ALCS Game 1: A Comeback For Yankees, a Collapse For Rangers
In the 1999 movie Unbreakable, the character played by Samuel L. Jackson explained that the incredible fragility of his bone structure, the reason he was derisively known as Mr. Glass, was directly tied to the fact that Bruce Willis' character was seemingly invincible.
Mr. Glass reasoned that if there's someone in the world who represents the extreme on one end, then the universe must have a person somewhere who represents the opposite end of the spectrum.
It made Jackson and Willis natural foes, and their relationship served as the crux of one of the last decent movies M. Night Shyamalan made before people started exiting theaters saying things like, "Hey, how long do you think M. Night has been hiding his brain injury?"
I bring this up because if you caught the camera shot of Nolan Ryan after the Yankees rallied to go ahead of the Rangers on Friday night—rotten scowl, arms folded, chin melded to his chest—you know that I was 1,500 miles away with the exact opposite expression.
If you've been caught off-guard by this resourceful, tenacious side of the Yankees, you're not alone. This was a championship-caliber win, the type of victory I never thought this team had in them as recently as 10 days ago.
CC Sabathia gets knocked out of the game after four innings, you expect to lose. Your offense goes silent for six straight innings to begin the game, you figure you have no shot. Fall down five runs, on the road, in a playoff game, you should probably pack it in. And yet, the Yankees will wake up on Saturday morning with a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven ALCS.
It couldn't have been done without the following people:
Dustin Moseley: The casual Yankee fan sitting next to you at the bar had no idea who Moseley was when he entered the game. Even you may have only known the right-hander as the guy who is (slightly) better than Chad Gaudin. But Moseley's two scoreless innings turned out to be huge for a Yankee team that trailed 5-0 by the time Sabathia was pulled from the game. Moseley was credited with his first postseason victory. It was much deserved.
Brett Gardner: He's gritty, he's gutty, and now he has his signature moment as a Yankee. Gardner's hustle infield single leading off the eighth inning — including poorly thought-out headfirst slide! — seemed harmless at the time, but it became the spark that ignited the Yankees' winning rally. Bonus points are in order for Gardy giving Craig Sager the "You don't expect me to take you seriously?" look throughout his postgame interview.
Derek Jeter: I wrote on Wednesday that I thought that Jeter would rise to the occasion in the ALCS; his usual October brilliance melding with a final opportunity to gain leverage in upcoming contract negotiations. So far, so good for Jeter, who doubled twice in Game 1. His first two-bagger drove in Gardner, sending New York's classic rally into overdrive.
Alex Rodriguez: A-Rod was having a night to forget until the top of the eighth (0-for-3, error), when his bases-loaded double quieted the Arlington crowd and drew the Yankees within one run. It was type of hit that Rodriguez regularly delivered during the 2009 postseason, and it proved No. 13's flair for the dramatic remains intact.
Ron Washington: I don't want to be too hard on Washington, who was betrayed by his bullpen and probably would be a great dude to listen to old jazz records with. But his decision not to turn to Neftali Feliz as the game unraveled in the eighth was ripe for first-, second- and third-guessing. Having a lefty come in to face Marcus Thames in a tie game wasn't the wisest move, either.
President George W. Bush: In fairness, Dubya wasn't really to blame for the Rangers' mess, but his attendance at the game did lead to the tweet of the night by ESPN the Magazine senior writer @jorgearangure: "I bet George W Bush authorized a sign that read "Mission Accomplished" after the 7th inning." Ouch.
Mariano Rivera: You can gauge how big a win is by how Mo reacts after getting the final out. In this case, it was both a passionate fist pump and shout. That's a 9/10 on the Mo Scale. Allowing the leadoff single to pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland led to some tense moments, but Rivera got it done like he has so many times before. Beating Michael Young and Josh Hamilton to end it was no easy feat, the G.O.A.T. just made it look that way.
- It seemed like glorified mop-up duty at the time, but at least Joba Chamberlain can finally say he has a place in the 2010 postseason. Pretty amazing that he's went from future of the franchise to playoff fringe guy in little over a year. Will this reality serve as a wake up call that makes him work harder to improve himself in the off-season? Or are we watching the start of a descent into oblivion? Vegas has even odds.
- Derek Jeter Contract Watch: Four years, $52 million (up one year, $7 million since beginning of ALCS).
- Must admit I was pretty disappointed by Sabathia's performance. There was an undeniable Chien-Ming-Wang-in-'07-ALDS stench to the whole proceedings. Clearly the layoff affected him, but he seemed genuinely rattled at times as well. The big man needs to be better. A lot better.
- Funny how the "Yankees suck!" chants in Arlington died down by the late innings. Weird how that works.
- Will be interesting to see how Rangers bounce back from a truly wretched defeat. A weaker team (see: Twins, Minnesota) would lay down and die after a loss like that. We'll find out how Washington's bunch reacts on Saturday.
- Phil Hughes' career numbers in Arlington: 15 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 13 K, 1 no-hitter ruined by a douchechill hamstring. I'm just sayin' ...
- Important River & Sunset program note: I will be live blogging Game 2 of the ALCS right here on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET. Join me won't you?
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