By Selim Khan
The champs get to play on . . . at least for one more game, that is.
With their backs against the wall and no margin for error, down 3 -1 in the American League Championship Series, the Yanks came out aggressive, striking early and often. Despite losing slugger Mark Teixeira for the rest of the playoffs in Game 4 to a hamstring injury, the Yankees scored three runs in the second inning and two more in the third inning, as the Yankees flexed their muscles when Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano went yard on back to back at bats.
Playing with a lead is not something the Yankees have enjoyed much in this series, so it was important for them to get out to an early lead and keep the sellout crowd in the game.
It helped that Rangers lefty CJ Wilson was not as sharp in his second start of the series. In Game 1, he pitched into the seventh inning, silencing the Yankee bats. This time, however, he lasted only five innings giving up six runs, five of them earned.
Although not dominant, CC Sabathia fared better this time around than in his Game 1 outing, pitching through six turbulent innings, giving up eleven hits, but only two runs.
With the score 6 -2 in favor of the Yankees, Sabathia showed his guts and resourcefulness in the sixth inning when the Rangers had the bases loaded with one out, but failed to score, culminating in Sabathia striking out Mitch Moreland looking.
The pressure on the Yankees was palpable. They didn't want to be eliminated in front of the home faithful. Plus, the Rangers were playing with house money knowing that they will be heading back home and have ace Cliff Lee in reserve for a Game 7, if necessary.
One thing the Yankees have going for them as they head to Texas is that the Rangers lack experience in closing out opponents in the playoffs. Keep in mind that this franchise has only won one playoff series in its history and it needed to go the distance against the Tampa Bay Rays in the previous round, eliminating them in the deciding Game 5, after leading in the series 2 – 0.
Not only do the Yankees get to play on, but they also get to postpone questions about what the future holds for this team. Several tough decisions await.
Manager Joe Girardi and captain/icon Derek Jeter are not signed for next year and pitcher Andy Pettitte has hinted at retirement. Although it’s highly unlikely Jeter will go anywhere, it’s possible that the makeup of this team will be different next season.
For the time being, however, all the Yankees can worry about is getting ready for Game 6 in Texas tomorrow night. The off-season questions will have to wait…at least for one more game.
NOTE: Bronx-bred Selim Khan, a graduate of DeWitt Clinton High School, is a freelance writer who will be periodically contributing Bronx-related sports stories and commentary for BxNN and our affiliated newspapers.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
By Selim Khan