A summer pickup has made all the difference this fall for the Yankees.
Through five AL Championship Series games, the Rangers have produced a .383 on-base percentage and have stolen nine out of 10 bases. That number might be 11 out of 12 if not for Kerry Wood and his pickoff move. Twice it has drastically altered the course of games.
First, there was Game 1 when Wood picked off Ian Kinsler at first, erasing the tying run from base in the eighth inning. Then in Game 5, with the Yankees holding a somewhat comfortable 6-2 lead, Elvis Andrus was on second, poised to swipe his fifth base of the series.
Wood kept his eye on the man with a .417 on-base percentage and threw back a couple times, then whipped back a final time and caught Andrus straying too far off the bag.
“I went with the no-look pitch and then I went with the inside move and then I don’t know why I doubled-up on the move,” Wood said.
The throwback was as crucial as any pitches made by CC Sabathia, especially with the likes of Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero potentially coming up with men on base. After becoming the ninth pitcher with multiple pickoffs in any postseason series, Wood threw a curveball by Hamilton for a swinging strike three and then threw eight pitches — all strikes — to retire the side in the eighth.
“Tremendous, tremendous,” Rivera described Wood’s performance. “Just an outstanding job. The whole team did an outstanding job, but Kerry was tremendous.”
Tremendous might be a good way to describe the two last months for Wood as a Yankee. After a dominant performance as the eighth-inning guy, Wood has allowed just one hit with four strikeouts in four innings this series.
Phil Hughes will pitch Game 6 on Friday, and if he throws better than his Game 2 loss, Wood will get another chance to dominate the Texas lineup.