AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES – GAME 5
YANKEES 7, RANGERS 2
It was not pretty. In fact, as victories go this one was just about as gloomy as the weather in the Bronx on Wednesday afternoon.
But ace left-hander CC Sabathia and the Bombers will take their backs-to-the-wall 7-2 victory over the Texas Rangers that forces a Game 6 in Arlington, TX, on Friday night.
Sabathia (1-0) may have been less than Cy Young worthy this postseason, but he battled and fought the Rangers for seven tough innings. He gave up two runs on 11 hits while walking none and striking out seven.
The big difference between the Rangers of the last three games was they failed to get any extra-base hits, they hit into two double plays and they had another runner picked off. On the night the Rangers were a 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Sabathia’s last two innings of work were symbolic of the Rangers’ struggles to get the key hits they seemingly dialed up at will the past three games.
The Rangers were trailing 5-0 when backup catcher Matt Treanor lofted a fly ball into left-field that carried into the seats. Mitch Moreland followed with a single. After Elvis Andrus struck out, Michael Young battled Sabathia for a single into right.
The Yankee fans that dominated the 49,832 in attendance all of s sudden were nervous as Roy Hobbs, er huh, Mickey Mantle, er huh, Josh Hamilton strode to the plate. If any one player in the Rangers’ lineup has sucked the life out of the defending world champions it has been this modern-day Dr. Jack Kevorkian with a Louisville Slugger.
But, alas, on this night, “The Natural” grounded into an inning-ending double play.
In the sixth, Sabathia worked his way into another huge jam, despite the Yankees getting him a run back in the bottom of the fifth that made it 5-1.
With one out, David Murphy started a conga line of runners with a single to right. Ian Kinsler and Jeff Francouer followed with singles of their own to load the bases.
Manager Joe Girardi, showing how important the situation was, ordered Kerry Wood to start throwing in the bullpen.
But, with Yankee fans bundled up in the cold, saying their prayers and gritting their teeth, Sabathia induced Moreland to bounce out to Alex Rodriguez for the second out, although Murphy managed to score on the slow roller.
Then Sabathia battled Moreland in a tense eight-pitch at-bat in which the rookie Rangers first baseman ended up watching strike three whisper high and inside. If the Yankees were indeed on life support, they got some breathing room with that big out.
It also seemed to take starch out of the Rangers.
In the last two innings, Sabathia gave up two runs on six hits and threw 55 pitches. But, like the pillar of strength he has been all season, he bent but never broke.
The Yankees offense this series pretty much has consisted of one player: Robinson Cano. Everybody else has been in need of the Heimlach Maneuver. The prospect of playing Game 5 and the rest of the postseason without an injured Mark Teixeira did not really lighten the dire mood either.
But he Yankees were fortunate enough to get a wild and unhinged C.J. Wilson (0-1). Unlike his impressive series-opening performance, Wilson showed pretty early he would need a road map, a GPS, a compass and floodlights to find the strike zone and the Yankees took advantage.
In the second inning, Wilson walked Rodriguez and Teixeira’s replacement Lance Berkman on four pitches, sandwiched by one out. Jorge Posada made Wilson pay for his wildness by lacing an 2-0 pitch for a single to left that scored Rodriguez.
Curtis Granderson followed with a lined single to left to score Berkman and then the Rangers started treating the baseball like a hand grenade. Right-fielder Jeff Francouer, attempting to throw out Posada at third, air-expressed his throw over Young’s head.
Posada unwisely tried to make it home even though Young had caught the ball on a carom and had him dead to rights at home plate. However, Young’s throw home similarly sailed over Treanor’s head and Posada gave the Yankees an early 3-0 cushion.
The Yankees added to their lead in the third inning when Nick Swisher and Cano greeted Wilson with back-to-back home runs to start the inning. For Cano, it was his fourth home run of the series.
The Yankees added another run off Wilson in the fifth. They loaded the bases with one out on a leadoff walk to Swisher, Rodriguez smacked a ground-rule double to left-center and the Rangers elected to walk Marcus Thames in order to face Berkman.
Though Berkman has struggled against left-handers batting right-handed all season, he delivered a long sacrifice fly to center that scored Swisher. That made the score 6-2.
Wilson gave up six runs on six hits and four walks and he struck two in his five innings of work. Three of the four batters he walked eventually scored.
Wilson was 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA in the regular season, but in his five starts against the Yankees (three in the regular season and two in this series) he is 0-2 with a 5.81 ERA.
Granderson capped the Yankees’ scoring in the eighth with a one-out line-drive home run to right-center off rookie reliever Alexi Ogando.
The Yankees, taking no chances in the final three innings, turned the game over to Wood and Mariano Rivera. Wood pitched two scoreless innings, striking three and picking off Andrus at second base for his second pickoff of the series.
Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth and the Yankees lived to fight another day.
But do not get too carried away with this victory. The Yankee offense still could improve. Despite the victory they were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
The Yankees hope to shake some more cobwebs off their bats on the trip to Arlington. The patient is beginning to show some signs of life. Don’t tell Dr. Kervorkian.
The Yankees are working out at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington today. Trailing 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, the Yankees will turn to 18-game winner and All-Star right-hander Phil Hughes to get them even in the series.
Hughes (0-1) was blasted for seven runs on 10 hits and three walks in four-plus innings last Saturday. Before that, he had pitched 15 1/3 scoreless innings against the Rangers in Arlington. The one big statistic in Hughes’ favor is that he never lost two starts in a row during the regular season.
His opponent again will be right-hander Colby Lewis (1-0). Lewis pitched a solid, but not dominant, 5 2/3 innings against the Yankees in Game 2, giving up two runs on six hits and three walks and fanning six batters. Despite the fact Lewis threw a wild pitch, hit a batter and lacked command at times, the Yankees were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
In order to beat Lewis to win the game and force a Game 7, the Yankees will have to do better in that category. The Yankees are a dreadful 8-for-50 (.160) with RISP in the series.
Game-time will be 8 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by TBS.