What more can be said about Cliff Lee?
Rob Neyer says he is one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all time.
And now, with a 2-1 lead, we see the advantage of Cliff Lee being slated to start Games 3 and 7 instead of Games 1 and 5. Lee, as we've discussed before, is in the Yankees' heads. The Yankees don't think they can beat Lee.
And with Lee looming in Game 7, that makes each of the next three games tantamount to an elimination game. The Yankees have to win the next three games in a row to avoid having to beat Lee to get to the World Series. Which means the Yankees feel they have to win each of the next three games to advance from the ALCS.
I think that's not insignificant.
The bats broke out in the 9th inning, but the most encouraging sign was Michael Young having a big game, going 3 for 5 and driving the ball to right field in the way he tends to do when he's going well. A hot Young would do a lot to aid the Rangers in closing this out.
The decision tonight that caused a lot of discussion in the Twittersphere, and a lot of derision from a lot of smart folks, was the decision to bring Neftali Feliz into the game in the 9th inning.
I'm not in a position where I feel comfortable declaring that decision right or wrong. I don't think I have enough information right now.
I will say that if Ron Washington and Mike Maddux decided that Feliz was coming into the game because the Rangers were ahead and they wanted their best reliever in there to close it out...well, in that case, I think that would be a mistake. It is an 8 run lead. You don't use your best reliever to close out an 8 run game, even against the Yankees, with two more games in the next two days coming up.
However...Neftali Feliz has been shaky in these playoffs. Even in Game 2, when he closed out the Rangers' 7-2 win, he walked back to back hitters, and was so rattled by the second ball four that he wasn't looking when Bengie Molina threw the ball back to him on the mound -- the ball hit him and bounced away.
Ron Washington came out to settle Feliz down, and he got out of the inning.
But coming into today, he'd pitched in three playoffs games. In the two games he pitched a full inning, the two wins, he walked a pair of batters in each game. The other game was the ALDS Game 3 meltdown, when he allowed a walk, allowed the inherited go-ahead run to score, and then allowed a homer in the top of the 9th.
Neftali Feliz, in the playoffs, hasn't looked like the wunderkind that set a rookie saves record and had Rangers fans feeling they had a closer who could match Rivera. He's looked more like Warner Madrigal or Pedro Strop.
Maybe it is mechanics. Maybe it is fatigue. Maybe it is nerves. I don't know.
But I wouldn't be surprised if Ron Washington sent Neftali Feliz out there tonight because he wanted Feliz to get back on the horse.
I wouldn't be surprised if Ron Washington sent Neftali Feliz out there tonight to give him a chance to pitch in the playoffs in Yankee Stadium, in a low pressure situation, in a setting where he could get his mojo back.
I wouldn't be surprised if Ron Washington sent Neftali Feliz out there tonight because he was concerned about Neftali's confidence, about where his head was at, after his last few outings.
And I think that Ron Washington, and Mike Maddux, and the rest of the organization probably felt the possible gain of Feliz getting back on track tonight, going out there and throwing strikes and being the Neftali of old, was worth the possible loss of effectiveness tomorrow, or Wednesday as well if the Rangers need him in all three games in Yankee Stadium.
I don't know that using Neftali in an 8 run game tonight was the right move. But I'm very reluctant, knowing what I know, and knowing what I don't know, to condemn it as a bad move.