Granderson remembers Lee of old
Center fielder revisits transformation of Texas' ace lefty
NEW YORK -- Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson often faced Rangers left-hander Cliff Lee when both were playing in the American League Central. Granderson was a member of the Tigers, while Lee pitched for the Indians.
During his career against Lee, Granderson is 12-for-42 (.286) with a homer and three RBIs. Granderson said he has seen two versions of Lee on the mound. From 2005-07, according to Granderson, Lee pitched at a much slower pace.
But Lee changed his pitching technique the year he won the American League Cy Young Award, in 2008, as a member of the Indians.
"He bounced back with a Cy Young performance, and that's when he started working fast," Granderson said. "His percentage of strikes started to go up a little bit higher. The approach hasn't changed too much, except that you have to be ready to go.
"I'm still going to look for something to hit. But he is putting it in a spot where you can't do much with it. You have to hopefully take the little bit you can and realize that you are not going to do a ton with it. But if you get a hit here, a small hit there, it could end up being big."
Win or lose, Burnett will start Game 4
NEW YORK -- Manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman each reiterated on Sunday that the Yankees are staying on rotation for Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Rangers, regardless of what happens in Monday's Game 3.
That means A.J. Burnett is still scheduled to start Game 4 for New York.
"Our rotation is still the same," Girardi said. "We set up our rotation for a number of reasons. We're just staying with it."
"I believe in A.J. The way the schedule is set up, we're going to need four starters and he's going to get the ball," said Cashman, who added that there is "no wiggle room" on the decision. "He's capable of doing a good job. I believe he's going to do a good job."
There have been murmurs that the Yankees would come back with CC Sabathia on short rest for Game 4 if they trailed in the series. Sabathia has had success on three days' rest in his career, going 3-1 with a 1.01 ERA in four regular-season starts and 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two playoff starts on short rest.
Sabathia threw 93 pitches in his Game 1 outing, in which he allowed five runs on six hits in four innings.
Sabathia did throw a bullpen session of about 10 minutes on Sunday. The left-hander usually throws his session three days before a start, but he said on Saturday that he could start on Tuesday anyway if needed.
"Whenever they tell me I'm pitching, I'm pitching," Sabathia said. "It doesn't matter if I throw a bullpen [on Sunday] or the day before I pitch. If they want me to take the ball, I have no problem with that, and they know that."
Burnett, of course, has had a rocky season, particularly over the last two months. Since the start of August, the right-hander is 1-7 with a 6.61 ERA. He did fare better in two starts against the Rangers in that time, allowing five runs on 10 hits in 11 innings.
"I take the mound every five days, no matter if I had the second half to the season I had or I had the last year I had," Burnett said. "You put it behind you. Somewhere or another, you put it behind you."
Thames' free approach a plus against Lee
NEW YORK -- Take a glance at the pitchers Marcus Thames has faced the most in his career, and it isn't difficult to tell he gets most of his playing time against left-handed starters. The hurlers Thames has seen the most reads like a Mount Rushmore of the decade in southpaws: Johan Santana, Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia and Mark Buehrle.
It's the second name on that list that Thames and the Yankees will concern themselves with on Monday, and the Yankees' designated hitter has some feast-or-famine splits against Texas' ace.
The good news is that Thames has three home runs in 36 career at-bats against Lee -- more than any other Yankee and tied for the second most Lee has allowed to any hitter. The bad news? Thames has only seven hits total in those 36 at-bats, including 15 strikeouts.
"He's a fierce competitor -- you can see it on the mound," Thames said of the Yankees' Game 3 counterpart. "I'm going to battle him. That's all you can ask for."
Manager Joe Girardi said he believes "Marcus is going to be in" Monday's lineup, even though Lance Berkman, who platoons with Thames at DH, is 3-for-8 off Lee.
Thames, like all of the Yankees, cited Lee's impeccable control and his speed on the mound as the toughest things about stepping into the box against him. Thames, who has seen 3.84 pitches per plate appearance this season, is one of the Yankees' less patient hitters -- something that actually may help him against Lee.
"[The first pitch] is going to be a strike, if it's a slider or a fastball," Thames said. "You've got to pick one part of the plate that you're going to attack. ... It's just me not missing my pitch."
After split, history favors Game 3 winner
NEW YORK -- Even with Rangers ace Cliff Lee waiting for them in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, the Yankees are satisfied returning home after a split in Texas.
"You want to win both -- you always do," said first baseman Mark Teixeira. "But splitting two games in a road park against a good team puts us in a good position."
"Texas is a very tough place to play, and their fans were in it from the start," Curtis Granderson said. "We're in a good situation."
The history doesn't exactly back up Teixeira and Granderson. Since the ALCS was expanded to a seven-game series in 1985, the first two games have been split 13 times. The team with home-field advantage went on to win 11 of those series, even with the 2-3-2 format in play. Only one team (the 2002 Angels) has swept Games 3 through 5 at home, while the road team has won all three on three different occasions.
The key is obviously Game 3. A team with a 2-1 advantage is 22-8 all-time in the ALCS, and the winner of Game 3 after the first two games were split is 9-4 in the ALCS since 1985.
Countering all that, of course, is just how good the Yankees have been at home these last two seasons. The Yankees' 109 home wins over the last two years are easily the most in baseball, and they have won eight of their nine playoff games in their new ballpark.
The one pitcher, however, to beat the team in pinstripes at the new Yankee Stadium? Lee.
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.