The Texas Rangers lost their first ever game when attempting to clinch a pennant. On an overcast day at Yankee Stadium, it was the Yankees who fought off elimination, bringing out the bats against C.J. Wilson. This game went the Yankees' way, the same way it had gone the Rangers' way over the last three games.
It's not as if the Rangers couldn't hit CC Sabathia—they just couldn't come through in the clutch, and after some home runs by New York, it was a 7-2 defeat for Texas in Game 5 of the ALCS.
Tomorrow will be an off-day in the series, as it shifts back to Arlington for a Game 6 on Friday and potentially Game 7 on Saturday.
The Rangers are still in the driver's seat with Cliff Lee ready for a one-and-done Game 7 if needed.
Here's a report card for the Rangers, breaking down what went wrong in their loss on Wednesday.
The Rangers certainly put together enough hits to win this game and end the series. Against CC Sabathia for a second time in the series, Texas got 11 hits but could barely capitalize. While Sabathia was giving up hits, he wasn't walking anyone and was getting every big out needed to end rallies.
The Rangers started wasting opportunities immediately. They got a leadoff single to begin the game from Elvis Andrus, but Michael Young hit into a double play. Josh Hamilton then got a single, but Vladimir Guerrero struck out looking. So already the Rangers had two hits and didn't score when they could've put the hammer down early.
In both the second and third innings, the Rangers stole bases and didn't score, stranding Andrus at third to end the third inning. A Nelson Cruz double in the fourth inning didn't produce anything after falling down 5-0. Catcher Matt Treanor led off the fifth with a home run to left field to try to spark some life.
The biggest inning of the game came in the sixth. The Rangers, still trailing 5-1, had a chance to put a dent in the Yankees' lead and get into their bullpen before Mariano Rivera. They loaded the bases with one out but only scored a run on a Treanor ground out. With two runners in scoring position, Sabathia battled Mitch Moreland and struck him out looking on the eighth pitch of the at-bat on an 80 mile-per-hour slider.
That was the end of the Rangers' rally— they never threatened again against Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera. Just like the Yankees have had plenty of missed opportunities in this series with the bats, so did the Rangers in this game.
They just have to hope it doesn't cost them the series.
C.J. Wilson did a good job of limiting Yankees hitters in Game 1 on Friday but struggled mightily in this game.
After he retired the side in order in the first, he couldn't find the strike zone in the second. He issued a leadoff walk to Alex Rodriguez and two batters later walked Lance Berkman. Jorge Posada then singled in a run, giving the Yankees a 1-0 lead. Perhaps the biggest batter of the game for the Yankees, Curtis Granderson, singled in two more runs.
Along with some sloppy defense, Wilson's entire game came crashing down. He was ineffective and at least gave the bullpen some rest by pitching five innings.
What basically put the game out of reach was in the third. Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano hit home runs to begin the inning, extending the Yankees lead to 5-0. Wilson did do a decent job of not letting the game become a complete blowout in the fifth. He loaded the bases, but the Yankees only scored one run—a Berkman sacrifice fly to center. He would retire Posada to end the inning and his day.
It was a disappointing performance, as he didn't even give his team a chance to end the series, this time getting outpitched by Sabathia.
Wilson wouldn't pitch again until Game 2 of the World Series should the Rangers get there.
After C.J. Wilson was pulled from the game, left-hander Michael Kirkman made his postseason debut. It was a pretty good job by Kirkman under the pressure of pitching a first-ever playoff game at Yankee Stadium.
The game wasn't quite out of reach, as Texas was trailing 6-2 when he came in, and he pitched two solid innings. He escaped trouble in the sixth after allowing a leadoff double to Granderson. With runners on the corners and one out, Kirkman induced an inning-ending double play off Swisher to keep it a four-run deficit.
With a runner at second and one out in the seventh, Kirkman got the next two outs and left a good first impression on his manager and pitching coach. They could perhaps use him in a tough spot in the coming games.
In the eighth, Alexi Ogando came on, and he didn't fare quite as well. Knowing Mariano Rivera wasn't likely to blow a four-run lead in the ninth, he made it impossible to come back, allowing a home run to Granderson, making it 7-2. But, the game was basically done anyway, with the Yankees closer set to come in.
This really wasn't a great game by manager Ron Washington. No, it's not his fault his team couldn't hit in the clutch and his starter didn't have it, but he left his starter in way too long. After C.J. Wilson had already surrendered five runs in the first three innings, Washington allowed him to continue pitching into the fifth.
Once Wilson walked Swisher to start the fifth, the plug should've been pulled. Wilson shouldn't have still been in the game anyway, and he definitely shouldn't have been after clearly struggling to get through the fifth.
Even the first out he got was a Cano line drive to center field. A lefty—perhaps Kirkland—would've been the smart move to face Cano, but Washington got away with it.
The part in the fifth where Washington really got carried away was after Wilson allowed a ground-rule double to Alex Rodriguez. He allowed him to stay in and intentionally walk a batter after the guy couldn't throw any normal strikes. Berkman then hit a sacrifice fly, which if hit harder could've been a grand slam.
Then Wilson was left in to face Posada and finally got the third out to end the inning. There was absolutely no point in allowing Wilson to pitch as deep as he did.
The Rangers were only losing 5-1 at that point, and Washington wasn't giving his team a chance to take a breath and get ready to make a comeback.
So, with the Rangers failing to clinch the pennant on the road, the series travels back to Rangers Ballpark at Arlington.
It's pretty simple from here. If the Yankees want to complete a miraculous comeback, they must win on Friday and beat Cliff Lee on Saturday. The Rangers only need to go 1-for-2 and have their safety net rested and ready to go.
Looking to avoid having to use Lee in Game 7 to save him for the start of the World Series, the Rangers will pitch Colby Lewis in a rematch of Game 2, which the Rangers won. Lewis had a good game, pitching into the sixth inning.
Phil Hughes was who Lewis was matched up against, and he got rocked hard. The Rangers got him for seven runs on 10 hits in only four innings of work.
If this series goes the distance, the Yankees will trot Andy Pettitte back out. All the Yankees could hope for is to find a way to win two in a row and touch Lee just a little bit more than in Game 3.
Both teams will have an off day in Texas on Thursday, as this series is coming down to its anxious moments. Below is a look at Friday night's starting pitchers' numbers from Game 2.
4 IP, 7 ER, 10 hits, 3 BB, 3 SO (Loss)
5.2 IP, 2 ER, 6 hits, 3 BB, 6 SO (Win)