Lee's calm is the Yankees' storm 

October, 29, 2009
10/29/09
8:00
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We are accustomed to seeing October tension reflected in the eyes of the pitchers. Orel Hershiser's eyes in 1988 were intense -- the Bulldog locked in like a hyper border collie. In Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, Jack Morris had the eyes of a linebacker, and he looked like he was ready to unhinge hitters. Who will ever forget Calvin Schiraldi's eyes of uncertainty, at the worst possible moment in 1986?

Cliff Lee had the eyes of ... well, let's be honest here. He looked like a guy pitching to the kids in a family reunion softball game.

When Johnny Damon lifted a popup over the infield in the seventh, did Lee scream at the other infielders, like a caffeinated traffic cop? No. He flipped his glove to the side and snared the ball. Jorge Posada hit a chopper in front of the mound a few batters later, and Lee jogged over, picked up the ball and slapped a round-house tag on the catcher's rear end, the way a dad does with his kid.

Robinson Cano chopped a grounder through the middle, and naturally, Lee reached behind his back to snag the grounder and made the throw, and as the Phillies' infielders chuckled, Lee smiled, too, and shrugged. No big deal. When Lee finished off one of the greatest pitching performances in World Series history, the nonchalance almost became awkward, in this way: All the other Phillies understood how great Lee's performance was, but the pitcher responded like it was the fifth game of spring training, telling catcher Carlos Ruiz "Attaboy" and then moving through a series of brief handshakes.



Charlie Manuel tried to congratulate him on the field. "Way to throw the ball, man!" Manuel called out enthusiastically, and Lee just kept on moving, as always. We think of time of possession as a football stat, but it was appropriate for Lee's start, as these numbers from Jeremy Mills of ESPN Stats & Information detail:

Cliff Lee -- 54 minutes

CC Sabathia -- 53 minutes

Other Yankees -- 41 minutes (includes mid-inning pitching changes)

Yankees Total - 1:34

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Lee is the third pitcher in World Series history to strike out 10 or more batters in one game without allowing a walk, and he's the first do so without allowing an earned run. The other 10-strikeout, no-walk pitchers were Don Newcombe in Game 1 of the 1949 World Series and Deacon Phillippe in the first ever World Series game in 1903.

Lee's brilliance was based on simple stuff. He threw different pitches all over the strike zone, and all for strikes; he was a constantly moving target for the Yankees batters. It wasn't until his 10th and 11th pitches that he repeated any particular pitch, and this random selection continued throughout the game. Consider the sequences of pitches that Alex Rodriguez saw, in his first three plate appearances:

First inning

  1. Fastball, middle. No balls, 1 strike.
  2. Fastball, outside corner. No balls, 2 strikes.
  3. Fastball, high (he tried to get A-Rod to chase the pitch out of the strike zone). Fouled off.