October 2010

See what happens when games start early

The television ratings for the World Series between the Giants and the Rangers have been dreadful. Oh, how Fox would have loved Yankees vs. Phillies.

I hope that the ratings for Saturday night’s Game 3, which started an hour before the others, are impressive enough that the powers that be in baseball realize that World Series starting times have been too late for a sizeable part of the population and will hold fast in the future on a first pitch at 7 p.m. Eastern time.

I can dream, can’t I?

I always go back to this situation. When Bill Mazeroski homered to win the World Series for the Pirates against the Yankees in 1960, I as a schoolboy saw it happen. When Joe Carter homered to win the World Series for the Blue Jays against the Phillies in 1993, my school-aged children were in bed. Game 7 in 1960 was a day game. Game 6 in 1993 was a night game with a first pitch of about 8:45 Eastern.

It helped that there was a decent game with enough drama going on Saturday night to keep channel surfers stuck to the Series.

The drama was clearly from the Texas point of view. Down 2-0 in games, a loss by the Rangers would have been disastrous. Colby Lewis, whom I had suggested was as deserving of Most Valuable Player designation in the American League Championship Series as Josh Hamilton, had another gutting start and gave up two runs on solo shots by Cody Ross and Andres Torres in 7 1/3 innings.

For all those experts that chided Rangers manager Ron Washington for not getting rookie closer Neftali Feliz’s feet wet in the Series at some point in the first two games in San Francisco, the smoke the righthander threw in the ninth inning was all the evidence needed that his knees have stopped banging together in the post-season.

And it was all over in 2 hours, 51 minutes. Go ratings!

Helicopters were hovering over Rangers Ballpark In Arlington as part of the security coverage with former President (and Rangers owner) George Bush in attendance. Sunday night, he and his father, another President named George Bush, will be in Arlington to throw out the ceremonial first pitch(es). My money is on No. 43 throwing a strike the way he did during the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium after the terrorist attacks, still among the most spine-tingling moments I have ever witnessed.

Moreland showed mojo vs. Mo

Of all the players I have watched in this post-season who I did not know much about, the one who has impressed me most is Mitch Moreland, who shot the Rangers into a 3-0 lead in Game 3 of the World Series with a home run off Jonathan Sanchez in the second inning.

I liked the way Moreland hung in there against Mariano Rivera in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. Moreland was sent up as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning of that game after the Yankees had rallied for five runs in the eighth inning to take the lead. I made a notation to keep an eye on this guy when Moreland lined a single to right-center off a reliever who has made his reputation embarrassing left-handed hitters.

Moreland got another hit off Mo in Game 5 and hit a smoking liner off him that was caught for an out in Game 6. I liked Moreland’s approach in each of those at-bats and couldn’t believe it when I learned that the Rangers once tried to talk this guy into giving it up as a position player and switch to pitching. Someone who showed so much savvy in the batter’s box had potential as a big-league hitter, in my view.

So I watched closely again Saturday night as Moreland dueled Sanchez, showing a good eye on balls off the plate and fouling off several close offerings in a nine-pitch at-bat that was climaxed by teeing off on a 89-mph fastball that had “crush me” written underneath Bud Selig’s signature.

On a night when the Rangers were in the position of the volunteers at the Alamo against a Giants team that has been as dominant in the Series as Santa Ana’s forces, Moreland got off a Davy Crockett blow. The only surprise to me is why this guy is still batting ninth.

Girardi regime continues

I will be flying to Dallas Friday at the time the Yankees will make an announcement at Yankee Stadium in which they are expected to say they have signed Joe Girardi to a new contract as manager, reportedly for three years. I am going to Arlington for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s annual meeting and will return Sunday night and resume blogging the Series Monday night, if they are still playing.

So I’ll toss out some comments before boarding.

Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made it clear that the club’s first priority was to get the manager’s signature on a new contract. There was some drama thrown into Girardi’s re-upping when the Cubs job became available following the mid-season retirement of Lou Piniella. Girardi’s Illinois roots and background with the Cubs as a player made for interesting speculation, but the Yankees were always the better option for Joe even if Chicago tugged at his sleeve.

The Cubs’ removal of the interim tag on Mike Quade made Girardi’s decision easier. The Yankees are pleased with his work that has resulted in two post-season appearances and a World Series title. Now that the managerial situation is settled, the Yankees can get down to the business of straightening out the coaching staff and getting into contract negotiations with Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte and working on a strategy for the free-agent market after the World Series ends.

This is the time of year that you will hear a lot of rumors. One already making the rounds is that Brewers pitching coach Rick Peterson may replace the departed Dave Eiland. Peterson, the son of former Yankees general manager Pete Peterson, may not be available, however. There has been talk that with Ken Macha gone as Brewers manager, Peterson will have to look elsewhere.

My information is that it was not only his relationship in Oakland with Macha that led to Peterson getting hired in Milwaukee but also that he was coveted by general manager Doug Melvin, who reportedly is telling managerial candidates being interviewed that Peterson will remain as pitching coach.

Rangers exposed in World Series

I know what you’re thinking, Yankees fans. Couldn’t the Bombers have given the Giants a better game to this point in the World Series?

There is a tendency to think that way until you consider that the Yankees batted only .201 in the American League Championship Series against a Texas pitching staff that has allowed 20 runs and 22 hits to the Giants in two games. It didn’t appear that the Rangers could look worse than in losing, 11-7, in Game 1, but they were even more horrible in the 9-0 debacle in Game 2.

This was actually a pitcher’s duel for seven innings, although the Giants’ Matt Cain had a decided edge over the Rangers’ C.J. Wilson, who was forced out of the game because of a blistered finger one batter into the seventh. There was nothing in the San Francisco eighth that could be called a duel, however. The first two Giants batters struck out, then after a soft single to center by Buster Posey, Halloween came early for Texas.

Derek Holland, who had pitched so brilliantly against the Yankees in the ALCS, came out of the bullpen and threw 11 straight pitches out of the strike zone on the way to loading the bases and forcing in a run. Mark Lowe walked in another run before the Giants swung the bats and got a two-run single from Edgar Renteria and RBI hits from Aaron Rowand (triple) and Andres Torres (double). Seven two-out runs made it 13 of the 20 in the Series for the Giants.

It turned out to be another lopsided game in a World Series to decide a season that was characterized by outstanding pitching. Cain aside, we have seen little of that in the Series. The Giants righthander ran his string of post-season innings without allowing an earned run to 21 1/3 in which he has allowed 13 hits and five walks with 13 strikeouts.

Despite being routed in Game 1, the Rangers walked only one batter (by Cliff Lee yet), but they gave up four free passes in the eighth, which must have given team president Nolan Ryan a feeling of déjà vu. The all-time strikeout leader is also the career leader in bases on balls by a pitcher.

A Texas offense that hit .306 against the Yankees in the ALCS and had 11 hits in Game 1 of the World Series had three singles and a double in getting shut out Thursday night. The closest the Rangers came to scoring was in the fifth when Ian Kinsler led off with a drive to deep center, but the ball struck the top of the fence like an old Spalding off a New York neighborhood stoop and fell back to the field. Kinsler had to settle for a double and never advanced beyond second base.

Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton, the AL Most Valuable Player favorite, looks like a different player against the Giants than he was against the Yankees. Hamilton was the MVP of the ALCS, batting .350 with four home runs, seven RBI and eight walks, half of them intentional. He worried the Yankees so much that manager Joe Girardi chose to walk Hamilton on purpose three times in one game. The Giants have challenged Hamilton, who is 1-for-8 with one walk (not intentional) in the World Series.

The offensive stars of the Series are the aging left side of the San Francisco infield – Renteria, 34, at shortstop and third baseman Jose Uribe, 30. When the score was only 2-0, they had driven in the runs, Renteria with a home run in the fifth and Uribe with a single in the seventh. Each has homered and combined to bat .357 with eight RBI and six runs scored.

Imagine what Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez make of that?

Front-runners jump on Giants

What is it about Game 1 of a playoff series that makes everyone want to jump the gun? One victory by the Giants Wednesday night in the World Series, and gloom and doom is predicted for the Rangers.

Sure, Texas had a bad night. The Rangers lost to what is considered an offensively-challenged team that scored 11 runs, seven of which (six earned) came against their ace, Cliff Lee, who had previously been lights out in the post-season.

Beating the Rangers on a night Lee starts is certainly a coup for the Giants, but let’s not start the victory parade in the City by the Bay just yet, shall we. Remember, this Texas team suffered a debilitating defeat in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series to the Yankees, and at home yet, and still came back to win the series in six games with Lee starting only one of them.

As the Yankees learned, momentum can shift depending on the result of Game 2. If the Rangers win the second game, as they did in the ALCS, the World Series takes a different turn with the next three games in Texas.

The big change in Game 2 is that Rangers manager Ron Washington decided to keep Vlad Guerrero on the bench. Guerrero was Texas’ designated hitter most of the year but to stay in the lineup he needed to play the field at AT&T Park in San Francisco, a National League city where the DH is barred. Once a dependable right fielder with a strong arm, Guerrero had a brutal game defensively as he committed two errors, one for each run he drove in at the plate.

AT&T Park is almost the reverse of Yankee Stadium, so playing Guerrero in spacious right field was questionable at the outset. Considering Vlad’s offensive output (.300, 29 home runs, 115 RBI), it was too tempting for Washington not to give the former AL Most Valuable Player a glove. Sitting him in Game 2 must have been a difficult decision, but it will force Giants manager Bruce Bochy to make some tough ones of his own late in the game knowing who is in that opposing dugout and ready to grab a bat.

Giants push Lee off cliff

Cliff Lee’s invincible reputation as a post-season pitcher took its first hit Wednesday night in Game 1 of the World Series. The lefthander spit out a 2-0 lead and watched from the dugout after being knocked out in the fifth inning as the Giants rolled to an 8-2 spread on the way to an 11-7 victory.

Given his previous work in the post-season this year for the Rangers and last year for the Phillies, Lee seemed in total control at 2-0. He even helped build the second run with his bat on a double off a butcher-boy swing that got tortoise-slow Bengie Molina to third base from where he scored on a fly ball by Elvis Andrus.

Door closed, everybody might have thought considering that Lee had won three starts on the road in this post-season (two at Tropicana Field and one at Yankee Stadium) with a 0.75 ERA and had a career post-season mark of 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA.

The Giants’ comeback started with their starting pitcher, Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young Award winner with the violent delivery who settled in effectively after a shaky first two innings. Mitch Moreland, who doubled and was stranded in the fourth, was the only base runner off Lincecum after the Andrus sac fly until two out in the sixth when Ian Kinsler walked and scored on a double by Molina.

The Giants began chipping away in the third when an error by third baseman Michael Young opened the gate for a rally which Lee fed into by hitting a batter and giving up the second of three doubles to Freddy Sanchez. It looked as if Lee righted himself with two called strikeouts to end that inning followed by a perfect fourth. But he failed to stop San Francisco’s merry-go-round in the fifth after one-out doubles by Andres Torres and Sanchez tied the score.

After striking out Buster Posey, Lee, who never walks anybody, put Pat Burrell on with a wayward 3-2 pitch and gave up two-out singles to Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff as the Giants moved ahead. Lee was at 104 pitches, which is usually where he is in the ninth.

Juan Uribe, whose home run against the Phillies in the National League Championship Series got the Giants into the World Series, greeted reliever Darren O’Day with a three-run shot.

For Yankees fans, there was a dual pleasure in watching what happened to Lee after the way he had tormented them in the World Series last year and the American League Championship Series this year. The Yankees nearly traded for Lee in July, and it is no secret that he is high on their off-season shopping list. Should the Rangers triumph in the Series with Lee playing a major role, Texas may be able to persuade him to stay with a club on the rise located only a 40-minute flight away from his Arkansas home.

If the Rangers don’t win the Series, however, Lee might find rejoining his former Indians teammate CC Sabathia a better option. Much was made this week of a story in USA Today in which Lee’s wife, Kristen, complained about rude behavior toward Rangers family members in the stands at Yankee Stadium in which she said beer was tossed at them and that some fans in the upper deck spat upon them.

Lee said he could not blame the Yankees organization for the oafish behavior of some fans. Still, a wife’s view can be important to where a player signs. One of George Steinbrenner’s many strengths in the pursuit of free agents was his penchant for charming players’ wives in convincing them there was no better place to play, or shop, than in New York. The current front office could find Mrs. Lee to be quite a challenge.

At the seventh inning stretch at AT&T Park, Tony Bennett sang “God Bless America.” The singer, 84, has long been identified with the Bay Area because of his 1962 hit, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” He is, however, a native New Yorker. The former Anthony Benedetto grew up in Astoria, Queens, in the same neighborhood as a guy named Edward Ford, who would find success with the Yankees by the nickname of “Whitey.”

Memories of Giants in the World Series

The last time the Giants were in the World Series was in 2002. I covered that Series as the national baseball writer for the Hartford Courant newspaper and suffered one of my biggest disappointments.

It had nothing to do with the Giants losing. Baseball writers learn early on in their careers that the only thing worth rooting for is your story. Because of deadlines, writers work on their copy throughout the game. At times a certain storyline appears that you pursue and hope doesn’t get ruined by a turn of events.

The Giants had a 3-2 lead in games over the Angels heading into Game 6 at Anaheim. In the fifth inning, Shawon Dunston hit a two-run home run that broke a scoreless game. Two innings later, the Giants’ lead was up to 5-0 as they were on the verge of winning their first World Series since 1954 when they still played in New York at the Polo Grounds.

I thought back to that Series and knew the hero was a part-time outfielder named Dusty Rhodes, who came off the bench to get some huge hits for the Giants in their sweep of the Indians. Rhodes was 4-for-6 in that Series with two home runs and seven RBI.

Dunston, who had been a regular shortstop during his prime, was a bench player on those 2002 Giants. He was the designated hitter batting ninth in Game 6. A thought came to me, and I quickly typed out this lede:

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Move over, Dusty Rhodes, and make room for Shawon Dunston.

Just then, my pal Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register came over to me to chat about something. He looked at the sentence on my laptop screen and said, “Hey, that’s pretty good. I hope it holds up.”

The words were barely out of his mouth when Scott Spiezio belted a three-run home run to get the Angels to 5-3. The lede is still good, I told myself. An inning later, Darin Erstad homered and Troy Glaus doubled in two runs. There went my lede, and there went the Giants. The Angels won that game and the next one, too.

My other two experiences with the Giants in the World Series were in 1989 and 1962. In ’89, while typing early notes prior to Game 3 at Candlestick Park, the building started shaking. I saw the guys in the front row, all Bay Area writers, bolt for the exits. “This might be the big one,” one of them said.

It was big all right, an earthquake that registered 6.9 and shut down the World Series for 10 days. The people in San Francisco and Oakland were remarkable in the aftermath over the next two weeks as the area recovered not only from the quake but also the fires it caused in both cities, including the Presidio district where Yankees Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio was among those whose home was severely damaged.

On a more light-hearted note, there was 1962, the only year I ever played hooky from school – and I did it twice. The first time was in February to see the ticker-tape parade for John Glenn, the astronaut who had orbited Earth three times. The second time was Oct. 8, a Monday for Game 3 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium between the Yankees and the Giants, Whitey Ford versus Juan Marichal.

A friend of mine had gotten tickets from a business associate of his father. I had never been to a World Series game, but I knew my parents would not let me out of school for something like that. I was going to a Catholic high school in Nassau County, Long Island. We didn’t wear uniforms, but we had to wear jackets, ties and leather shoes. I left the house that way but instead of taking the bus to school I walked to the nearest LIRR station and took the train to Penn Station and the subway to the Bronx.

It was worth it. The Stadium was all dressed up with the red, white and blue bunting I had never before seen in color and on the field were Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, the central figures although neither one had a big Series. Marichal had to leave the game early because of an injury. The score was 2-2 in the seventh when Giants second baseman Chuck Hiller homered with the bases loaded. I didn’t find out until reading the paper the next day that it was the first grand slam hit by a National League player in World Series history.

It felt neat to have witnessed some history, but for most of my life I had to keep that day a secret. In fact, it was only a year ago that I finally told my mother and father what I had done. My father, who had been a Giants fan before switching to the Mets in the 1960s, said, “I wish I could have gone with you.”

Not so quiet at Stadium

It was not as quiet at Yankee Stadium Monday as you might think. Sure, the stands were empty, which is something the Yankees do not like at this time of year. Noise could be heard from several machines on the field as sod was being replaced and the infield configuration changed to accommodate off-season events such as concerts and a pair of college football games.

There were also the sounds emanating from the interview room where general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi began to address the challenges facing the Yankees in the off-season. The first order of business is that of Girardi himself. Cashman said he would meet with Girardi’s agent Tuesday to begin negotiations toward a new contract.

In discussing the team, Girardi said, “I don’t want to get into specifics when I don’t have a contract. Halloween is when my contract is up, so we’ll see if I’m a pumpkin.”

That was a joke. Rest assured that Girardi will be back. He wants to stay, and Cashman said the Yankees want him to stay, too.

That was the not the case with pitching coach Dave Eiland, who became the first off-season casualty. Cashman opened his session by announcing his decision not to retain Eiland.

“It has nothing to do with how we pitched in the playoffs,” Cashman said. “He is not being blamed. He is a good pitching coach who should have no problem getting another job.”

Cashman added that the reason was “private” and did not elaborate. The GM declined to say whether Eiland’s leave of absence in June for personal reasons was a factor.

The other piece of news to come out of the day was that Andy Pettitte had groin and back tightness in his American League Division Series start in Game 2 against the Twins. That was the main reason Girardi decided not to start him in Game 2 of the AL Championship Series in Texas and went with Phil Hughes instead. Girardi said that Pettitte’s condition was such that he wasn’t sure the lefthander could have been in position to start Game 5 of the ALDS had that series been pushed to the limit.

That decision proved fatal for the Yankees because it set up Hughes for Games 2 and 6 in the ALCS at Rangers Ballpark In Arlington, both of which he lost. I supported Girardi’s decision at the time because of the reasoning that he had put forth of having Pettitte go up against the Rangers’ Cliff Lee in Game 3 and, if necessary, Game 7, but in hindsight it hurt the Yankees.

That alone did not seal the Yankees’ faith. As poorly as they pitched (6.58 ERA), they hit even worse (.201) and were victimized by a hot team on the come, a franchise in a rejuvenation mood under the watchful eye of Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, the team president.

“They dominated us at every level of the game,” Cashman said. “We led the league in scoring and run differential, but you’d never know that if you watched us in that series. Texas was a locomotive that we couldn’t withstand. Our starting pitching that had been a strength became a weakness. We didn’t see the real Yankees, but the Rangers had a lot to do with that.”

So now the Yankees have to re-fuel. Beyond Girardi, contract negotiations will center on three quarters of the “Core Four” – Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter. For the second straight year, Pettitte is contemplating retirement. Rivera is 40 and showed some cracks during the season but remains head and shoulders over closers in the game. As for Jeter, there is the specter of a .270 regular season and .231 post-season that may be indications of advancing age.

Jeter will turn 37 during the 2011 season, and the question was raised about how long he will remain a shortstop.

“It is not something to get into now,” Girardi said. “I’m not assuming he is going to change positions. I still think he can play at a very high level.”

Girardi acknowledged, however, that Jeter as well as his long-time teammate Jorge Posada will have to be spelled on occasion more often.

“We played Derek more than we wanted,” Girardi said. “He has always played a lot of games, but we had stretches this year where he played 17, 18 days in a row and in one period 27 out of 28 days. We needed to play him every day when Alex [Rodriguez] was out. We found out with Jorgie that three games in a row [as a catcher] might be his limit. It will be important for Jeet and A-Rod to have DH days.”

“You look old when you don’t play well,” Cashman said. “We didn’t look old against Minnesota the week before. Texas made us look old.”

Both men pointed out that the Yankees have strived to get younger over the past year and are not old in the outfield with Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner or on the right side of the infield with first baseman Mark Teixeira and second baseman Robinson Cano. Cashman said that catching prospect Jesus Montero will get a shot at making the club in spring training. Eduardo Nunez will also likely blend himself into the infield picture.

Cashman tried to trade for Lee in July and almost had a deal. The lefthander can be a free agent at the end of the World Series. The Yankees are hoping his friendship with CC Sabathia will be an asset in their pursuit. Until then, Lee has unfinished business beginning with his start Wednesday night in Game 1 of the World Series. How Texas fares in the franchise’s first trip to the big dance in its 50th season may have a lot to with which way Lee leans in an off-season that has yet to begin for him but already has for the Yankees.

Another sub-par job by a Yanks starter

Thunderstorms threatened to hold up the start of Game 6 of the American League Championship Series Friday night at Rangers Ballpark In Arlington, but skies cleared to get the game under way. That was good news for the Yankees. A rainout would have allowed the Rangers to start Cliff Lee in Game 6 Saturday night.

Tired of hearing about Lee? So are the Yankees, especially Nick Swisher, whose profanity-laden response to queries about Lee from reporters was fodder for talk radio in Texas. It was kind of silly, really. Who can blame Swisher for getting hot when asked about Texas’ Game 7 starter when they hadn’t even played Game 6 yet.

It was odd to view CC Sabathia sitting in the bullpen. Counting post-season play, Sabathia has pitched in 335 major-league games, all of them starts. Friday was CC’s throw day between starts, but he didn’t have his usual session and was available to Yankees manager Joe Girardi for around 50 pitches if needed.

Help was needed in the fifth inning as Girardi had to replace Phil Hughes after Vlad Guerrero’s two-run double unlocked a 1-1 score, but it was David Robertson, not Sabathia, who came into the game and was greeted by a two-run home run by Nelson Cruz.

Hughes seemed to have settled down after a shaky first inning when the Rangers broke through for the first run and did not allow another hit until Guerrero’s game breaker. The Texas designated hitter got his first RBI of the series in the first inning with an infield out, but the Yankees continued to challenge him.

They walked Josh Hamilton intentionally with two down in the third to face Guerrero, and it worked as he popped out. The purposeful walk had a glitch as Hughes threw a wild pitch on one of the throws. With two out in the fifth and a runner on second, the Yankees walked Hamilton again. This time it backfired as Guerrero crushed a hanging breaking ball for a double to left-center.

Hughes’ outing was the latest sub-par one in the series for a Yankees starter. The rotation has a 7.11 ERA in the series, having allowed 25 earned runs and 42 hits in 31 2/3 innings. Speaking of unsightly ERAs, there is the 20.25 belonging to Robertson.

The Yankees were lucky to have the run they did against Texas starter Colby Lewis. It came on a wild pitch that video replays revealed had actually hit Swisher in the shin at the plate and should have been a dead ball. Shortly after that, Swisher was probably hoping and praying that the Yankees would get one more shot at Cliff Lee.

Yanks send ALCS back to Texas

We have still yet to see in the post-season the CC Sabathia who was a Cy Young Award candidate during the regular season. Despite that, the lefthander is undefeated in three starts and played a major role Wednesday in keeping the American League Championship Series alive for the Yankees.

Just as a late-inning rally by the Yankees in Game 1 took him off the hook in a lackluster outing, Sabathia took the Yankees off a hook in Game 5 that might have ended their season with a serviceable performance that was still good enough to prevent the Rangers from clinching their first invitation to the World Series.

The Yankees’ climb in the ALCS remains uphill, but they at least earned a return trip to Texas, which is all they could hope for after having lost three of the first four games in the series. Who would have thought they would look forward to another date with Cliff Lee? That would come in Game 7, another victory away.

Sabathia was far from dominant. The Rangers reached him for 11 hits, but only one – a home run by catcher Matt Treanor in the sixth – did any tangible damage. The other run off him came on an infield out. In many ways, Texas let Sabathia off the hook. The Rangers stranded eight runners – six in scoring position – in his six innings. A pair of double plays served as part of the rescue party for Sabathia.

“He made key pitches when he had to,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Sabathia. “That’s why he’s the pitcher that he is and won all the games that he won this year.”

“I felt more prepared than I was in Game 1,” CC said. “I wanted to keep us in it and make the pitches I needed to.”

The bug guy didn’t hurt himself with walks (none). He had seven strikeouts, including a big one on Mitch Moreland looking at a slider with runners on second and third with his 112th and last pitch. Sabathia has allowed 22 hits in 16 innings and has a 5.63 ERA in his three post-season starts, but his record is 2-0 and the Yankees 3-0 in those games.

That the Yankees won behind Sabathia will only lend credence to the critics of manager Joe Girardi’s decision not to have CC start Game 4 instead of A.J. Burnett. It is too late for all that. One more time: the Yankees needed a fourth starter in the ALCS – who else you got? Whether Burnett should have pitched beyond five innings in Game 4, well, that is another argument and one that does the Yankees no good in rehashing now.

The Game 5 victory had the Yankees looking ahead, not behind. Their bats were noisier with home runs by Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano (four in the ALCS) and Curtis Granderson and doubles by Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez and Granderson, pretty good amplification without Mark Teixeira, out for the rest of the series with a strained right hamstring.

Texas lost left fielder Nelson Cruz to a tight hamstring in the fifth, but the injury may not be as serious as that of Teixeira.

The extra-base hits were important for the Yankees because they still were anemic in the clutch. They had two hits in 11 at-bats (.182) with runners in scoring position and are 8-for-51 (.157) in the series in those situations.

The Rangers, who could have closed out the series with a victory, displayed a sloppiness not previously seen in the series. They threw the ball over the lot in the Yankees’ three-run third inning. In the seventh, Elvis Andrus, who had three hits and a stolen base, got himself picked off second base by Kerry Wood, who also picked Ian Kinsler off first base in Game 1.

The Yankees’ play in the field was flawless.

“There was determination on our part,” Girardi said. “We haven’t played our best in this series. But I saw the mood during batting practice, and the guys knew what we had to do.”

So the Yankees are on their way to Texas, and Yankees fans hope there will still be more games at Yankee Stadium this year. That would mean there would be another World Series in the Bronx.

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