The legendary folk hero Davy Crockett once said, “You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas”. To those who doubted their resiliency, the Yankees used game five of the ALCS to say exactly the same thing.
Although the Yankees had to feel comfortable with their ace going on full rest for the first time in the postseason, the irony of yesterday’s victory is C.C. Sabathia didn’t pitch particularly well. In fact, Sabathia became the first Yankees’ starter in 50 years to win a postseason game while giving up at least 11 hits. And yet, the ace lefty still managed to keep the Rangers at bay by getting a big strikeout or inducing a key double play at just the right time. The mark of a great pitcher is the ability to win despite not having his best stuff, and game five was exhibit A on why Sabathia qualifies as one.
The Yankees entered game five in a terrible slump, batting .198 for the entire series and producing only three hits in their last 33 at bats with runners in scoring position. Without a turnaround in that performance, it probably wouldn’t have mattered how well Sabathia pitched. In the second inning against C.J. Wilson, the slumbering lumber was put to an immediate test.
After being gifted two walks by Wilson in the bottom of the second, the Yankees finally came through in the clutch as RBI singles by Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson plated three runs. One of the runs, however, was actually produced by the speedy legs of Posada. In a scene out of an old cops and robbers silent movie, Posada rounded second and headed for third on Granderson’s single, which probably made right fielder Jeff Francoeur jump out his shoes. In his haste to nab the slow footed catcher, Francoeur short-hopped Michael Young, whose haste to make a tag allowed the ball to roll toward the dugout screen. Without looking, which is usually the way he runs the bases, Posada sprang up from his slide and continued his mad dash around the bases by heading home. Unfortunately for Posada, Wilson had backed up the errant throw and merely had to flip the ball home to nab him at the plate. Flip it he did, but about 20 feet over the catcher’s head.
Although it wasn’t exactly Enos Slaughter’s Mad Dash to win the seventh game of the 1946 World Series, Posada’s trip around the bases not only produced an important run, but also seemed to lighten the mood in the Yankees’ dugout. That relaxed feeling only increased after back-to-back homers by Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano in the following inning gave the Yankees a 5-0 and made game six seem like a certainty. It wasn’t that easy, however, because Sabathia never really found the rhythm he needed to sail through the game. Before handing the ball off the bullpen in the seventh, Sabathia had to retire the red hot Josh Hamilton with two men on to end the fifth and then wiggle out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth. It wasn’t pretty, but at the same time it was exactly what the Yankees needed.
After six solid innings from their starter, the Yankees closed out the game with three shutout innings by Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera. That formula could come into play again on Friday, as Phil Hughes looks to rebound from his awful start in game two. Of course, the only way to earn the right to face Cliff Lee is by scoring runs off Colby Lewis, so the offense will also have to improve in its second go round against the Rangers’ righty.
With game five in the rearview mirror, a dramatic high noon showdown against the postseason’s best hired gun seems to be on the horizon. However, the Yankees can’t be too quick to the draw because before they can face off against Lee, they must shoot their way out of game six. The Rangers will be waiting in ambush, so the onus is on the Yankees to come out on Friday with guns blazing. The defending champions aren’t dead yet; they’re going to Texas.
Postseason Victories by a Yankees Starter With 11-Plus Hits Allowed
|Waite Hoyt||10/6/1926||WS||4||STL||W 10-5||9||14||2||52|
|Bob Turley||10/6/1960||WS||2||PIT||W 16-3||8.1||13||2||44|
|Jim McDonald||10/4/1953||WS||5||BRO||W 11-7||7.2||12||5||36|
|Bob Shawkey||10/13/1923||WS||4||NYG||W 8-4||7.2||12||3||41|
|CC Sabathia||10/20/2010||ALCS||5||TEX||W 7-2||6||11||2||49|
|Waite Hoyt||10/9/1928||WS||4||STL||W 7-3||9||11||2||60|