Yankees Haunted by Questions, Missed Opportunities After Game 4 Loss to Rangers

James Stewart-Meudt@@JSMeudtCorrespondent IIOctober 20, 2010

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 19:  A.J. Burnett #34 of the New York Yankees reacts after giving up a three-run home run to Bengie Molina #11 of the Texas Rangers in the top of the sixth inning in Game Four of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium on October 19, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Where to begin?

Last night at Yankee Stadium, Bengie Molina and Josh Hamilton propelled the Texas Rangers to a 10-3 drubbing of the New York Yankees to take a three games to one lead in the ALCS.

With New York now on the brink of elimination, Game 4 could mark the final nail in the coffin for the Yankees.

There is so much to break down from this game. So many things that could've gone the Yankees' way didn't, and there were so many missed opportunities and questionable decisions.

To make it easier, let's break the big ones down one at a time.

The Cano home run in the second inning

With no one on and one out in the second, Robinson Cano homered to right field. As Rangers OF Nelson Cruz went back on the ball, tracking it the whole way, Yankees fans in right field stood up, hoping to get themselves a souvenir. Cruz leapt, trying to make the catch, and after it went out claimed fan interference.

Looking back on the play, there were basically three fans involved. Two of them were going for the ball, while a third seemed to be going for Cruz's glove. While the umpires wouldn't even entertain the idea of fan interference, despite the pleading from Cruz and Texas manager Ron Washington, the question of interference is debatable.

In my opinion, this is not nearly as clear-cut as the Jeffrey Maier incident in 1996, which is drawing the comparisons. Once Cruz put his glove into the stands, whatever happens is his own fault. You can't expect the fans to get out of the way.

Now it did seem as if one of the fans swatted at Cruz's glove and wasn't going for the ball at all. If that's the case, Cruz did have a case, and the umpires should've taken another look. It looked like the ball was out of Cruz's reach anyway, but if the fan intentionally went for Cruz's glove, is that interference?

The bottom of the fourth inning

With the game tied 2-2, the Yankees loaded the bases with one out. After the Rangers made a pitching change, Brett Gardner came up against Derek Holland. Gardner hit a well-struck ball into the hole at short that Elvis Andrus made a diving stop on to nail Cano at third. A-Rod scored the go-ahead run, giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead, but Andrus' play killed any chance the Yankees had for a bigger inning.

If Andrus can't make that play, Cano might have scored from second, or at least the bases would've stayed loaded. Instead, Cano was the second out, and Francisco Cervelli, starting in place of Jorge Posada, struck out to end the inning. That play would loom large because in the sixth inning...

The Molina home run

Yankee manager Joe Girardi's decision to give the struggling A.J. Burnett the start in Game 4 was met with a lot of criticism. Enough has already been said about "should he" or "shouldn't he," so we won't get into that. He did, end of story. But the bigger question is why Girardi left Burnett in the game as long as he did.

In the top of the sixth, Nelson Cruz singled and took second base on a fly ball off the bat of Ian Kinsler. At this point, Girardi should've pulled Burnett. Joba Chamberlain was already warmed up and ready to come in. Burnett had only given up two runs and would've been able to leave the game to cheering from the fans.

Instead, Girardi chose not only to leave Burnett in the game, but to also put the go-ahead run on base by intentionally walking David Murphy. Okay, so now he makes the move to Chamberlain, right? Wrong.

Burnett was left in the game to pitch to Bengie Molina, who proceeded to crush a three-run homer to left field, giving Texas the 5-3 lead and sending Burnett to the showers. As soon as the ball left Molina's bat, Alex Rodriguez put his hands on his knees and dropped his head. Even beneath the mask, you could see Cervelli's reaction.

This was by far the dumbest decision Girardi has made this entire postseason and will probably come to symbolize the Yankees' play if they lose the series.

We all know the rest of the story. The Yankee bullpen would implode again, this time to the tune of five runs, all earned, on seven hits. In the seventh, Yankee reliever Boone Logan gave up the first of Josh Hamilton's two home runs; the other came in the ninth inning off Sergio Mitre. Mitre would also cough up a two-run homer to Nelson Cruz for good measure.

The Yankee fans who had the stomach to stay till the end would see a 10-3 final score and find the Yankees in shambles, on the verge of elimination.

Tonight, they'll try to stay alive with CC Sabathia on the mound. They'll have to do it, however, without first baseman Mark Teixeira, who went down with a hamstring injury in the fifth inning and has already been ruled out for the rest of the postseason should the Yankees make it any further.

It's going to be a tall order to not only win tonight, but also get the series to a seventh game. Even if they manage to do it, the Yankees will have to face Cliff Lee...again.

Make no mistakeโ€”if the Yankees are eliminated tonight, the fans are going to look at last night's Game 4 with disgust. Whatever or whoever you choose to blame, there is plenty to choose from and really no wrong choice.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.