I know the NFL likes to play up that “any given Sunday” crap, but baseball is really the sport where anything can happen.
To wit: Cliff Lee getting torched by a team that wasn’t supposed to have any offense. A team that was supposed to be so dominated by Lee that people actually suggested saving Lincecum to pitch another day rather than waste him on a lost cause. Yeah, well, people who say stuff like that don’t really understand baseball all that much. Even Cy Young winners and latter-day Sandy Koufaxes get lit up a few times over the course of 30 or 40 starts in a season. It’s just how the game rolls.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying to figure out what went wrong. And it did go wrong. Lee gave up seven runs — not all earned, of course — in f our and two-thirds. If you look at the box score you wonder how that could be, what with him striking out seven and walking only one. I didn’t catch any of Lee’s postgame quotes, but the answer, I’m thinking, had to do with his curveball. The thing looked like an eephus pitch at times, arcing over the lefthanded batter’s box and never presenting much of a threat. It seemed to me that batters were waiting for the heater, and when it came, they deposited it someplace useful. Which just goes to show you how fine a line it is between dominance and humbling mortality in this game, even for the best.
But let’s not overreact. I’m sure that many of the same people who assumed that Lee was a stone cold lock for Game 1 will now be saying how terrible this is for the Rangers in this series and maybe even for Lee on the free agent market. Ignore that stuff too. The Rangers only needed one win from Cliff Lee in the ALCS and survived a disastrous Game 1 there as well. As long as they don’t get a second disastrous game — C.J. Wilson, it’s time to pick up your teammate — they’ll be fine.
And this winter, when Cliff Lee signs a nine-figure deal, this will be all but forgotten.