The Yankees aren’t out of this American League Championship Series just yet. Today they played a complete game, their first truly complete game of the series: Starting pitching. A few timely hits. A few extra-base hits. Aggressive base running. Dominant relief pitching. Today, the Yankees played like a team actually capable of winning a World Series.
Next up, Phil Hughes gets a second chance in Texas.
“Same as CC,” Jorge Posada said. “Loation is important, and execute the pitches that we are going to call. Obviously we are going to go through a nice game plan and hopefully we can execute that. We haven’t been able to until today.”
Of all the things that went right today, it was CC Sabathia who stood front and center. It was a start that reminded me of Andy Pettitte: Huge pitches at key moments in a game that Yankees literally had to win.
“I just felt like I wanted to keep them in it and give us a chance to win,” Sabathia said. “The first two starts of the postseason, I just felt like I wasn’t able to do that. We ended up winning the games, but you know, tonight I just felt like I made some pitches when I needed to.”
The two best examples: The Josh Hamilton double play in the fifth inning, and the Mitch Moreland strikeout to end the sixth. Both came with two runners on base, when a big hit would have let the Rangers right back in the game.
“I think it starts with your starting pitcher,” Joe Girardi said. “Putting up zeros and getting a couple of runs early. I think that’s momentum. Because when you look at both of these clubs, there’s a lot of talent out there. And if you don’t make your pitches, or you don’t hit the pitches you should, no matter what kind of momentum you have, you’re probably not going to win the game.”
• What did Lance Berkman hurt the most on that tumble in foul territory? “My pride,” he said. “No, it felt like I got lit up in football. I initially thought I’d hit my head. I was looking up at the ball and the next thing I knew I was flat on my back looking up at the sky.”
• Berkman was wearing plastic spikes when he fell, then switched to his metal spikes. Yankee Stadium’s foul territory is notoriously slick — one player said it was like running from grass to ice — and Berkman wasn’t expecting it. He said he stood through most of the game, and sitting for a four-hour flight won’t be pretty. “They may have to carry me off the plane,” he said.
• Sabathia said one of the biggest adjustments since Game 1 was hit ability to stay tall over the rubber. He said Posada came to the mound more than once to let him know he was starting to fall. That helped him keep his mechanics together.
• Posada on his base running that led to a run: “I pretty much thought that Francoeur is going to go home and try to take advantage and try to get to third base, even if they were coming towards me. Get that run to score. And the ball gets away, and you know, I don’t see anybody back there, because obviously he was backing up home plate. As soon as the ball hit, I was like, oh, God, and I got lucky and he threw it away.”
• Posada took some grief from the dugout for his running. “I don’t know if there was ‘guys’ (giving a hard time),” he said. “I know Derek was all over me.” Girardi said there were some, “giggles on the bench when they saw Jorge running and running.”
• Robinson Cano on the reaction to seeing Posada run like that: “We always make fun of him.”
• Cano hit his fourth home run of the series, twice as many as his teammates combined. Fans have been chanting MVP when he comes to the plate, and Cano has been listening. “Oh, you can’t avoid the fans,” Cano said. “They are really loud and like I said, just focus on the game and we can’t afford to lose the game. Just go out there and give what I got and try to win the game.
• Kerry Wood said he almost never tries to pick off twice in a row at second base. For whatever reason, he did it tonight and even he was surprised to catch Elvis Andrus napping. “When his (Andrus) game is flowing, he thinks he’s invincible,” Ron Washington said. “So you know, right there we got three, four, five coming. You want to be very careful. Sometimes our game does that to us, but we are not going to stop playing it.”
• Phil Hughes threw in the bullpen during the game, but it was just a regular side session to prepare for Wednesday. Chad Moeller said he was laughing at the idea of a full stadium thinking Hughes was on his way into the game.
• Cano and Nick Swisher went back-to-back in the third inning. It was the 12th time Yankees hitters hit back-to-back home runs in the postseason, including one back-to-back-to-back. The last time was the 2000 ALCS when Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez did it.
• Sabathia is the sixth pitcher to ever allow 11 or more hits and allow no more than two runs in a playoff game.
• Cano snapped Mark Teixeira’s streak of 22 straight Yankees playoffs games as the No. 3 hitter. That was the third longest such streak in team history behind Babe Ruth’s 20 straight from 1922 to 1932. That sort of streak means a little less these days.
Associated Press photos of Sabathia, Berkman and Cano