The Texas Rangers looked like they were about to win their first playoff game at home in their history last night, well until the top of the 8th inning that is then it all went away like a tumbleweed going across the prairie. The Rangers jumped out to a 5-0 lead over the Yankees and looked to have the game in hand as C. J. Wilson was pitching a gem which Rangers hitters took off where Minnesota left off against Yankee’s workhorse C.C. Sabathia chasing the 20 game-winner off the mount at the end of the 4th inning. Sabathia gave up 5 runs on 6 hits with four walks and a balk in 4 innings in which he made 95 pitches. He struggled to get the ball over the plate as only 51 of those pitches were strikes. In Minnesota he got the win and in Texas a no decision but his playoff ERA is now 7.20 which should give the Yankees concern. Sabathia avoided disaster when with the bases load with 2 outs in the bottom of the first inning he threw a wild pitch which luckily for him bounced back directly to Jorge Posada who tagged Nelson Cruz on the arm as he slid into home. Had Cruz scored it might well have opened up the opportunity for a really big inning against Sabathia.
Wilson was solid through 7 innings giving up a solo home run to Robinson Cano in the top of the 7th but then collapsing in the 8th along with 4 relievers sent in by Ron Washington to try to stop the Yankees, only one of which, Derek Holland got anyone out. Why Washington did not put his closer Neftali Feliz in with the game on the line even though it was not initially a save situation puzzled me as much as it did most experts. Also why Washington seemed to panic with Wilson still throwing hard after a walk and a double that went by a less than stellar third baseman is beyond me. Wilson was to face the heart of the Yankees order but he had dominated Jeter, Teixeira and Rodriguez who were 0-8 against him with 3 strikeouts and two pop-ups in those 8 at bats. Washington had to remember or had he forgotten that this was the same bullpen that melted down in game three against the Rays.
In the 8th the Yankees rally started with Brett Gardiner beating out a ground ball for an infield hit diving into first base to beat Wilson to the bag. He scored on a double to left by Derek Jeter. This brought set up man Darren Oliver into the game and Oliver walked Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira. Oliver was then lifted for Darren O’Day who gave up a single to Alex Rodriguez that scored Jeter and Swisher. Washington then trotted out Clay Rapada who gave up a single to Robinson Cano to score Teixeira. This brought Holland into the game and Holland gave up a single to Marcus Thames to score Rodriguez to give the Yankees the lead a lead that they did not relinquish.
By contrast the Yankees bullpen was solid with Dustin Mosley picking up the win and Mariano Rivera the save. Darren O’Day got the loss for the Rangers. The Rangers gave this one away; Ron Washington seemed to be out of his league last night and made some really questionable decisions. Now the Rangers have to win today or go to Yankee Stadium with a two game deficit. The Rangers will send Colby Lewis to the hill to face Phil Hughes. Lewis had a no-decision in game 3 against the Rays giving up just 2 hits in 5 innings work before Washington pulled him and gave the game to the bullpen which just as they did last night melted down. Hughes dominated the Twins in game 3 of their series pitching 7 innings giving up no runs on 4 hits.
If the Rangers do not win tonight, it will take more than heroic efforts by Cliff Lee to get them past the Yankees. It will take a miracle.