“You don’t know,” Brett Gardner said right after the game. “The first seven innings didn’t go too well for us. I just tried to get something going.”
But the point is, you pretty much do know. You know that when they’re down 5-0 entering the seventh inning, as they were tonight, they’re not done. Their 6-5 win over the Rangers in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series was vintage Yankees, and it might have been a back breaker for the Rangers.
For much of it, this night could not have been better for the Rangers. They jumped out to a 5-0 lead on Yankees ace CC Sabathia. Their own pitcher, C. J. Wilson, was in total command. But all kinds of things happened that normally happen in a Yankees postseason game.
They got important contributions from their big players and big contributions from the smaller players. And they put so much of their typical pressure on the opposition, the opposition seemed to lose all concept of smart baseball. Whatever chance the Rangers had to regain momentum in the eighth against a shaky Kerry Wood—he had been poor in two of his three outings in the ALDS and had thrown seven balls in his first eight pitches—then Ian Kinsler was inexplicably picked off. No momentum for Texas, and it might just have straightened out Wood.
Other Yankee hallmarks of this game included outstanding pitching by Joba Chamberlain, who had been all but forgotten, and Dustin Moseley, who was outright dominant. At the time, the Yankees were down by five runs, but those guys did their jobs and let the Yankees batters do theirs—as they always do in the eighth and ninth innings of postseason games.
Gardner opened the door with that hands-first dive into first for a leadoff single in the eighth. Derek Jeter came through, as usual, with a double that chased Wilson. Then the Yankees showed their typical patience on walks by Darren Oliver to Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira. Oliver was gone.
Alex Rodriguez hit a rocket single, so did Robinson Cano. Marcus Thames hit a broken bat single and there it was, a 6-5 lead.
Between Kinsler’s gaffe and Mariano Rivera’s usual ninth, it was soon over.
“It’s a great win for our club,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s a huge win.”
It also was a typical, vintage win, one that the Rangers might not be able to recover from.