A gutsy, heads-up play by Brett Gardner set up a stunning five run eighth inning for the New York Yankees, who came back from four runs down to beat the Texas Rangers, 6-5, and take Game 1 of the ALCS last night in Arlington. Gardner beat Rangers' starting picther, C.J. Wilson, to the bag with a headfirst slide after pulling a groundball to first in the top of the eighth.
With that play, the Yankees would go on to score runs on RBI hits from Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Marcus Thames (how clutch has he been?!). By the time the Texas fans could put down their hot dogs, the Yankees had stolen Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
Yankees' starter, C.C. Sabathia was shaky right from the start, walking Elvis Andrus and giving up a single to Michael Young before Josh Hamilton stung him for a three-run homer that barely cleared the right field wall. Later, in the fourth inning, Young would add a two-run double to put the Rangers up 5-0. Sabathia went only four innings, surrendering those five runs on six hits while walking four.
C.J. Wilson pitched well enough to get the win last night and was visibly upset in the dugout as he watched the Yankees come back in the eighth. After the infield single to Gardner, Wilson gave up a double down the left field line to Derek Jeter before being pulled by manager Ron Washington.
Wilson's line was as follows: 7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K. A solid start but it wasn't enough.
Even though Wilson pitched deeper into the game than Sabathia, Game 1 was really determined in a battle of bullpens. The Yankees' bullpen shut the Rangers down from the fourth inning on. Relievers Joba Chamberlain, Dustin Moseley and Kerry Wood didn't surrender a single hit and only allowed two runners to reach base.
The Rangers' bullpen was not so dependable.
Relievers Darren Oliver, who replaced C.J. Wilson in the eighth, walked Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira to load the bases before being lifted for Darren O'Day, who proceeded to give up the go-ahead, two-run single to Alex Rodriguez (bet that must have hurt a bit Mr. Hicks). The Yankees would add RBI singles off of Clay Rapada and Derek Holland.
Once the Yankees had the lead, the game was over. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was quiet enough to hear a pin drop because they knew who was coming into the game in the ninth. Mariano Rivera did what he's done his entire career—close games and break hearts.
In a game of bullpen vs. bullpen, the Yankees won. They were able to wait out C.J. Wilson and let the game come to them. Sabathia was anything but solid, and although he put his team in a 5-0 hole after only four innings of work, we all know he's better than that.
If the Yankees can get better starts from Pettitte and Hughes in Games 2 and 3, the Yankees wont even need their bullpen to do that sort of heavy lifting again. Even if the Rangers are able to get into the Yankees' bullpen again, they wont have any more of a chance after what they saw last night.
Who knows, will we see an ALCS clinching victory from A.J. Burnett?