WHAT WE SAW: With their season on the brink, the Yankees responded and finally looked a little bit like the team that bulldozed Minnesota in the first round, beating Texas 7-2 in Game 5. CC Sabathia wasn’t great (11 hits), but gutted through six innings, allowing just two runs to give the Yankees only their second quality start of the ALCS.
Yankee hitters not named Robinson Cano finally produced some offense, with Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson hitting solo shots and Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez and Granderson each doubling.
Oh, and that Cano fellow hit another home run, his fourth of the series.
Starting at first in place of the injured Mark Teixeira, Lance Berkman walked, scored a run and drove in a runner with a deep sac fly in the fifth inning.
Everybody talks about Andy Pettitte’s pickoff move, but is it time to start the conversation about Kerry Wood’s? For the second time this series he picked off a Texas runner and killed some momentum, this time nailing Elvis Andrus wandering too far off second base with Josh Hamilton at the plate.
WHAT WE SEE: The Yankees figured out C.J. Wilson today after being stymied early in Game 1. Now the question is whether Phil Hughes can figure out a Rangers lineup that battered him in Game 2.
Hughes does have historical success against Texas (remember that almost no-no in his second MLB start?). But the Yankees won’t even have the chance to take on Cliff Lee in a possible Game 7 if Hughes can’t last more than four innings and give up less than seven runs in Game 6.
What will the role of Nelson Cruz be from Game 6 on? The power hitting outfielder left Game 5 with a sore hamstring—he’d been on the DL with hamstring strains during the regular season—and was replaced by David Murphy. If he can’t return, it’ll be a blow to the Texas lineup.
And in the “it’ll never happen dept.,” if they make it to the World Series, the Yankees might want to petition to have the left and rightfield foul poles at the Stadium moved a few inches to either side. Berkman just missed a home run outside the rightfield pole on Tuesday and Thames just missed one outside the leftfield pole on Wednesday.
HERO: Sabathia. In a victory for the oftentimes cliché notion of “guts” and “heart,” the Yankees workhorse left it all out on the field. Yes, he got into trouble (11 hits). Yes, he wasn’t sharp. No, he was not Cliff Lee. But tonight Sabathia was to the Yankees what Lee was to Texas in Game 3 – a force to feed off of. With the Yankees facing elimination and Sabathia coming off a terrible postseason start in Game 1, the big lefty gave his team the chance to win. That’s something Yankee pitchers haven’t done too often in this series.
GOAT: Wilson. With the chance to pitch his team to a World Series for the first time in franchise history, Wilson gave up six runs in five innings and let the Yankees right back in the series. He allowed just six hits, but four of those were for extra bases. All three of his unintentional walks came around to score.
Dishonorable mention to Jeff Francoeur, too. The guy has essentially one tool—his arm. But his errant throw in the second inning allowed another Yankee run to score.
OUT OF THE WOODWORK: The Yankee offense. Remember the team that led baseball in runs in the regular season? Those guys didn’t show up the first four games—outside of one inning in Game 1.
Today, the offense was 9-for-30 overall with six walks. The 2-3-4 hitters (Swisher-Cano-Rodriguez) were a combined 3-for-10 with three walks, and the 7 and 8 hitters (Posada and Granderson) combined to go 5-for-8.
UNSUNG PLAY: The Rangers scored their first run in the fifth on a Matt Treanor solo home run, and had runners on first and second with one out, down 5-1, and their big run producing threat, Hamilton, at the plate. But Sabathia got Hamilton to ground into a double play and end the threat.
KEY PLAY: With Sabathia laboring and the Rangers with men at second and third, CC struck out Mitch Moreland on a called strike three slider to end the eight pitch at-bat and the top of the sixth. A Moreland single likely would have scored both runners and would have cut the Texas deficit to just two runs.