He almost certainly would have. The question also isn’t, “Would Lee have gotten into trouble in the first place?” We really can’t answer that. Maybe Lee would have struggled from the start, and wouldn’t have even been up by 4 runs entering the 8th. Maybe the bats would have slumped, knowing that they had their ace on the mound. But don’t you have to give some credit to the man who is soon to be making 9 figures? Don’t we have to assume that Cliff Lee can pitch at least as well as CJ Wilson?
And that’s not even the point. CJ Wilson did everything that was expected of him, and then some. The Rangers’ Game 1 loss falls on the bullpen, not Wilson. The real question is, “Would Cliff Lee have out-performed the bullpen?” If Cliff Lee is in there, even if we assume he gets into the same situation, Washington leaves him in. There shouldn’t even be a doubt in your mind about whether or not to pull that trigger after 2 hits in the 8th. Maybe start warming someone up, but you don’t pull your ace. Not with that lead.
Lee would have been starting Game 1 of the NLCS. He should have been starting Game 1 of the NLCS. But the Rangers couldn’t put the Rays away at home. They had two oppurtunities, but the back end of the rotation let them down. Cliff Lee had to come in, clean up the mess, and finish what HE started. If he wasn’t busy picking up the slack, he could have been starting against his former teammate, C.C. Sabathia, and helping Texas, not saving them.
The point may be mute, now that they’ve tied the series at a game a piece, but pay attention to how long the series lasts, as the effects of going to a Game 5 could still carry over to the World Series.