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Playing their first League Championship Series game in franchise history, the Rangers got out to exactly the start they wanted to. They just weren't able to finish it off.
Seven consecutive batters reached base in a five-run eighth inning against C.J. Wilson and the Rangers bullpen as the Yankees stormed back from an early 5-0 deficit to take a 6-5 win in Game 1 of the ALCS.
The Yankees had reason to be confident coming into the game, as they were set to hand the ball to ace CC Sabathia, while the Rangers were handing it to the lesser-known Wilson. It was Wilson, though, who turned in the better start, as Sabathia wasn't right from the beginning.
The Rangers jumped out to a 3-0 lead over Sabathia before he'd even recorded an out. Elvis Andrus led off the game with a walk, and advanced to third on a single by Michael Young. That brought Josh Hamilton to the plate, and Hamilton ripped an 0-2 hanging breaking ball to right field for a home run. The ball very narrowly cleared the fence, but still counted as Hamilton's first career playoff home run.
The Rangers would threaten to add more in the inning, as well, when they loaded the bases with two outs. Sabathia then uncorked a high fastball against Jorge Cantu that sailed all the way to the backstop, but a fortunate ricochet returned the ball to Jorge Posada, who threw to Sabathia at home just in time to tag the sliding Nelson Cruz. That tag killed a threat, and kept the game 3-0.
It would remain that way into the fourth, as Wilson pitched well early and worked out of a couple jams. In the bottom of the fourth, Young came to the plate with two on and two out and drilled an opposite-field double that split the right-center gap. That double expanded the Ranger lead to 5-0, and the fourth would be the last inning of Sabathia's start.
But the Yankees' middle relief held. Joba Chamberlain and Dustin Moseley combined for three innings of scoreless relief, preventing the game from getting any worse. And the Yankees were able to get on the board in the top of the seventh, when Robinson Cano tucked a fly ball inside the right field foul pole for a solo home run. It was the first run charged to Wilson, but it would not be the last.
The Yankees really came alive in the top of the eighth. Wilson was chased from the game when Brett Gardner led off with an infield single and Derek Jeter followed with an RBI double. Wilson departed to a standing ovation and was replaced by lefty Darren Oliver, but Oliver walked the two batters he faced, loading the bases with nobody out.
Concerned, Ron Washington pulled Oliver in favor of righty specialist Darren O'Day. But O'Day's first pitch to Alex Rodriguez was ripped right by Young at third base for a two-run single. It was a ball Young probably should have been able to knock down, but it was hit sharply and it took a hard bounce, and it narrowed the game to 5-4.
Washington then replaced O'Day with lefty Clay Rapada, but Rapada's first pitch was ripped into center by Robinson Cano. That single tied the game, and when Josh Hamilton bobbled the ball, Rodriguez was able to advance to third base. The Yankees had men on the corners and nobody out in a game that was suddenly 5-5.
Washington would come out to replace Rapada with young lefty Derek Holland - his fifth pitcher of the inning, tying an ALCS record. Holland got ahead of Marcus Thames, but Thames was able to muscle a soft line drive into left field despite breaking his bat. That single put the Yankees in the lead by one, and though Holland retired the next three batters he faced, the damage had been done, and the Yankees had gotten in front.
Stunned, the Rangers attempted to battle back, but their attempts were thwarted. In the bottom of the eighth, Ian Kinsler led off with a walk but was then picked off by Kerry Wood. And in the ninth, trying to rally against Mariano Rivera, Mitch Moreland led off with a groundball single into center and advanced to second on a bunt, but he was stranded in scoring position by a strikeout and a groundout. Wood and Rivera protected the lead, and sealed a dramatic, thrilling win in Game 1.
It was an excellent win for the Yankees and a devastating loss for the Rangers, who now have to get a solid start out of Game 2 starter Colby Lewis if they want to avoid dropping the first two games of the series at home. Lewis goes up against Phil Hughes and the Yankees at 4:07pm ET Saturday afternoon. It's a chance for the Rangers to put this all behind them, but it's also a chance for the Yankees to build on what they were able to do and take a commanding lead back to New York.
Ahead 6-5, the Yankees handed the ball to Rivera and saw him allow a leadoff groundball single by Mitch Moreland. Moreland would move to second on a bunt by Elvis Andrus, but he'd remain there, when Michael Young struck out and Josh Hamilton grounded out weakly to short.
Just a devastating loss for the Rangers, who will get a chance to put this all behind them on Saturday.
Going into the top of the ninth trailing the Yankees by one as the home team is already a bad situation. Derek Holland did his best to keep it from getting any worse, though, pitching around a leadoff double by Derek Jeter to keep the Yankees scoreless. The Rangers now head into the bottom half behind 6-5, and while scoring against Mariano Rivera never comes easy, it's a lot easier to score one run than it is two or three.
You never, ever, ever want to play the Yankees and go into the ninth inning behind. The Rangers had a chance to avoid that situation. Suddenly down 6-5, they managed to get the leadoff man on base in the eighth when Ian Kinsler drew a walk against Kerry Wood. Wood, though, was able to pick Kinsler off - an unforgivable mistake - and the next two batters made easy outs to end a scoreless frame.
The Yankees lead by one as we go to the ninth, and the Rangers' 9-1-2 spots in the order will be tasked with rallying against Mariano Rivera.
The Rangers just went through the eighth inning from hell. As we already mentioned, C.J. Wilson was pulled with a man on second and nobody out, having allowed an RBI double. Unfortunately for him and unfortunately for Texas, things were only getting started. To review:
Holland would slam the door after that, retiring the final three hitters he faced. However, seven consecutive Yankees reached base, scoring five runs and taking an astonishing 6-5 lead. The five pitchers used by Ron Washington tied an ALCS all-time record for pitchers used in an inning.
What was quite recently a 5-0 near-blowout is now a late one-run deficit, and the Rangers are now in a position where they need to score a run here in the eighth if they don't want to go up against Mariano Rivera while trailing.
Kerry Wood is coming out of the Yankee bullpen to start the bottom half.
Robinson Cano's solo home run in the seventh was all the action we'd see in the inning, as the next six batters all got out. That brought us to the top of the eighth, with C.J. WIlson remaining on the mound for the Rangers. He got Brett Gardner to hit a slow roller to first to lead off, but Gardner sprinted down the baseline and beat Wilson - who was covering - to the bag.
With one on and none out, the Yankees saw an opening, and Derek Jeter followed by ripping a grounder down the third base line and into the corner. Jeter wound up on second, and Gardner came all the way around to score and make it a 5-2 game.
104 pitches (68 strikes)
The Yankees aren't on the brink, but they're back in the game.
It's something. Down 5-0 coming into the top of the seventh, the Yankees sent Robinson Cano to the plate to lead off, and Cano was just barely able to tuck a line drive to right field just inside of the foul pole. It was similar to Josh Hamilton's earlier blast, only deeper, and the home run has got the Yankees on the board.
The Rangers were effectively able to knock CC Sabathia out of this game when Michael Young came through with a two-run double in the bottom of the fourth. Since that happened, we've barely seen anything of any consequence. C.J. Wilson got a big double play off the bat of Derek Jeter in the fifth, and worked a perfect top of the sixth. Joba Chamberlain and Dustin Moseley, meanwhile, have combined to keep the Rangers silent after Sabathia came out of the game. Moseley just worked a sixth inning that saw him strike out both Elvis Andrus and Young.
So we head to the top of the seventh, the score still 5-0 Texas. Wilson has thrown 83 pitches, with 53 strikes. With the Yankees' 5-6-7 hitters due up, he should be able to go seven strong.
C.J. Wilson just worked another scoreless inning - his fifth of the game - to keep it a 5-0 score going into the bottom of the fifth. And, sure enough, here's Joba Chamberlain on in relief of CC Sabathia. Sabathia's effort:
93 pitches (51 strikes)
Sabathia just didn't look like himself, and though the "quick hook" could set him up for a start on short rest in Game 4, his performance was hardly inspiring. He did not look comfortable or at all in command.
Sabathia's career playoff ERA is up to 4.79 over 12 starts and 71.1 innings.
The theme on the broadcast so far has been that the Rangers could regret not cashing in all their opportunities. They didn't cash in a big opportunity in the first, and they didn't cash in another opportunity in the third. By not cashing in, they were letting the Yankees hang around, and you don't want to let the Yankees hang around.
Maybe it should be reversed. The Yankees blew an opportunity in the third. In the top of the fourth, they blew another opportunity, as C.J. Wilson put two runners on before getting Jorge Posada to line out.
By not scoring, the Yankees left it a 3-0 game, and then the Rangers only added to their lead in the bottom half against CC Sabathia. Matt Treanor sliced a single into shallow center field, and Elvis Andrus later dropped another single just behind Robinson Cano. With two on and two out, Michael Young stepped in, and he ripped a 1-1 change into right-center field, splitting the gap for a two-run double.
The hit expanded the Rangers' lead to 5-0, and Sabathia has thrown 93 pitches. Joba Chamberlain was warming up in the bullpen, and he could come in to start the fifth.
After three, the score remains the same as it was after one: 3-0 Texas. However, it was very nearly not that anymore, as both starting pitchers had to work out of some jams.
First, C.J. Wilson allowed his first baserunner of the game, followed by the second. With two on and one out, and pitching out of the stretch, he was able to get weak fly outs from Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher to keep the Yankees off the board.
Then CC Sabathia came back out and continued to look like someone other than himself. It seemed like, in the second, he'd figured out a way to settle down. But he started the third by walking Josh Hamilton and then very nearly walking Vladimir Guerrero. He wound up with Hamilton on third base and one out, but was able to escape when Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler pulled grounders to the left side of the infield.
Wilson and Sabathia faced some trouble, and Wilson and Sabathia got out. The former is at 36 pitches, while the latter is at 67.
First things first: C.J. Wilson worked another effective frame in the top of the second, setting the Yankees down in order. He's only thrown 23 pitches through two innings, and has yet to pitch from the stretch.
CC Sabathia then came back out after his nightmare first and looked a great deal better. He fell behind both Jorge Cantu and Elvis Andrus 2-0, which is a bad sign, but he buckled down and came back with good pitches, and ended the inning with a three-pitch strikeout of Michael Young.
So Sabathia's headed in the right direction. With 50 pitches through two innings, it's just a matter of knowing how long he can last.
This was ever-so-nearly a 4-0 ballgame. We'll see if Sabathia's lucky break ends up being a big factor in the end.
We already told you that CC Sabathia allowed a three-run home run to Josh Hamilton in the first inning. When that happened, the Rangers had zero outs. Sabathia still had to get three, and it took him a little while to do it. A recap:
After Hamilton's homer, Sabathia proceeded to load the bases, and then, facing nine-spot hitter Jorge Cantu, he threw a fastball too high for Jorge Posada to handle. The pitch escaped behind Posada and went all the way to the backstop, seemingly allowing Cruz to score from third. However, the ball took a perfect ricochet back to Posada, who was able to return it to Sabathia at the plate in time to just barely tag Cruz on the arm. That play ended the frame, and preserved the score at 3-0.
A break for the Yankees, but even still, it was a wonderful inning for the Rangers. They got their lead, and they forced Sabathia to throw 36 pitches - only 16 of which were strikes.
The top of the first inning proved to be little problem for C.J. Wilson, as he needed just 12 pitches to get Derek Jeter to ground out, Nick Swisher to strike out, and Mark Teixeira to ground out. Wilson got off to a quick start in front of a loud, vocal crowd, and the 1-2-3 should help calm any nerves that might've been an issue coming in.
CC Sabathia's first inning has gone a little different. First, he fell behind Elvis Andrus and walked him on five pitches. Next, he fell behind against Michael Young and served up a 3-1 single that put runners on the corners. He then managed to get ahead of Josh Hamilton 0-2 - the only lefty in the Texas lineup tonight - but he let a slider get a bit too much air and a bit too much plate, and Hamilton ripped it for a line drive to deep right that just barely cleared the wall. The three-run homer gave the Rangers a big early lead, and while it wasn't a mammoth blast by any means, it's a homer that leaves both this stadium and New York's, and it's a hell of a confidence boost. For Hamilton, for Wilson, and for the rest of the team.
Sabathia's still working in the first, and he's already well behind.
Derek Jeter, SS
Nick Swisher, RF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Marcus Thames, DH
Jorge Posada, C
Curtis Granderson, CF
Brett Gardner, LF
CC Sabathia, SP
Elvis Andrus, SS
Michael Young, 3B
Josh Hamilton, CF
Vladimir Guerrero, DH
Nelson Cruz, LF
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Matt Treanor, C
Jorge Cantu, 1B
C.J. Wilson, SP
(Sports Network) - The Texas Rangers are in the American League Championship Series for the first time in franchise history. Unfortunately, though, they face the team that has ended all three of their previous postseason runs in the defending World Series champion New York Yankees.
In the playoffs for just the fourth time in their history, the AL West champion Rangers will try to reverse their postseason curse against the Yankees. Since winning the opener of the 1996 Division Series, the Rangers have lost nine straight playoff games to the Yankees, also covering 1998 and 1999.
"That doesn't matter, because we are a different team," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "We feel we can play baseball with anybody. We will show up and play our best against the very best, which is the Yankees. We can only blaze our own trail. Every time we do something good, it only adds to the history of the Texas Rangers."
The Rangers rode the left arm of Cliff Lee in a decisive ALDS fifth game to get past Tampa Bay and win a postseason series for the first time on Tuesday.
"We needed Cliff Lee to do what he did, we certainly did, and we certainly played the type of baseball that we're capable of playing," Washington said. "Every part of the game that you can think of, we did. We ran the bases, we pitched, we played defense, and at the end we showed some power."
Lee tied a Division Series record with 21 strikeouts over two starts, helping the Rangers become the first team in history to win three road games in any best-of-five series. In fact, this was the first time in baseball postseason history in which the road team won every game. However with the two home losses to Tampa Bay, Texas is now 0-6 all-time at home in the postseason.
Because of his Game 5 start, Lee won't pitch until Game 3 of this series, which will take place on Monday in New York.
So, instead of Lee in Game 1, the Rangers will turn to another left-hander in C.J. Wilson, who scattered just two hits over 6 1/3 scoreless innings to win Game 2 of the ALDS.
"When you're a little kid and you're in your backyard, you're taking ... dry swings or pretending that when you're in the mirror ... that you're somebody or whatever, you put yourself in this position," Wilson said. "You put yourself in Game 1, Game 7, Championship Series, World Series, stuff like that. That's what you work for. Every mile I've run, my entire life, and every little tubing exercise and sinker I've thrown playing catch, is everything I've done to get to this point. That's great, but we still have more games after Game 1."
Wilson was a pleasant surprise for Texas this season, transitioning from reliever to starter and going 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA. However, he has struggled mightily in his career against the Yankees, going 0-3 with a 4.12 ERA in 20 games (three starts) against them.
New York, meanwhile, stumbled into the postseason as the AL Wild Card, but continued to be a thorn in the side of the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS, as the Yankees swept them to advance to their second straight ALCS.
"We're a very confident team," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "When you have veterans that have won championships ... it's the same team we had last year, a few different guys here and there. Hopefully they're going to have the same ride as we had last year."
Tonight, New York gives the ball to left-hander CC Sabathia, who has started each of the Yankees' previous four playoff series and is the reigning ALCS MVP.
"I don't know [if there are any challenges to opening on the road]," Sabathia said. "I mean, I don't feel any different."
Sabathia, though, was the worst of the three Yankees starters in the Division Series, as he allowed four runs (three earned) and five hits in six innings to the Twins, but still picked up the win.
"You can't just sit down and relax and say, 'Oh, CC's pitching, we will be fine," said Yankees captain Derek Jeter. "They have a guy [in lefty C.J. Wilson] who is capable of shutting guys down as well. We all have jobs to do, but we have a lot of confidence in [Sabathia]."
He is 8-3 in 14 starts against the Rangers with a 4.29 ERA.
New York has won in eight of its last nine ALCS appearances, and, of course, is shooting for its 41st AL Pennant and 28th World Series title.
The Yankees and Rangers split eight games during the regular season.
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