In the Indians second to last game ever in the old Yankee Stadium, the entire baseball world will be treated to the best pitching duel of the season so far. Cliff Lee (5-0, 0.96 ERA) taking the hill against Chien-Ming Wang (6-0, 3.00 ERA). Although the Indians will bid farewell to The House that Ruth Built tomorrow, there is still a chance that this will not be Lee’s last start in the hallowed stadium. Of course, there’s always that chance the Indians will face the Yankees in the postseason, but I am referring to the chance Lee has to be the American League starter in the All-Star game. His numbers so far this season are just so gosh darn impressive, he is literally in a historical league of his own. Lee’s remarkable start, and what the Indians will have to do tonight to win, after the jump.
We can all see his earned run average, 0.96. He is the first pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 1997 to win five games with an ERA below 1. Also, something that isn’t made readily available, batters earning a putird .163 OBP against Lee, the lowest in 99 years after five starts. To think that this guy was left for dead last season makes these numbers that much better. Lee could very quickly put himself back in the, “who was the best player the Indians received from the Expos for Bartolo Colon” discussion. The player with that distinction right now is, of course, Lee Stevens.
The game tonight though has all the makings of a 1-0 extra inning affair, because Chien-Ming Wang is also pitching out of his mind this year. He has a sinker that is just deadly, and his WHIP is the best in baseball. Wang’s six wins include a– go figure– 1-0 victory over the Tribe on April 27th. The Indians need to make this guy work. He needs some twenty pitch innings early, which will require Cleveland to show a level of patience at the plate throughout the batting order (that means you, Jhonny Peralta). Walks are hard to come by against Wang, partly because his stuff is so good, partly because his stuff is so tempting. Resist the temptation, and provide Mr. Lee with some run support.
Tonight, this is an opportunity for Cliff Lee to come all the way back. Playing in Buffalo in July, left off the postseason roster, included in every possible trade rumor this off-season. Tonight is the night on the biggest stage, in front of a national television audience, against a pitcher that is just as good this season, to proclaim that 2007 was an absolute, unequivocal fluke. Let’s just hopes those bats can back him up.