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.