Bats back CC, force Game 6
Yankees 7, Rangers 2
Texas leads ALCS, 3-2
At some point after the Yankees absorbed an ugly seven-run beating late Tuesday and early Wednesday morning, Joe Girardi met with his team.
It was not the throwing things type of meeting but more like a brief session of encouragement and the dialogue went something like this: “Hey guys, we’ve won three in a row several times before.”
“You go back to the regular season and we have been able to win after losing three in a row,” Jorge Posada said. “So that was what he was talking about.”
Winning three in a row is what the Yankees must do if they are to get a chance to defend their World Series title and for nearly four hours as rush hour became dinnertime, they took the first step with a 7-2 victory over the Rangers, ensuring a Game 6 in the AL Championship Series.
“I talked about how resilient this club is and how this club has been through this before,” Girardi said. “This club has been through a lot of difficult games, difficult losses, frustrating at times, and then bounced back. There are so many characters in that room, that, I get to see every day. As a manager, you really appreciate what you have in there.”
And since Girardi saw several of his cast be productive, the Yankees get to pack their bags for a weekend business trip.
“We feel good where we are right now,” Nick Swisher said. “We aren’t exactly where we want to be. To be here and to win this game right now and especially going to Texas, our confidence level is extremely high.”
If the weekend in Texas resembles anything similar to Game 5, then the Yankees will become the fifth team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the ALCS.
“It’s important to go and win period,” said Mariano Rivera after watching for two games as other relievers imploded.
It was also important to score early and then hold the Rangers with big pitches from their best pitcher and the Yankees achieved both goals, getting three home runs and six gritty innings from CC Sabathia, who worked around 11 hits while throwing 112 pitches on normal rest.
“I think when it is win or go home you’ve got as much energy as you need,” Curtis Granderson said. “One of the things that our whole team did a great job is we were very relaxed and we did enough.
“Our guys weren’t pressing and were relaxing even with our backs against the wall and that was our key to success today.”
The Yankees gave some of their more negative fans, the ones who flooded sports talk radio with phone calls of doom and gloom, some early reasons to exhale by taking a five-run lead through three.
Robinson Cano helped ensure a trip to Texas with his fourth home run of the series in the third and finally someone other than the second baseman went deep. Before Cano’s home run to right, Swisher hit one to left and the trip was iced when Curtis Granderson connected in the ninth.
Granderson aided earlier in the cause to keep the season going with a two-run single that saw Jorge Posada race all the way from first on a Jeff Francouer throwing error.
Those five runs by the third was the biggest lead for the Yankees in the postseason other than the Division Series clincher against Minnesota, a 6-1 victory headlined by Phil Hughes’ seven scoreless innings.
Hughes will get his chance to show he was better than last Saturday’s disaster just like Sabathia succeeded in his chance to show he was not the guy who threw 95 pitches and gave up five runs in four innings.
“I felt a lot sharper today than I did in Game 1,” Sabathia said after winning his first elimination start. “I was able to make some pitches when I got in trouble. In Game 1, I really had no clue — like I said, I didn’t know that I needed to make adjustments like that, but I was able to make adjustments and make some pitches when I needed to.
The biggest sign that it was a good day was Texas backup catcher Matt Treanor and not Josh Hamilton beat Sabathia. Treanor drove in both runs on a solo home run in the fifth and groundout in the sixth while Hamilton was 1-for-4.
The only threatening Hamilton did was a two-out single in the first on Sabathia’s sinker but then the lefty struck out Vladimir Guerrero on a called strike three on a pitch that just nipped the outside corner.
Hamilton came up with one out in the third and Elvis Andrus on first. After Andrus swiped second, Hamilton lined out to shortstop on another fastball.
Hamilton’s final encounter with Sabathia was with one out in the fifth and Michael Young on first. It ended after two pitches when Hamilton hit the fastball for a 6-4-3 double play.
“I didn’t really want to give him anything to hit, because he’s swinging the bat well the whole series,” Sabathia said. I was just trying to make a pitch down and way and ended up getting a roll over to second base and they ended up turning the double play.”
Keeping Hamilton silent was not his only significant accomplishment. Sabathia struck Guerrero out twice and ended with the biggest of his seven strikeouts. With runners at second and third and two outs Sabathia maintained the four-run lead by winning a lengthy encounter with Mitch Moreland, who fouled off four pitches before looking at a slider for a called strike three.
Lance Berkman endured a slight scare when he slipped and fell chasing a foul ball in the fourth inning. Berkman, who is filling in for Mark Teixeira (hamstring), lost his footing chasing down a foul ball by Ian Kinsler.
“I needed to take a second to regroup,” Berkman said. “It’s like being a car wreck. The impact was pretty severe.”
A hamstring injury popped up again but this time it was for the Rangers, who lifted left fielder Nelson Cruz with tightness in his left hamstring after the top of the fifth. Cruz is day-to-day.
Sabathia allowed 11 or more hits for the 10th time in any start. He became the sixth in postseason play to give up 11 or more hits and just two runs. The last was Hurst, who won Game 2 of the 1986 ALCS for the Red Sox against the Angels.
Cano is the fifth Yankee to hit four home runs in a single postseason series. The last was Reggie Jackson, who hit five off Dodgers’ pitching in the 19777 World Series.
What went right …
1 Offensive output — After a series worth of forgettable results, the Yankees’ lineup finally got its act together yesterday in Game 5. The Bombers jumped on starter C.J. Wilson early, getting RBI singles from Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson in the second before Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano had back-to-back jacks in the third to build a 5-0 cushion. The Yankees went just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position but did enough damage to force a Game 6.
2 CC?survives — Pitching on normal rest for the first time in three postseason starts and pitching in his second career elimination game, CC Sabathia scattered 11 hits but held the explosive Rangers to two runs in six innings. Texas loaded the bases in the sixth, but Sabathia only surrendered one run.
3 Closing the door — Kerry Wood was brilliant as the bridge between Sabathia and Mariano Rivera. The reliever threw 21 of 28 pitches for strikes, picked off Elvis Andrus at second base and struck out four batters.
What went wrong …
1 A-Rod gone quiet — Alex Rodriguez has reverted to his pre-2009 October ways, and is just 3-for-15 in the series. The slugger did draw two walks, but sooner or later the Yankees will need a big hit out of their All-Star.
2 Andrus always on — If it seems that Elvis Andrus is always on base, that’s because he is. Andrus stole a base and smacked three singles yesterday. The shortstop has four steals and a .417 ALCS on-base percentage. “He’s a sparkplug,” manager Ron Washington said.
3 Berkman breaks — The Yankees nearly lost a second first baseman when Lance Berkman’s head snapped back on a nasty spill as he chased a foul pop. Berkman shook it off and stayed in the game.