The Yankees had in spades during the first three games what typically wins in the playoffs: dominant starting pitching. But they failed to complete a sweep of the Rangers Thursday because of what often costs teams in October: a leaky bullpen.
It hasn't been a problem much of the year for the Yankees but it was on a warm, somewhat wild afternoon at the Stadium as Texas won the finale of a series many saw as an ALCS preview, 10-6, in front of 47,645.
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"It's going to happen, our guys aren't going to be perfect down there," Joe Girardi said. "Our guys kept fighting and trying to get back in the game. It's unfortunate. It didn't happen today."
Although Joba Chamberlain's poor performance -- two runs and four hits in 11/3 innings -- commanded much of the postgame attention, he had company. Boone Logan (4-1) also allowed two runs, and Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada allowed one each.
Of course, Ivan Nova, coming off a bounce-back start Saturday in Toronto when he allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings, wasn't sharp, either. The 25-year-old righthander, though the victim of some bad luck -- including a Josh Hamilton fly ball Andruw Jones lost in the sun that led to two sixth-inning runs -- allowed four runs and seven hits in 52/3 innings.
"He didn't really pitch that poorly," Girardi said.
Looking big picture, the series can't be viewed as anything but a success for the Yankees, who got stellar pitching the first three games, limiting the AL's top offense to a total of four runs. In winning three of four the Yankees (70-48) captured the season series, 4-3, providing them the first tiebreaker over the Rangers (68-49) should the teams be tied at the end of the regular season.
"We didn't pitch the way we should have, and when we had the opportunities [on offense], we didn't do it," said Jones, whose two-run homer in the sixth off Derek Holland (five runs, four earned, in 52/3 innings) tied it at 4. "But we won the series and we look forward to the next one."
The Yankees, who start a three-game set against the Red Sox Friday night at the Stadium, scored five times in the sixth to take a 5-4 lead but could not hold on.
Logan fell behind 2-and-0 before striking out Hamilton. But third baseman Adrian Beltre, who was brilliant in the field all afternoon, singled. David Murphy's double drove in Young with Beltre advancing to third. Chamberlain was summoned to face righthanded-hitting Geovany Soto, who struck out. After an intentional walk to Mitch Moreland, Craig Gentry's two-run single gave the Rangers a 7-5 lead.
After the Yankees pulled to within 7-6 in the seventh, the Rangers tacked on two runs in the eighth off Chamberlain, who subsequently was booed off the mound, to make it 9-6.
The Yankees had a chance to cut into that deficit in the bottom half. Pinch hitter Robinson Cano, who didn't start for the second straight game because of a stiff neck, walked with two outs. Ichiro Suzuki blooped a double to center that bounced off the glove of a sliding Gentry. Cano, however, did not score, and Raul Ibañez struck out to end the inning.
Chamberlain, in addressing the booing -- he said he had no issue with it -- ended up unintentionally summarizing the afternoon.
"They paid for a ticket, and paid a price to come see a good game and see guys pitch well and hit well and do those things," the reliever said. "You spend your hard-earned money to come out on a Thursday afternoon, you want to see something good, and it wasn't. There's really no other way to say it."