The Rangers of the past used to start crumbling around this time, but this years' team just keeps finding new ways to win.
Last night the Yankees and the Rangers played a close back and forth game which was to be expected with New York's up-and-coming pitching prospect Joba Chamberlain pitching against the only veteran left on Texas' staff, Vincente Padilla.
Padilla looked the most composed he has on the mound all season and probably had the most reasons to come undone.
A questionable strike zone in the first inning led to extra pitches and the Yankees getting an early 1-0 lead. Padilla's frustration could be seen on his face, but not in his pitching. He kept it together and got out of the inning.
Yankees 1, Rangers 0
Then in the fourth Padilla gave up solo home runs to Jason Giambi and Robinson Cano, but still Padilla did not lose his cool on the mound.
Yankees 3, Rangers 0
It was the fifth inning where I would have lost it and it was where manager Ron Washington lost it, but not Padilla.
After giving up a lead-off single to Johnny Damon, Padilla struck out Derek Jeter. That's when it fell apart. With Bobby Abreu batting, Padilla "balked" Damon to second. From what I saw, the balk was called because Padilla did not come set (meaning coming to a complete stop in his motion before going to the plate). There aren't too many pitchers in the majors these days that come to a complete stop.
But after some confusion, Abreu's at bat continued and he would ground out to Rangers' first baseman Chris Davis. With two outs Damon was at third. Padilla worked out of his windup with no threat of a base runner trying to steal.
It appeared that Alex Rodriguez had called time out at the plate and Padilla stepped off the rubber. But according to the first base umpire, no time was called and Damon was sent home on Padilla's second balk of the inning.
Padilla and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia looked befuddled while Washington said enough to the umpire to get to the locker room early. Padilla then got Rodriguez to ground out and was out of the inning.
Yankees 4, Rangers 2
And just when you thought the fifth inning couldn't get any stranger, it did.
Ramon Vazquez led off the inning with a single. Then Ian Kinsler grounded into a double play, or did he?
The ball barely made it past home plate, but as originally called, made it far enough to be in play. Vazquez was thrown out at second by newly acquired Yank Ivan Rodriguez while the double play was made easy by Kinsler who just stood at home looking at the spot where the ball stopped.
Now it was Art Howe's turn to discuss a call (Howe became the Rangers' manager when Washington was thrown out), not argue, but discuss. Then the umpires did the smartest thing they had done all game, got together and talked about it.
The call was changed to a foul ball and Kinsler was still alive. He worked that into a walk and with two on and one out Michael Young drilled a line shot over the right field wall for a three-run home run and the Rangers had the lead.
Yankees 4, Rangers 5
But in the top of the eighth the Rangers' Frank Francisco couldn't hold the lead. Francisco gave up a solo home run, barely. The ball just found its way, not over just the wall, but also Marlon Byrd's stretched out glove and Xavier Nady had once again come through big for his new team, and the game was tied.
Yankees 5, Rangers 5
Bottom of the ninth, tie game, bases loaded and two out. Josh Hamilton had just walked to load the bases and that brought Byrd to the plate, the same Byrd that had just missed robbing Nady of the game tying home run.
Damaso Marte was on the mound for the Yankees in his second inning of work and ball four to Hamilton was his 41st pitch of the night. Known as a lefty specialist a pitch count that high is unusual for Marte, but he stayed in to face Byrd.
That's when the graphic came up. Byrd this season was 1-7 with the bases loaded, but that one hit was a grand slam. So with a tired pitcher on the mound who had just walked the bases loaded, would Byrd take a few pitches and possibly work a walk. In a word, no.
Byrd deposited Marte's first pitch fastball into the seats in right center field and the runs started pouring in. Travis Metcalf was the official winning run followed by Gerald Laird then Hamilton and finally followed by Byrd who was welcomed by a mosh pit of Rangers.
Yankees 5, Rangers 9
It marked the Rangers third walk-off win in eight games and while Padilla didn't get the win, he set the tone and was the veteran ace the Rangers needed to start off the series strong.