Yankees 6, Rangers 5

Yankees rally, steal Game 1

Rangers’ bullpen implodes in eighth

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / October 16, 2010

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Fifty thousand people stood, stunned. It had happened so quickly, so easily. With the Rangers seemingly gliding to a win in their first trip to the American League Championship Series, with the Yankees staring at a must-win Game 2 before facing Cliff Lee in Game 3, the eighth inning brought everything to a halt.

It was in that disaster of an inning — one that could be responsible for the Rangers’ demise in this series — that New York scored five runs against five Rangers pitchers before recording an out. They took the lead and soon closed out a 6-5 victory, a crushing blow for a Texas team that lacks the history and experience of the Yankees.

“It’s a great win for our club,’’ New York manager Joe Girardi said. “We start scratching and you get a double by [Derek Jeter] and guys start putting good at-bats and you get the walk and double. It’s a huge win.

“Some might feel we were fortunate to come out with a win to night, but I thought our club played hard and kept playing and playing and playing. And [we’ll] try to build on it tomorrow.’’

As the Rangers cycled through starter C.J. Wilson and relievers Darren Oliver, Darren O’Day, Clay Rapada, and Derek Holland in the eighth, the Yankees went single, double, walk, walk, single, single, single, and suddenly Texas’s lead, once at 5-0, was gone. It was the largest comeback in an ALCS game since the Red Sox rallied from a seven-run deficit in Game 5 against the Rays in 2008.

Perhaps the biggest hit in the eighth was the first, as Brett Gardner reached on an infield hit on what Wilson called a “kung-fu’’ swing. The Yankees just seemed to roll after that.

“For us all to not get the job done today, it was an aberration,’’ O’Day said. “We know we’re better than that. We’ll be better than that the rest of the series.’’

The message was not defeat in the Rangers’ clubhouse.

“It’s not devastating at all,’’ Young said. “We lost Game 1. We’ll come back and play hard in Game 2.’’

The Yankees won without much help from their ace, CC Sabathia, who gave up five runs in just four innings. It was his shortest outing of the season, and he had little command from the start. Of the 21 batters Sabathia faced, he got to a three-ball count on nine of them, increasing his pitching count and decreasing his effectiveness.

It seemed as if the Rangers were on their way to a win. Then came the eighth.

“I don’t know if we gave it away,’’ Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “We just didn’t execute. When you face a team like the Yankees there, you’ve got to execute. We didn’t execute. It certainly was our ballgame, especially when you just need six outs. We didn’t get them. So I guess in a sense it got away from us. But gave it away? No. We just didn’t execute.’’

The Rangers jumped on Sabathia in the first inning as leadoff hitter Elvis Andrus reached on a walk and Young singled. That brought up Josh Hamilton, and prompted “MVP!’’ chants in the Ballpark at Arlington. And Hamilton delivered, sending a laser-beam home run into the right-field corner for three runs.

The Rangers loaded the bases with two outs in the inning, but that threat ended with perhaps the most crucial play of the game. When a high pitch that eluded Yankees catcher Jorge Posada went to the backstop, Nelson Cruz darted for the plate. Posada quickly grabbed the carom and fired to Sabathia, who used a quick, athletic play to tag Cruz before he touched the plate with his back leg.

Texas built its lead to 5-0 in the fourth inning on a two-run double by Young. .

And with Wilson dealing on the mound, that cushion seemed insurmountable, even for the Yankees.

Wilson allowed just two runs, on a solo homer by Robinson Cano in the seventh and on an RBI double by Jeter in the eighth.

In the end, though, it all boiled down to just a few words from Washington: “That eighth inning just killed us out of the bullpen.’’

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