(Sports Network) – Marcus Thames hit the go-ahead RBI single to cap a five-run eighth inning, as the New York Yankees rallied for a 6-5 win over Texas in the opener of the American League Championship Series.
Texas, which wasted a 5-0 lead, was poised for its first-ever postseason home win and was in line to snap a nine-game postseason skid against the Yankees, but the defending World Series champs scored five times before recording an out in the big inning.
C.J. Wilson pitched into the eighth, but the first seven batters reached base against five different Texas pitchers in the fateful frame for the Rangers. It started with Brett Gardner’s head-first slide for an infield hit as Wilson couldn’t get to the bag in time for the throw from first baseman Jorge Cantu.
Thames culminated the huge frame with the go-ahead single to left field to drive in ex-Ranger Alex Rodriguez, who bounced a two-run base hit earlier in the inning.
“We have a veteran clubhouse that knows how to react to whatever situation we are in,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We look forward to Game 2, and I’m sure they are too. Some might feel we were fortunate to come out with a win tonight, but I thought our club played hard and kept playing and playing and playing. And you try to build on it tomorrow.”
Josh Hamilton belted a three-run homer off CC Sabathia before the southpaw could record an out, and Michael Young added a two-run double in the fourth inning for the Rangers, who are 0-7 all-time at home in the playoffs.
Pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland singled off Mariano Rivera leading off the bottom of the ninth inning and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Elvis Andrus. Young ended a long at-bat by swinging through an outside pitch for strike three. Hamilton bounced the first pitch to Rodriguez, who threw across the diamond for the final out, giving Rivera his 42nd career postseason save.
The Rangers haven’t beaten the Yankees in a playoff game since Game 1 of the ALDS in 1996. After losing the next three games of that series, Texas was swept in the first round by New York in 1998 and 1999.
Robinson Cano started the big comeback by leading off the seventh with a homer just inside the right field foul pole.
Gardner’s gritty slide for a base hit started the huge rally in the eighth.
“We still had a four-run deficit at that point, and their pitcher was rolling,” Rodriguez said. “But you can’t say enough about the at-bats Gardy had, and that was a huge play. And obviously that started everything.”
Derek Jeter then stroked an RBI double to left field. Darren Oliver entered from the bullpen, but he issued consecutive walks to Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira. Darren O’Day (0-1) couldn’t stop the bleeding as Rodriguez smashed the first pitch on a short hop past Young at third and into left field, getting the wild card entrants within 5-4.
“Those are the guys I wanted in there. I mean, Darren Oliver has been nails for us,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “Just walked two guys back-to- back. Wasn’t Darren Oliver. Just didn’t happen tonight, that eighth inning just killed us out of the bullpen.”
Clay Rapada was the third reliever of the inning, but on his first offering Cano lined a single to center field to tie the game. Rodriguez went to third when Hamilton bobbled the ball.
“I’m not trying to do too much,” Cano said of the at-bat. “I’m trying to get a pitch that I can drive to tie the ball game. Good thing he threw me a fastball on the first pitch.”
Derek Holland was on the mound next when Thames broke his bat and lined a hit to left field for the go-ahead run.
“I don’t know if we gave it away,” Washington said. “We just didn’t execute and when you face a team like the Yankees there you’ve got to execute. We didn’t execute. It certainly was our ball game, especially when you just need six outs. We didn’t get them.”
Sabathia was charged with six hits, five runs and four walks over four innings. After Joba Chamberlain threw the fifth, Dustin Moseley (1-0) fanned four batters between the sixth and seventh to get the win. Rivera got his third save of this postseason.
Wilson, who was charged with six hits and three runs, followed Cliff Lee’s complete-game performance in Tuesday’s clinching win over Tampa Bay in Game 5 of the Division Series. That gave the AL West champions their first postseason series win in franchise history.
Coming off a long layoff after completing a sweep of Minnesota last Saturday in the ALDS, the Yankees fell behind quickly. Andrus walked leading off the bottom of the first and Young followed with a single to left to put runners at the corners. Hamilton then lined an 0-2 pitch tight to the right field line and barely over the wall for his first career postseason homer.
The Yankees, though, avoided disaster later in the inning after the Rangers loaded the bases with two outs, with Kinsler and Matt Treanor reaching on walks and Nelson Cruz on a single. With Cantu at the plate, Sabathia threw a pitch over glove of Jorge Posada, but the burly lefty was able to cover home in time and tagged out Cruz on the left forearm after a perfect throw from the veteran catcher.
New York wasted an opportunity with two men on base in the third and fourth inning, and the Rangers expanded their lead in the bottom of the inning. Treanor singled with one out and Young followed Andrus’ base hit to center with a two-run double to the gap in right-center field. Young advances to third on a wild pitch, but Hamilton struck out looking to end the inning to keep it a 5-0 game.
Sabathia hadn’t allowed a homer to lefty on an 0-2 pitch since Chase Utley hit one for the Phillies in last year’s World Series…Rangers president and part- owner Nolan Ryan threw out the ceremonial first pitch. He sat next to former U.S. president George W. Bush…The Rangers tied an LCS record by using five pitchers in one inning…The combined four teams left in the postseason have gone 9-0 on the road thus far…Cano had three hits.