Monday, October 18, 2010
By Brett Ballantini
When Cliff Lee took the mound at Yankee Stadium on Monday night, he was carrying some weight on his shoulders, representing the best chance the Texas Rangers have of reaching the World Series for the first time in their history; tied 1-1 heading into game 3 with the series moving back to Gotham, two wins in Lees potential two starts in the series were essential to a Texas upset. Lee delivered, going eight innings and striking out 13 batters in a 8-0 Rangers win.
But its how Lee won his first two games of the playoffsand the way he started Game 3 on Mondaythat nearly made history.
Lee managed something done only 11 other times in history in his two starts against the Tampa Rays in the ALDS: Pitch at least seven innings without walking a batter. A nine-inning, no-walk effort on Monday would have put Lee in a tie for the longest such streak in major league history, with Carl Mays, who set the mark in three starts (all complete games) for the Yankees in the 1921 World Series, and Deacon Phillippe, who did exactly the same thing for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1903.
However, with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning Lee missed high with a fastball to Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira on a 3-2 count, walking him and accounting for Lee's first - and only - free pass of the postseason.
Five pitchers in history have a longer streak than the one Lee carried into game 3, including Lee himself. The lefty spun 17 innings of walk-free hurling just a season ago, for the Philadelphia Phillies. Though he did eventually give up a walk to Teixeira, Lee was able to push his streak to 19.2 consecutive innings of no-walk baseball; setting a new personal high.
Tied with Lees streak of 16 innings pitched in the postseason without a walk heading into Monday's game were two Chicago White Sox heroes from 2005, Mark Buehrle and Jose Contreras.
Contreras started his streak with his win over the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS and stretched through his loss in the opener of the ALCS vs. the Los Angeles Angels. In his 16-inning walk-less stretch, Contreras was 1-1 with 15 hits, five earned runs, 10 strikeouts and a 2.81 ERA.
Buehrle is a more interesting study. Hes issued just one free pass in his 30 23-inning postseason careerand it was an intentional walk, to Manny Ramirez in the third inning of Game 2 of the ALDS vs. Boston. But even counting that IBB, Buehrle still could possess the third-longest walkless streak in playoff history (adding his 2008 playoff start vs. the Rays), if not for his 13-inning relief appearance en route the save in the World Series clincher vs. Houston.
So although Buehrle has an active streak of 27 straight innings pitched in the playoffs without giving up a walk, that single relief appearance in 2005 snapped his streak of startingseven-inning efforts sans walks.
During his own 16-inning starting streak in 2005, however, Buehrle went 1-0 with a complete game, gave up 12 hits and five earned runs, with 10 Ks and a 2.81 ERA.
See the complete list of stingy postseason starters here.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.