If only the Yankees knew who was pitching against them Monday night . . .
Just kidding. The Yankees have heard plenty about Cliff Lee, the unbeaten and seemingly unbeatable postseason pitcher. And after much careful deliberation, the Yankees have decided that they will in fact show up for Game 3 of the ALCS.
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In the words of Marcus Thames, who has struck out 15 times in 36 regular-season at-bats against Lee, "I'm not going to go out there, see that he's out there and dig a hole."
The Yankees were very respectful and complimentary about Lee, who is 6-0 in seven postseason games, including two wins against the Yankees for the Phillies in the 2009 World Series. But they aren't exactly buying the idea that they are trailing in a series that is tied 1-1, an idea that sprouted as soon as the Yankees lost Game 2 Saturday.
"We've faced a lot of pitchers throughout the years that have had great reputations. Reputation doesn't win games," Derek Jeter said Sunday before the Yankees' workout at the Stadium. "You still have to go out there and pitch. He's been able to do that. He's gotten a lot of attention and rightfully so, because he's had a lot of success.
"But for us, it's a challenge whoever you face this time of year," said Jeter, who has a .417 regular-season average against Lee. "When you're in the playoffs, you're facing the best teams, you're facing the best pitching staffs. If you're going to be the best, you have to beat the best. Cliff is as good as anyone in baseball right now."
During Jeter's era, the Yankees have won postseason games against Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine, all of whom could wind up in the Hall of Fame. They clearly do not get intimidated. Although they do not admit it, they might even embrace the challenge of facing someone who has such great advance billing.
"He's tough. I'm sure I'm not the only guy he's struck out before. But I've had success against him, too," said Thames, who has hit three home runs against Lee. "You've got to have a game plan going up there. I'm going to battle. That's all you can ask for."
Brett Gardner, who has three hits in eight at-bats against Lee, said, "He gets ahead of everybody. He has good stuff and he throws strikes. He's a lot like Roy Halladay."
And Halladay lost to the Giants in NLCS Game 1 Saturday night after pitching a no-hitter against the Reds in the Division Series.
"You respect the fact he's very talented, very good, but we also have a guy who's very talented and very good," Joba Chamberlain said, referring to Lee and Yankees starter Andy Pettitte, respectively.
Chamberlain considers himself a baseball fan first before being a Yankees reliever. He grew up rooting for the pitching-rich Braves and he's a fan who knows the potential for a good show when he sees one.
"It's great for baseball, but you still have to go out and pitch," he said. "You still have to go out and execute. He has the same pressure that everybody else does. Cliff Lee has come around and has pitched well, but he has a lot to go to catch up with the other guys who have pitched well."