Lee the story as Phils produce a laugher

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Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino homered and Ryan Howard extended his streak of postseason games with an RBI to a record seven, but Sunday night was all about Cliff Lee. The left-hander pitched eight shutout innings and struck out 10 in the Phillies’ 11-0 victory.
This one was over quickly, as the Phillies scored four times on Howard’s triple and Werth’s homer in the first and added two more in the second. The Dodgers never collected an extra-base hit in the contest. They never had multiple runners on base at the same time. In short, it was a dominant performance for Lee, who even singled and scored on Victorino’s homer in the eighth.
Lee improved to 2-0 with a 0.74 ERA in three postseason starts. He’d likely be 3-0 if not for Dexter Fowler’s leap in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the NLDS. He appeared all set to go for the shutout tonight, but after he ran the bases in the eighth and the Phillies added three more runs, the team took the prudent course and lifted him from the rout.
It’s been a spectacular run for the left-hander, who wasn’t good enough to make the Indians’ postseason roster two years ago. Even though he was healthy enough to pitch, the Indians opted to pick Aaron Laffey over him in 2007 after he went 4-8 with a 6.29 ERA in 16 starts and four relief appearances that season.
Now Lee stands as the ace of the postseason to date, and the Dodgers won’t be very optimistic if they head back to L.A. down 3-2 knowing they’ll be facing him and Pedro Martinez again. The Phillies, on the other hand, have a chance to take the series without being forced to turn back to Lee. They’ll throw Joe Blanton in Monday’s Game 4. The Dodgers will turn to former Phillie Randy Wolf, their Game 1 starter in the NLDS.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.