Now It's Cliff Lee vs. Andy Pettitte

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Game 3 of the ALCS will be the Rangers' Cliff Lee vs. the Yankees' Andy Pettitte -- the postseason ace against that ol' October pro.

    Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte. The postseason ace against that ol' October pro.

    With the best-of-seven AL championship series tied at one apiece, the scene shifts to Yankee Stadium for Game 3 on Monday night, when a pair of pressure-proven pitchers will be back in the spotlight.

    Lee's left arm has been baseball's most dominant force in the past two postseasons, carrying him to a 6-0 mark with a 1.44 ERA and three complete games in seven starts.

    He'll be on the mound for the Texas Rangers against Pettitte, who has an outstanding October resume of his own. The longtime Yankees lefty is going for his 20th postseason win.

    "Obviously, it's a great matchup," New York manager Joe Girardi said Sunday, when the Yankees and Rangers worked out under blue skies in the Bronx. "I think people are looking forward to tomorrow."

    Coming off the first home playoff win in the franchise's 50-season history, the Rangers are back on the road -- where they're unbeaten in these playoffs. Texas won all three first-round games at AL East champion Tampa Bay, including a pair of masterpieces by Lee.

    Next, he'll try to join Orlando Hernandez and Orel Hershiser as the only pitchers to win their first seven postseason decisions. Hernandez opened 8-0 for the Yankees from 1998-2000, while Hershiser went 7-0 with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians from 1985-95.

    "I've got high expectations for myself. Regardless of what's happened in the past or what other people expect of me, I expect as much out of myself or more than anybody is going to expect of me," Lee said. "So I don't look at it any different than I would any other game. I expect to be successful and that's the game tomorrow and every time I take the mound."

    Because of his overwhelming brilliance, most of the buzz leading up to this matchup has revolved around Lee.

    That's just fine with the 38-year-old Pettitte, who is 5-0 with a 2.88 ERA in his last nine postseason starts and always seems to come through when New York needs him most.

    After missing two months with a groin injury and making only three starts in September, he pitched seven solid innings to beat Minnesota in Game 2 of the division series.

    "I feel like there's not a whole lot of attention that I get anyways. It's been like that kind of my whole career. I guess I can say I'm used to that. It's always maybe the other guy that's going to get that. That's totally fine with me," Pettitte said. "I'm kind of uncomfortable with a whole lot of attention. I want to go out and do my job, give us a chance to win that ballgame."

    The high-scoring Yankees, with baseball's top offense this season, have been as overmatched by Lee as everyone else lately. They like to work pitchers and grind out at-bats, but their patient approach can be countered by Lee because he keeps everything on or around the plate.

    "If he's coming out and throwing a lot of strikes, we can't be taking," Mark Teixeira said.

    In his last five starts in the Bronx, Lee is 5-0 with a 1.67 ERA and two complete games, including a six-hitter in the World Series opener for the Phillies last year when he struck out 10 and gave up only an unearned run.

    In fact, he won both his World Series starts for Philadelphia. New York took the other four games.

    "Cliff can't do it by himself," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He's only human. If anything goes wrong, he's going against a ballclub that can make you pay.

    "I don't think he can do anything about the hype," Washington added. "He comes as he is. He's Cliff Lee. He's that guy that people expect to go out there and throw amazing ballgames. All you can do is hope that the day he takes the rubber, that happens. But you don't know."

    Lee struggled in August, then had an injection in his aching back and took almost two weeks off before returning to face the Yankees at home on Sept. 12. He allowed two hits in eight-plus innings of a 4-1 win.

    In the postseason, he's been nearly perfect, piling up 54 strikeouts while walking only six in 56 1-3 innings. He struck out 21 and did not walk a batter in two starts spanning 16 innings against the Rays.

    "I would like to throw a full season without walking anyone. I know that's probably unrealistic, but if you make every single team you face swing their way around the bases, it's going to pay off in the end," Lee said.

    If the Yankees have their way, this will be the last time they see the 32-year-old Lee until they start throwing money at him this offseason, when he can become a free agent.

    But if the Rangers win Monday night, New York would need to take the next three in a row to advance without facing him in a decisive Game 7 at Texas.

    "We've faced a lot of pitchers throughout the years that have had great reputations. Reputation doesn't win games," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "You still have to go out there and pitch."

    Pettitte knows that as well as anybody. At 19-9 with a 3.87 ERA, he holds major league records for wins, starts (41) and innings (256) in the postseason.

    "He's been through it so many times, does not become rattled, knows how to prepare for this type of game," Girardi said. "Experience is an important thing when it comes to this time of year, because you don't expect Andy to get too hyped up. He'll be the same guy that he is during the regular season."