For all the discussion about how Cliff Lee could decide the American League Championship Series in a potential Game 7, it turned out the Texas Rangers needed only one start from their starting ace to dethrone the New York Yankees and clinch the AL pennant for the first time in franchise history.
And as the Yankees attempt to pick up the pieces from a failed quest to win their 28th World Series championship, they should be able to point to a myriad of reasons why a season in which they finished with the second-best record in the American League ended in disappointment.
This on-going analysis should also result in the identification of five main reasons New York is entering an offseason full of uncertainty much sooner than they could have possibly imagined. Ultimately though, any which way the pie is sliced, the Bronx Bombers were humbled by a team that could have destiny on their side in this year’s postseason.
5. David Robertson’s Inability to Hold Close Games
In the 61 innings he was called upon during the regular season, Yankees right-handed reliever David Robertson held 14 games and amassed 71 strikeouts. Robertson’s numbers included an ERA of 3.82 and a WHIP of 1.50.
But among New York’s relievers in the ALCS, the Rangers roughed up Robertson more than any other to the tune of six earned runs on eight hits in only two innings. Robertson finished the series with a dismal ERA of 20.25 and a WHIP of 3.38.
Robertson’s unreliability allowed Texas to blow open close games in Game 3 and Game 6 to expand deficits from which the Yankees were unable to recover.
Game 3 saw the Rangers turn a 3-0 contest into a 8-0 blowout with Robertson on the mound while in Game 6, outfielder Nelson Cruz belted a two-out, two-run home run off Robertson to give the Rangers a 5-1 lead and propel them into the World Series.
4. Power Outage of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira
For a duo that combined for 63 home runs and 233 RBI, to say that Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira failed to come through in the ALCS would be a gross understatement.
In 21 plate appearances, Rodriguez managed to come up with only four hits and two RBI to finish with an anemic batting average of .190. Meanwhile, Teixeira didn’t register a single hit in his 14 at-bats prior to bowing out of the series with a hamstring injury in Game 4.
The lack of production from the Yankees corner infielders left AL MVP candidate Robinson Cano to carry the offensive load for the team, which he did with flying colors. However, Cano’s power display needed to be supplemented by similar efforts from Rodriguez and Teixeira for New York to have a shot at winning the series.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, the power went off somewhere between the end of the American League Divisional Series and the beginning of the ALCS and they’re still waiting for it to come back on.
3. Ineffectiveness of Phil Hughes
Phil Hughes won an impressive 18 games in the regular season for New York but he also had an unusually high 4.19 ERA, which translates to having a significant amount of run support during his starts. But as evidenced in the ALCS, when the run support wasn’t as robust, Hughes’ shortcomings became increasingly glaring.
Hughes was the loser of Game 2 and Game 6 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, where he gave up 11 earned runs on 14 hits and walked seven while only striking out six. Hughes’ ERA in his two starts was 11.42.
When the No. 2 starter puts up those kinds of numbers in a best-of-seven series, chances are his team isn’t advancing to the next round. This holds true for any team in baseball; even the New York Yankees.
2. Colby Lewis Outshines Cliff Lee
Of all the starters on the Rangers pitching staff, Colby Lewis was arguably the last one who would have been expected to shine the brightest against the Yankees. Nevertheless, it was Lewis who channeled his inner Cliff Lee to shut down New York’s vaunted offense in Game 2 and Game 6.
Thus, the same Colby Lewis who finished with a 12-13 record and an ERA of 3.72 this season went 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA on the biggest stage of his career. More importantly, Lewis’ performances keyed Texas to a critical victory in Game 2 to even the series and a win in Game 6 to clinch the pennant.
He may have not been a household name prior to the ALCS but, as far as the Yankees are concerned, Colby Lewis is a name that will not soon be forgotten.
1. The Rangers Were the Better Team
As hard as it might be for Yankees fans to admit, the Rangers outhit, outhustled and outpitched New York throughout a series that could have just as easily been a sweep as opposed to a six-game affair.
Texas scored twice as many runs (38-19), their batting average was more than a hundred points higher (.304 vs. .201) and their pitching staff’s ERA was nearly three points lower (2.76 vs. 6.58) compared to the Yankees.
So, in essence, the ALCS really wasn’t as close as the six-game outcome would make it appear. Simply put, the Rangers wanted it more.
And that may very well be the toughest reason for the Yankees and their fans to accept of them all.