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Pushed to the brink of elimination with a 10-3 loss on Tuesday night, the Yankees knew they'd need everybody to come out and leave everything on the field in Wednesday's Game 5. They got what they wanted, and in so doing, they earned a return trip to Texas.
Lacking his best stuff, CC Sabathia scattered 11 hits over six two-run innings, and the Yankees put an early hurting on C.J. Wilson in winning Game 5 of the ALCS over the Rangers, 7-2. The win moves the series to three games to two in the Rangers' favor, and sends both teams back to Texas.
It was clear from the beginning that neither Sabathia nor Wilson was throwing his best stuff. Sabathia allowed two base hits in the first inning, and Wilson was having trouble commanding his pitches. The difference is that Sabathia was able to pitch around the baserunners, while Wilson was not.
Sabathia escaped potential jams in the first and second innings, and in the bottom of the second, the Yankees were able to get to a struggling Wilson to pull out ahead. After a pair of walks put two on, Jorge Posada drove in the first run of the game with a groundball single to left. Curtis Granderson then followed with a single of his own to right field, and two more runs would score on the play when Jeff Francoeur's throw to third base eluded third baseman Michael Young, and Wilson's subsequent throw home eluded Matt Treanor. The walks, hits, and throwing errors handed Sabathia a 3-0 lead going into the third.
And in the third, Sabathia would work around another runner in scoring position and keep the Rangers scoreless going into the bottom half, when the Yankees added two more against Wilson. Nick Swisher led off the third with a home run to left field, and two pitches later, Robinson Cano lifted a homer to right-center to give the Yankees back-to-back dingers. Those extended the lead to 5-0, and with Wilson on the ropes and Sabathia surviving, things looked pretty good for the hosts.
Sabathia worked around just another runner in scoring position in the fourth, and didn't allow his first run until the top of the fifth, when Rangers backstop Matt Treanor tucked a home run inside the left field foul pole. The Rangers would go on to put two more on base with one out and bring Josh Hamilton to the plate, threatening to pull themselves back into the game, but Sabathia was able to induce a double play off Hamilton's bat to end the inning and preserve the 5-1 score.
The Yankees would get the run back on a Lance Berkman sac fly in the bottom of the inning. Protecting a 6-1 lead in the sixth, Sabathia again got himself into trouble, loading the bases with one out, but Sabathia again wriggled his way out of it, allowing just one run on a groundout by Treanor. Mitch Moreland struck out looking on an inside slider to kill the rally.
From that point forward, it was smooth sailing for the Yankees, who would add a run in the eighth on a line drive solo homer by Curtis Granderson. Mariano Rivera slammed the door in the ninth, clinching the game.
Sabathia got the win for bending without breaking over six innings. The loss went to Wilson, who allowed six runs in five innings before coming out. Michael Kirkman made his playoff debut in relief of Wilson and threw two scoreless innings.
Worth noting is that Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz had to come out of the game in the fifth inning with tightness in his left hamstring. That hamstring has bothered him throughout the season and twice sent him to the disabled list, but the hope is that they got him out before the injury could get any worse. There's not yet any word whether he'll be available for Game 6.
For the fourth consecutive game of this ALCS, the last at bat didn't mean very much. The Yankees called on Mariano Rivera to protect a 7-2 ninth inning lead over the Rangers, and Rivera was able to do just that with little trouble, getting a grounder off the bat of Jeff Francoeur and a fly out off the bat of Matt Treanor.
The Rangers became the first team since the 1920 Dodgers to get 13+ hits and score fewer than three runs in a playoff game, and the ALCS is now 3-2 in Texas' favor. Game 6 is scheduled for Friday night back in Arlington, and will match Colby Lewis up against Phil Hughes.
Behind 6-2, the Rangers weren't able to do much against Kerry Wood in the top of the eighth, going down 1-2-3. They were already up against it, facing improbable odds, but then Curtis Granderson came out in the bottom half and decided the Yankees could use another run anyway.
Facing reliever Alexi Ogando, Granderson came up with one out and none on and ripped a low line drive deep into right field. It hung up high enough to clear the wall, and the solo home run extended the Yankees lead to 7-2.
The seventh inning lasted approximately sixteen hours, but in the end, no runs were scored by either side, and the game remains 6-2 Yankees going into the eighth.
The Rangers thought they might have something going when Elvis Andrus led off with a base hit against Kerry Wood and advanced to second on a wild pitch. However, Michael Young struck out, and then Andrus was picked off when Wood spun around and made an accurate throw to second base. That pickoff killed what might have turned into a rally, and a Josh Hamilton strikeout brought the frame to an end.
After a frustrating top of the sixth, the Rangers handed the ball to rookie Michael Kirkman in the bottom half, looking to get him his first postseason experience of his career. And all things considered, it went pretty well.
Kirkman allowed a leadoff double to Curtis Granderson, off the wall down the left field line. It very nearly escaped for a short home run. Brett Gardner then bunted Granderson to third, and Derek Jeter drew a hard-fought walk.
That brought up Nick Swisher, but rather than give in, Kirkman went after him and got ahead 0-2. On the fifth pitch of the at bat, Kirkman offered a high-outside slider, and Swisher grounded it to second for a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play.
CC Sabathia has been battling all game long, as he clearly didn't have his best stuff. And in no inning did he battle harder than the top of the sixth.
Armed with a 6-1 lead, Sabathia was able to strike out Vladimir Guerrero to lead off. But that's when things got hairy. David Murphy - in for the injured Nelson Cruz - ripped a single to right. Ian Kinsler followed by grounding a single up the middle. Jeff Francoeur then drilled a single into right to load the bases with only one out.
The Rangers had life, and Matt Treanor stepped up. Treanor had already hit a solo homer to give the Rangers their only run of the game the inning before. Against Treanor, Sabathia quickly got ahead 0-2, but then the count went full before Sabathia got the catcher to hit a groundball to third. Alex Rodriguez threw to first for the second out of the inning, and Murphy came in to score.
The situation then was second and third with two outs for Mitch Moreland. And this at bat - almost certainly the last at bat of Sabathia's game - was a long one. Sabathia threw eight pitches, and Moreland fouled off four of them before Sabathia came in with a surprise inside slider for a called strikeout. That strikeout ended the frame and preserved the score at 6-2.
Sabathia's pitch count stands at 112, and with Kerry Wood warm in the bullpen, he's probably through. His game:
93 pitches (48 strikes)
This is the first playoff appearance of the rookie Kirkman's career.
The Rangers gave away a good opportunity to fight back in the top of the fifth, when Josh Hamilton grounded into a double play with two on and one out. The Yankees came out in their half of the inning and made the visitors pay for their mistake.
Nick Swisher led off with a walk against C.J. Wilson. After a lineout, Alex Rodriguez then drilled a ground-rule double to left-center field to put two runners in scoring position, and Marcus Thames was issued an intentional walk to load the bases.
That brought Lance Berkman to the plate, and he put a charge into a fly ball to center. It didn't drop or clear the wall, but it was deep enough to go as a sac fly to score the Yankees' sixth run of the game.
It's 6-1 New York going into the top of the sixth.
Starting off the bottom of the fifth, David Murphy came off the Rangers bench and replaced Nelson Cruz in left field. No immediate reason was given, but it has since come out that Cruz was batting tightness in his left hamstring.
That's bad news for Texas, as Cruz is their best right-handed hitter, and was twice placed on the disabled list this season with left hamstring injuries. There's no word yet on the severity of the injury, but with a possible Game 6 scheduled for Friday night, he doesn't have much time to recover.
The top of the fifth had all the makings of a disaster for CC Sabathia and the Yankees. Matt Treanor led off with a solo home run that put the Rangers on the board, but it didn't stop there. Mitch Moreland ripped a single into center. And after Elvis Andrus struck out on a high fastball, Michael Young then ripped a single into right, just in front of Brett Gardner.
That put two on with one out against a Sabathia who'd already allowed eight hits in the game. And it put him in that position against Josh Hamilton, who took Sabathia out of the yard in Game 1 for a three-run homer.
Sabathia, though, was able to get ahead, and on a 1-1 fastball, he got Hamilton to ground to Robinson Cano at second, who started a 4-6-3 double play to end it. Sabathia hasn't been close to his best this afternoon, but he's only allowed the one run through five, which has his team in a good position.
Starting the bottom of the fifth, David Murphy has entered the game and replaced Nelson Cruz in left field for reasons unknown.
C.J. Wilson gave the Rangers an important inning in the bottom of the fourth. After allowing a leadoff double and seeing that runner advance to third with one out, Wilson escaped without surrendering that sixth run, striking out Brett Gardner and getting Derek Jeter to ground out.
That brought us to the top of the fifth, with the score still 5-0 Yankees. And immediately, the Rangers went and got themselves on the board. After seeing his team fail to take advantage of opportunities in the first four innings, Matt Treanor led off the fifth by pulling a 1-0 inside fastball from CC Sabathia into the left field seats, just down the line.
The solo home run chips away a bit at the lead, and one remembers that the Rangers have been taking good swings against Sabathia the whole time.
Trailing 5-0 coming into the top of the fourth, the Rangers knew they needed to start scoring soon. They'd been taking some good cuts against CC Sabathia; they just needed to start turning those cuts into runs.
And the situation looked somewhat promising when Nelson Cruz ripped a one-out double into the right-center gap. That put a runner in scoring position for the third consecutive inning, with the right-handed Ian Kinsler and Jeff Francoeur due up.
Kinsler, though, struck out when he couldn't hold up a check swing on a low slider. Francoeur then became the Rangers' last chance, and he sent a first-pitch grounder right to Derek Jeter, who threw to first for the final out.
It's still 5-0 Yankees after three and a half.
For the record, there was a scare in that fourth when Lance Berkman ran in pursuit of a foul pop-up and slipped onto his back. After a brief visit from the trainer, though, he stayed in the game, and replays showed that he didn't hit the back of his head. At worst, it looks like a sore back or a possible sore neck.
For a stadium that was dead at first pitch, this one has certainly come alive in the last couple innings.
After the Yankees scored three off C.J. Wilson in the second and kept the Rangers scoreless in the top of the third, they came out swinging once more in the bottom half. Leading off against Wilson, Nick Swisher lifted an 0-1 inside fastball into the left field seats down the lone for a solo home run.
That put the Yankees up four. The next batter was Robinson Cano, and he took a 1-0 slider down and away into the right-center seats, just above a leaping Nelson Cruz. That put the Yankees up five, and gave them back-to-back home runs by the second and third hitters in their order.
At 5-0, this feels like a commanding position for CC Sabathia. Rangers fans can probably plan on seeing a Game 6 at home.
CC Sabathia's motto today is apparently 'bend, but don't break.'
For the third consecutive inning, Sabathia allowed a Ranger hit, and for the third consecutive inning, Sabathia kept the Rangers scoreless. This time, he allowed an infield single to Elvis Andrus on a swinging bunt with one out in the third. It wasn't hit well, so you can't actually blame Sabathia for this one - it was just placed perfectly, and when Alex Rodriguez gave up on it in an attempt to let it roll foul, it came to a stop right on the line.
With Andrus on first, Michael Young came up and hit a grounder that allowed Andrus to advance to second. Andrus then stole third with two outs and Josh Hamilton at the plate, but Hamilton - on a full count - lined out to Derek Jeter at short to end the inning.
Some good luck and bad luck for the Rangers in the same frame, and it's 3-0 New York entering the bottom of the third.
Though CC Sabathia has allowed three hits through two innings, he hasn't allowed a run, which is ultimately the most important part of his game. And by keeping the Rangers scoreless, Sabathia gave the Yankees an opportunity to take an early lead, which they went and did in the second inning courtesy of wildness from C.J. Wilson and shoddy defense.
Up came Jorge Posada, and Posada was able to deliver the base hit the Yankees have been missing for several days. Posada hit a grounder through the hole into left field, scoring Rodriguez from second to put the hosts on top.
Things didn't get any better for Texas in the next at bat, when Curtis Granderson lined a single to right. The base hit scored Berkman, and when Posada rounded second and ran for third, Jeff Francoeur's throw escaped third baseman Michael Young. Posada was safe at third and continued home on the wild throw, and Wilson - who was backing up the play - then made another wild throw home, allowing Posada to reach safely. The Rangers had two opportunities to throw Posada out on the basepaths, but neither throw was on the mark.
The Yankees were thus up 3-0, with Granderson on second base. Brett Gardner struck out and Derek Jeter grounded out to end the frame, but it was a big one for New York, as they have a lead and they have Wilson's pitch count up to 38. If Sabathia can get settled in, there'll be a Game 6.
We're in a situation here where both the Yankees and Rangers are probably feeling good. For the Rangers, they're getting baserunners and good swings against CC Sabathia. And for the Yankees, Sabathia has so far been able to keep the Rangers scoreless.
In the top of the second inning, Ian Kinsler smacked a one-out single off Sabathia for the Rangers' third hit of the game. He didn't move when Jeff Francoeur followed with a fly out, but he stole second base with Matt Treanor at the plate, getting into scoring position in an effort to score the first run of the game.
But Treanor was unable to bring him in, as he swung and missed at a 3-2 slider to end the frame. It's still scoreless going into the bottom of the second.
The Yankees got a 14-pitch scoreless first inning effort from CC Sabathia. Sabathia, though, allowed two base hits. C.J. Wilson one-upped his lefty opponent by needing just 12 pitches to go 1-2-3 through the top of the Yankee order.
Derek Jeter led off the Yankee half with a grounder up the middle to shortstop Elvis Andrus' left, but Andrus was able to range over, pick it, and make a strong throw to first to beat Jeter to the bag. Nick Swisher followed with a fly out to center, just to Josh Hamilton's right, and the inning concluded with a Robinson Cano groundout to second.
Wilson looks settled in early, and we move to the second still scoreless.
It wasn't as easy as those numbers would indicate, though. Elvis Andrus led off the game with a sharply-hit single to center field before the Yankees fans were even able to finish their roll call. That gave the Rangers just another leadoff runner, continuing a playoff trend.
Michael Young then followed with a double play grounder to Derek Jeter at short, erasing Andrus off the basepaths. Suddenly freed from a minor jam, Sabathia faced Josh Hamilton, got ahead 0-1, and threw an inside fastball that Hamilton ripped into right field for the Rangers' second hit of the game.
But the inning ended with Vladimir Guerrero, who Sabathia caught looking with a 1-2 fastball. Going into the bottom half of the first, it's scoreless.
Elvis Andrus, SS
Michael Young, 3B
Josh Hamilton, CF
Vladimir Guerrero, DH
Nelson Cruz, LF
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Matt Treanor, C
Mitch Moreland, 1B
C.J. Wilson, SP
With Mark Teixeira out for the rest of the playoffs with a hamstring strain, the Yankees are going to Lance Berkman off the bench to take his place. Berkman will play first base and bat against the left-handed C.J. Wilson.
Derek Jeter, SS
Nick Swisher, RF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Marcus Thames, DH
Lance Berkman, 1B
Jorge Posada, C
Curtis Granderson, CF
Brett Gardner, LF
CC Sabathia, SP
(Sports Network) - Winning on the road this postseason has come easy for the Texas Rangers. Another road triumph today will send the Rangers to the World Series for the first time in franchise history, as the pennant-starved club squares off with the New York Yankees again in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series from the Bronx.
Texas won three road games to oust Tampa Bay from the ALDS and has won two in a row at Yankee Stadium, including Tuesday's 10-3 pounding of the hosts, to grab a 3-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series. The two clubs split the first two games in Arlington and the series will shift back to the Lone Star State if New York pulls off a win Wednesday afternoon.
Rangers All-Star outfielder Josh Hamilton has turned Yankee Stadium into his own personal launch pad, much like he did a few years ago at the old historic park during a home run derby. Hamilton cracked a pair of homers in last night's win to match an LCS record and became just the second Texas player with a multi-homer game in the playoffs. Juan Gonzalez did it back in 1996 against the Yankees in the ALDS. Hamilton is hitting .333 with four home runs, seven RBI, five walks and three stolen bases in this series.
"I feel like my swing is getting better," said Hamilton, who entered the playoffs a bit rusty due to balky ribs. "I'm starting to barrel more balls up and squaring the ball better. I put a couple good swings on the ball tonight."
Bengie Molina got into the long-ball act with a three-run homer in the sixth inning and Nelson Cruz delivered a two-run shot in the ninth after Hamilton led off the frame with his second blast of the night. Vladimir Guerrero had four hits and a run scored for the AL West-champion Rangers, who have outscored the Yankees by a 25-5 margin after losing Game 1 by a 6-5 score. Tommy Hunter started for the Rangers and did not receive a decision after he allowed three runs and five hits through 3 1/3 innings.
"Derek came in and settled things down a little bit until we could get in the flow of the game offensively, and we ended up doing that," said Rangers manager Ron Washington.
Washington will hand the ball to C.J. Wilson today with a chance to clinch an AL pennant for the first time in club history. Wilson beat Tampa Bay in Game 2 of the ALDS and is 1-0 with a 2.03 ERA in two postseason starts. He did not factor in the outcome of Texas' only loss to New York on Friday and was reached for three runs and six hits in seven innings. The Rangers blew a 5-0 lead in that game. The left-hander won 15 games in the regular season and has never beaten the Yankees in his career, going 0-3 in 20 regular season games (three starts) before Friday's no-decision in the playoffs.
The defending World Series-champion Yankees are on the brink of elimination and have to win out in order to keep hope alive for a 28th title. They were able to earn a split in Arlington and the losses continued with an 8-0 setback Monday, when Cliff Lee struck out 13 batters in eight shutout innings.
New York failed to get the bats going again last night, save a solo home run by Robinson Cano in the second inning. Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner had the other RBI for the Yankees, who may have lost slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira for the rest of the postseason due to a Grade 2 strain of his right hamstring. Teixeira sustained the injury in the fifth inning.
"I was running down the line trying to keep out of the double play, running as hard as I could, and it just gave," Teixeira said. "I didn't hear a pop, but I definitely felt it. I knew right away it wasn't good."
There certainly hasn't been much pop in the New York lineup. Teixeira went 0- for-14 in the series before being injured, while All-Star third baseman Alex Rodriguez is 2-for-15 with just two runs batted in during the ALCS. Possible candidates to fill the void at first base are Lance Berkman or Nick Swisher. According to the team's website, infielder Eduardo Nunez will likely fill the vacant spot on the roster.
The Yankees, who swept Minnesota in three games to win the ALDS, were hoping starting pitcher A.J. Burnett could exorcise his latest mound demons by handing him the ball Tuesday. However, the high-priced righty was dealt the loss for allowing five runs and six hits, including Molina's three-run blast in the sixth inning, over six frames. Sergio Mitre surrendered two homers and three runs in an inning of relief.
"We liked the way A.J. was throwing the ball," Yanks skipper Joe Girardi said. "He was throwing the ball good, and we decided to leave him in. We liked the matchup, A.J. against Molina. Unfortunately, it didn't work out."
Girardi will be pulling out all the stops today with ace and AL Cy Young Award candidate CC Sabathia on the mound. A 21-game winner in the regular season, Sabathia beat the Twins in Game 1 of the ALDS back on Oct. 6 and was touched for four runs -- three earned -- in six innings of a 6-4 win. He then took the hill again last Friday against the Rangers and did not factor in the outcome even though he allowed five runs and six hits in just four innings.
Sabathia is 8-3 in 14 starts against the Rangers in the regular season. The left-hander, known for his success on home mounds, will have to keep the ball away from Hamilton, who clubbed a three-run homer off Sabathia in Game 1 of this series. Sabathia is also taking the mound on regular rest.
The last team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in a playoff series was Boston back in 2007 against Sabathia and the Cleveland Indians.
The Rangers have homered in all nine postseason games, longer than any streak they had during the regular season. The Yankees and Rangers split eight games during the regular season.
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