.
PATH TO VICTORY 2: THE HARDER WAY
Yankees split with Rangers in Arlington, head back tied 1-1.
Yankees lose Game 3 to Lights-Out Lee, trail 1-2.
Yankees win Games 4 and 5 (somehow, despite shaky outing by Burnett), head back to Texas up 3-2.
Then, assuming the Rangers don’t ask Lee to pitch again on short rest, which he has not done all year, the Yanks win Game 6 in Arlington, escaping a Game 7 vs. Lee.
Ancillary assumption: If the Rangers do send Lee out for Game 6, maybe–maybe–he won’t quite have the stuff, and the Yankees will prevail anyway. As someone said, all baseball fans believe in miracles. The question is, how many do you believe in?
OTHER YANKEES VICTORY SCENARIOS
There are none. If the Yankees have to face Lee in Game 7 in Texas, not even their glorious history with the Babe, the Iron Horse, Joltin’ Joe, the Scooter, the Mick, Whitey, the Old Perfessor, Mel Allen, Red Barber, Don Larsen, Billy Martin, Mr. October, the Louisana Lightning, Buuuuckyyyyyy Dent, Catfish, Donnie Baseball, Sweet Lou, Paulie, the Rocket, Moose, Bernie, the Captain and A-Rod will be enough to overcome Lee’s killer instinct.
So, bottom line: A Game 7 must be avoided. And that starts with the Yanks winning both games this weekend. I snagged a solo nosebleed seat for tonight’s game, so I’ll be there to witness the Beginning or the Beginning of the End. We’ll see.