The Texas Rangers made the biggest trade deadline move in the American League this season when they acquired Cliff Lee(notes). Not only did the Rangers have an ace to surge them ahead in the AL West race, but Lee is the kind of pitcher who could make all the difference in a playoff series. We saw him do it last year with the Phillies, compiling a 4-0 record and 1.56 ERA in five postseason starts.
Lee looked dominant with the Seattle Mariners before being traded, so it's a bit surprising that he was less so for the Rangers. In August (nursing a bad back), he was 1-4 with a 6.53 ERA. Lee finished strong, however, allowing just two earned runs over his final four regular season starts.
But now the second phase of the Lee acquisition begins. Now that the Rangers are in the playoffs, how far can he carry them in the postseason?
And with that expectation, how much concern is there that Lee went 0-3 against the Tampa Bay Rays this season?
Two of Lee's starts versus the Rays were while he was with Seattle, which must be a consideration. The Mariners scored the fewest runs in the majors this season, and only managed four runs for Lee both times he faced Tampa Bay.
Pitching against the Rays with Texas, Lee got four runs from his lineup. This time, Lee didn't hold up his end, giving up six runs. But as ESPNDallas.com's Jeff Caplan points out, the Rangers' defense was responsible for a lot of that damage.
Lee agreed with the run support line (sort of) when asked about his 0-3 record on Tuesday. But he also quickly dismissed the notion that the past will have any bearing on the future:
"They scored more runs than we did. That's really it. They could have had all the success, whatever, I could have shut them down three games in a row, whatever. It has zero bearing on the game tomorrow. You know, I've had a lot of good games, I've had a lot of bad games, and I've had a lot more in-between games. But that has nothing to do with what's going to happen tomorrow."
A bigger question that Texas will face in this playoff series is whether or not to pitch Lee on short rest in Game 4. If the Rangers fall behind, especially in a best-of-five series, they may have to use Lee in a do-or-die situation. Nolan Ryan says he prefers his starting pitchers to stick to their regular routine, but desperation has a way of changing things.
Lee said he was open to taking the ball for Game 4, if necessary.
"I feel like I can pitch every day. I'll pitch tomorrow and I'll pitch the next day if they want me to. This is the postseason. You've got to be ready whenever they want to give you the ball. The competitive side of me wants to pitch every game. I mean, it's — this is what it's all about, so whenever they want me to pitch, I'll be ready to pitch."