Lee, Hamilton give Rangers 2-0 lead over Yankees

Associated Press
Texas Rangers' Cliff Lee pitches against the New York Yankees in the first inning of Game 3 of baseball's American League Championship Series Monday, Oct. 18, 2010, in New York. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

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Cliff Lee breezed through his first nine batters and Josh Hamilton hit a two-run homer off Andy Pettitte, giving the Texas Rangers a 2-0 lead over the New York Yankees after three innings Monday night in Game 3 of the AL championship series.

Lee was perfect at the start as Texas tried to take a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven matchup.

Acquired from Seattle in July, Lee entered 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA and three complete games in seven career postseason starts. He had struck out 54 and walked six in 56 1-3 innings.

In the first three innings, Lee allowed just one ball out of the infield — Derek Jeter's leadoff flyout to the right-field warning track. The dominating left-hander walked none and struck out five, including two looking. Jorge Posada barked at plate umpire Jim Reynolds after being called out on strikes leading off the third.

Lee has 26 strikeouts and no walks in 19 innings this postseason. Of his first 43 pitches against the Yankees, 27 were strikes.

The closest New York came to a hit was when speedy Brett Gardner grounded to the right side with two outs in the third. First baseman made a backhand flip to Lee covering the base, Gardner made a headfirst dive and first base umpire Angel Hernandez called him out. Replays were inconclusive — Gardner's hand may have veered away from the bag to avoid Lee's spikes.

Following a split in Texas last weekend, the series shifted to new Yankee Stadium on a cool autumn night.

A.J. Burnett starts Game 4 for the Yankees on Tuesday night against Tommy Hunter. It will be the first appearance since Oct. 2 for Burnett, who lost seven of his last eight decisions.

Seeking to become baseball's first 20-game postseason winner, the 38-year-old Pettitte made his record 42nd postseason start.

Pettitte started off the first inning with five straight strikes, retiring Elvis Andrus on a squib in front of the plate. Michael Young, down 0-2 in the count, worked it full and singled to right-center on the ninth pitch.

Hamilton then got ahead and pulled a 2-1 breaking ball into the second row of seats in the right-field short porch for his second postseason homer and a 2-0 lead. Left-handed batters hit just two homers off Pettitte during the regular season — both by Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena.

New York fell behind for the fifth time in six postseason games this year.

Pettitte, pitching for the first time since Oct. 7, allowed three hits in the first three innings, striking out two and walking none. He threw 61 pitches — 17 to Young, who reached on a two-out infield single to shortstop in the third before Hamilton grounded out.

Former-Met Jeff Francoeur, also acquired by the Rangers during the season, was booed when he came up to bat in the first inning.

Before the game, Broadway star Kristen Chenoweth sang a version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" that nearly took 2 minutes.

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