Girardi: Hats off to Lee

Joe Girardi praised Cliff Lee before tonight's crucial Game 4 and dismissed accusations that the Rangers left-hander was doing something suspicious, if not illegal, with the bill of his cap during the course of his brilliant Game 3 performance, in which he held the Yankees to to singles and struck out 13 in eight dominant innings.

"It didn't strike me as odd, it really didn't,'' Girardi said. "If I thought so, I would have said something, but it's only rosin. It just gives you a better grip on the ball.''

Girardi said all pitchers have pre-pitch rituals that often involve touching some part of their equipment, including his own CC Sabathia, who wipes his pitching hand along his left thigh, and Alfredo Aceves, who habitually touched the front and back of his hat before every pitch.

"The first thing I asked him was, 'Ace, is there something on your hat?,''' Girardi said. "And he told me no, 'It's just something I do.'''

And what if Aceves had said yes? "Then I would have said, 'Ace, you gotta start doing something a little different,''' Girardi said. "You gotta hide it a little better.''

Girardi said Lee's effectiveness was due solely to superior --and legal --stuff. "The guy just didn't make any mistakes,'' he said. "He may have thrown 4 or 5 pitches over the middle of the plate all night. He lived on the edges. It was a brialliant performance, as good as any I've ever seen.''