Lee Dominates, Texas Talent Shining

Cliff Lee, who had a blink and you missed it stint in the Eastern League with the Harrisburg Senators and Akron Aeros, turned in a postseason pitching performance for the ages last night.

When a reporter asked Texas Rangers legend and co-owner Nolan Ryan if Lee’s 13 strikeout performance in Game 3 of the ALCS was why, the Hall of Famer had a quick reply.

“That pretty well sums it up,” Ryan quipped.

Lee spent about half of his 2002 season in the Eastern League, playing for the Senators for 2 1/2 months and — following a regrettable trade by the Expos — about two weeks for Akron.  Now 32 years old, Lee made one appearance at Waterfront Park, receiving a no-decision on May 15, 2002.  He allowed three runs on two home runs, five hits and a walk.  He also struck out seven.

It’s safe to say he’s made great strides since facing the Thunder that day, establishing himself as one of the premier pitchers in postseason history.  Ryan was certainly no pushover himself, and I asked the baseball icon what Lee did last night that made him so successful.

“Just his control, he used both sides of the plate,” Ryan said.

“He used his curveball, I thought, more tonight.  I think everyone anticipates another Cliff Lee performance, and what he did tonight is one of those typical Cliff Lee performances that we grow accustomed to seeing.”

Lee is far from “home-grown talent” for the Rangers, as this marks his fourth different organization in the past two seasons.  However, core Texas players like Ian Kinsler and C.J. Wilson have played a big role in the Rangers recent postseason success, and I asked Ryan how big of a key that’s been to his team’s playoff run.

“Well, I think the team this year has found more ways to win than just being home run hitters,” he said.

“I think  a good example of that is how we won that fifth game against Tampa Bay.  I think our club is probably more balanced now than it’s ever been as a result.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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