The day before facing Cliff Lee, the Yankees talked in general about their strategy.
They would be aggressive but selective. They would hope for a mistake and pounce. They certainly would not be intimidated.
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In the end, they had no chance.
Lee's remarkable two-year postseason run continued last night as he shut down and shut out the Yankees, outdueling a sharp Andy Pettitte in the Rangers' 8-0 victory in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series in front of 49,840 at the Stadium.
"I haven't seen many games thrown like that in Yankee Stadium," said Pettitte, who allowed only two runs in seven innings, on Josh Hamilton's two-run homer in the first inning. The Rangers scored six runs in the ninth inning against three relievers to break open a 2-0 game.
Lee gave up two hits and a walk in eight innings, matching a career best with 13 strikeouts. He threw 122 pitches, 82 for strikes. Neftali Feliz struck out two in the ninth inning for a total of 15.
"I don't think we are in trouble,'' Girardi said. "We are a good club and we are down 2-1. We are not down 3-0 and losing in the bottom of the ninth.''
Lee, who came in 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA in seven career postseason starts, might have been at his best in start No. 8, an outing that provided another stinging reminder to Yankees fans of what they nearly had in July when a trade for Lee fell through at the 11th hour.
Lee, who struck out 10 in his Game 1 victory over the Yankees in last year's World Series, had his third straight postseason start with at least 10 strikeouts, the first to accomplish the feat in the same postseason.
The Yankees didn't get their first baserunner until Mark Teixeira walked with two outs in the fourth and didn't get their first hit until Jorge Posada looped a broken-bat single to right with two outs in the fifth.
"He shut us down," said Derek Jeter, who struck out three times. "He pitched well. What are you going to do?"
Said Curtis Granderson: "When you talk about the black part of the plate, the inside and outside part of it, he lived right around it throughout the course of the game."
The hype surrounding Lee coming into the game - hype that started almost as soon as he put the finishing touches on the Rays in Game 5 of the Division Series - overshadowed Pettitte, who, aside from one pitch, was Lee's equal.
"It was a bad pitch by me," Pettitte said. "I hung a cutter."
Pettitte retired Elvis Andrus to start the game but gave up an opposite-field single to conclude a nine-pitch at-bat by Michael Young. MVP candidate Hamilton then wristed Pettitte's 2-and-1 pitch just over the wall in rightfield.
The Yankees have been outscored 6-0 in the first inning in the series and 10-0 in the first three innings.
Otherwise, Pettitte was tremendous, allowing five hits, walking none and striking out five despite pitching on 10 days' rest. Young picked up three of the hits off Pettitte in his first three at-bats, making him 6-for-13 to that point.
After Hamilton doubled off Logan to begin the inning, Nelson Cruz and Bengie Molina had RBI singles to left, Mitch Moreland added a two-run single over first base and Andrus had an RBI double to rightfield off Robertson. The final run scored on a wild pitch by Mitre as the Rangers erased what had been a well-pitched game by Pettitte.
"Andy, you're never surprised by anything he does," Jeter said. "He threw the ball well. But it's hard to win when you don't score runs."
With the inconsistent Burnett on the mound against the Rangers' Tommy Hunter in Game 4, they had better start soon.
"We haven't swung the bats great,'' Girardi said. "But we have seen some pretty good pitching. I still believe that we are going to hit.''