Texas got its first home postseason victory in franchise history (1-7), and also snapped a 10-game playoff losing streak against New York. The Rangers appeared ready to get the landmark win in Game 1 on Friday, but they gave up five runs in the eighth inning as the Yankees took a stunning 6-5 win.
On Saturday, the Rangers again built up a big lead, going ahead 7-1 after five innings against Yankees starter Phil Hughes. But their bullpen didn’t implode this time, following Colby Lewis (1-0) with 3 1/3 scoreless innings to seal the win.
“I think we just knew what we needed to do,” Lewis said. “We had two games here at home and we needed — after last night, we just needed to come out today and split it and go back to their place, plain and simple.”
Lewis limited the Yankees to two runs on six hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings, with six strikeouts. He was supported by a Texas offense that got to Hughes (0-1) for seven runs and 10 hits in only four-plus innings.
“Our starters have not pitched well so far,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “Our starters pitched extremely well and everyone was giddy about them the last series. I don’t ever get too involved in snapshot pictures because those can be dangerous. I believe in our guys and I believe that they will pitch well as we continue forward here.”
The best-of-seven matchup now moves to the Bronx, with Game 3 set for Monday, and Texas likely has the edge with Cliff Lee on the mound against Andy Pettitte. While Pettitte is the all-time leader in postseason wins, Lee is 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA in seven career playoff starts, which includes a complete game victory at Yankee Stadium in last season’s World Series for the Phillies.
Texas built its lead by scoring in each of the first three innings, and got its first-inning run in an unconventional way. Leadoff batter Elvis Andrus reached when he hit a chopper that deflected off Hughes’ glove, then advanced when catcher Jorge Posada didn’t make a clean catch on a pitch. Posada made a strong throw to second, but Andrus was called safe on the close play, then stole third with one out. After Josh Hamilton walked, Hughes fanned Vladimir Guerrero.
Hamilton then committed to a steal of second, drawing a throw from Posada, which prompted Andrus to race for home. Hamilton stumbled near second base, but a throw back to the plate was too late as Texas grabbed a 1-0 lead.
“I’m looking at opportunities, and it presented itself, or that’s the type of game we play,” said Rangers manager Ron Washington. “I took a chance that the throw would be made to second base. If he faked it, wouldn’t have happened. But he didn’t fake it. So we executed.”
The Yankees had two on with two away in the second before Lance Berkman lined out to right, and the Rangers tacked on two more in the bottom half. With one out, Murphy stepped to the plate and jumped on a 2-0 cutter that stayed up and in, slamming it deep and high over the right field fence.
Mitch Moreland and Andrus hit two-out singles before Michael Young doubled down the right field line to make it a 3-0 game. Texas had a chance for more, but Guerrero grounded into a fielder’s choice.
New York had another promising rally going in the third, as Lewis hit Curtis Granderson to put two on with only one away. However, Lewis retired Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez to end the threat, and the Rangers’ offense was right back at it.
Nelson Cruz led off by slamming a double high off the wall in right, missing a homer by only a few inches. Ian Kinsler bunted Cruz to third before Murphy dropped his bat head on a low and inside breaking ball, pulling it to right for an RBI double. Bengie Molina then drove a first-pitch fastball to the right-center gap to make it a 5-0 game.
The Yankees got on the scoreboard in the fourth. Robinson Cano led off with a double to deep center and scored on Berkman’s two-out single, but Berkman was caught in a rundown to end the inning and the Rangers increased their lead in the fifth.
Cruz led off with another near-home run, hammering a ball high off the wall in center. It went for a double, and Cruz scored when Kinsler hit a slicing liner to right field. Nick Swisher nearly made the diving catch, but the ball bounced to the wall and Kinsler ended up on third. That was all for Hughes, who was replaced by Joba Chamberlain.
Moreland’s two-out single got Kinsler home, and at that point it was up to the Rangers’ pitchers to hold the 7-1 lead.
Lewis gave up a monstrous one-out solo blast to Cano in the sixth, which was a bit of a flashback to Friday’s series-opener. Cano began the Yankees’ comeback with a seventh-inning solo homer, preceding New York’s go-ahead inning.
The Yankees continued to rally in the sixth, as Posada singled and Berkman walked with two outs. Up stepped pinch-hitter Marcus Thames, who on Friday hit the go-ahead RBI single. But Clay Rapada entered for Lewis and got Thames swinging to end the inning.
Alexi Ogando took the mound for the seventh and walked Derek Jeter before giving up a two-out single to Rodriguez. However, Ogando fanned Cano, while Darren Oliver and Darren O’Day teamed up to toss a scoreless eighth. Neftali Feliz issued two one-out walks in the ninth, but retired Rodriguez and Cano to secure the victory.
The Rangers have homered in each of their first seven games this postseason, which breaks their longest regular-season stretch of six games…Cano finished 2-for-5 to continue his postseason tear. In five games, he has batted 9-for-21 with two homers and four RBI.