Cliff Lee, Ace

Regardless of your rooting interests last night, you had to be impressed by the complete domination of Cliff Lee. The Yankees have a great offense, but he made them look foolish all night, keeping all-star hitters off-balance with a mix of pitches that don’t look like they should be that hard to hit. He set the tone from the first hitter of the game, striking Derek Jeter out with this three pitch sequence:

Fastball, 91 MPH, foul
Curveball, 75 MPH, foul
Cutter, 85 MPH, strikeout

This was just a clinic on how to pitch. He changed speeds, eye level, and movement, finally putting Jeter away on a pitch up in the zone that, on it’s own, is pretty hittable. You generally don’t want to throw 85 MPH at the top of the strike zone, but Lee had set that pitch up perfectly with his first two offerings, and got a good contact hitter to swing right through it.

He had everything working last night, including a nasty curveball that Fox never tired of talking about. But for me, it was Lee’s change-up that was his true out pitch last night, and the reason he was able to shut down a line-up with some really good right-handed hitters. He threw 21 of them on the evening, 18 of which went for strikes, including five swinging strikes where the opposing hitter was just badly fooled. Actually, let’s just look at all of those change-ups.

1st inning, Mark Teixeira, ball.
2nd inning, Jorge Posada, foul.
2nd inning, Hideki Matsui, swing and a miss.
2nd inning, Robinson Cano, flyout.
3rd inning, Nick Swisher, swing and a miss.
3rd inning, Melky Cabrera, called strike
3rd inning, Johnny Damon, called strike.
4th inning, Mark Teixeira, called strike.
4th inning, Alex Rodriguez, swing and a miss.
4th inning, Alex Rodriguez, swing and a miss.
5th inning, Nick Swisher, ball.
5th inning, Nick Swisher, flyout.
6th inning, Melky Cabrera, flyout.
6th inning, Derek Jeter, ball.
7th inning, Jorge Posada, groundout.
8th inning, Nick Swisher, called strike.
8th inning, Nick Swisher, called strike.
9th inning, Mark Teixeira, groundout.
9th inning, Alex Rodriguez, swing and a miss.
9th inning, Jorge Posada, called strike
9th inning, Jorge Posada, foul.

The final total: three balls, five swinging strikes, six called strikes, two foul, five in play outs. Lee’s change-up was almost perfect. He used it against the power hitting Yankee right-handers, but also mixed it in to lefties effectively as well.

The “spike” curveball might have been the more interesting story for Fox to focus on, but the change-up was what led Lee to pitch one of the best games in World Series history.

We hoped you liked reading Cliff Lee, Ace by Dave Cameron!

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That curveball Lee threw on the second pitch of the game made my jaw drop. But yeah, it was his changeup usage that really won him the game.