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2010 alcs

The Yankees Survive By Living Easy

At around 5 p.m., a strange glow enveloped Yankee Stadium. The field was a different color than we'd ever seen it; we'd never actually been at an October game at Yankee Stadium while the sun went down. At 5:30, the gray clouds parted and the whole place turned yellow. It was really quite pretty. As ugly and dispiriting as Game Four was, it made us sad, on what had become such a lovely baseball day, to think that this might be the last baseball game we go to all year. Baseball is fun. It would be very long and very cold until there were any more games, were the Yankees to lose tonight. And then the Yankees scored three runs in the second inning and two more in the third and that, fans, was pretty much it: The Yankees are still alive.

The key to the Yankees' 7-2 Game Five win was not the Yankees' "bouncing back" from last night, or showing some sort of fake grit: The key was that Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson was lousy. Sharp in Game One, he just didn't have it tonight, giving up six runs in five innings, walking four and generally looking like the command issues he's struggled with throughout his career got the better of him. The Rangers made two errors on one play in the second inning -- officially there was only one, but you saw and know better -- and the Yankees hit back-to-back homers in the third inning, and after that, the Yankees just sort of cruised. This is how the Yankees have been winning all season, these sort of no pressure, hey-no-problemo-y'all games, from those lazy June sleepers over Baltimore to the ALDS over the Twins. It is an odd feature for a team to have, to lack urgency in a lose-and-your-out game and still win easily, but it's one the Yankees could use when they head back to Arlington.

CC Sabathia didn't have his best stuff either, giving up 11 hits, tied for the most he's allowed all season, but it didn't matter, because he pitched himself out of trouble when he needed to. When he wiggled out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the sixth, his last inning, and let only one Ranger score, this game felt sewn up, even with the Yankees' bullpen woes of the last few days. It helps when you get Mariano Rivera into the game.

Probably worth taking a moment to salute Robinson Cano, who homered again, for the fourth time this series. That ties the all-time record for homers in a League Championship Series -- to be fair, nine other people hold that record -- and is more evidence of just how much Cano is needed the rest of this series, particularly with Mark Teixeira out for the rest of the postseason. (With the Yankees finally breaking out the bats tonight, it seems rather obvious that Teixeira was the problem the whole while. Obviously.) Cano batted third tonight, Teixeira's spot, and he looks nice there; his homer was actually the Yanks' first base hit out of the third-spot all series.

So: The Yankees have survived for a Game Six, Friday night, in Arlington, Phil Hughes against Colby Lewis. Coming into this game, after Tuesday's Night Of Unmentionables, it felt like the blows the Yankees took that night could not be overcome. (You could certainly sense that weary pessimism from the limp crowd at first pitch.) It's still possible they won't be: Teixeira is still gone, and the Rangers certainly aren't a team terrified at the prospect of heading home to clinch this. And Cliff Lee is still standing there, waiting. But the Yankees are still alive, and there's at least one more night of Yankees baseball, and if you'd have told a lot of people this morning that that would be the case tonight, they wouldn't have believed you. Tonight, the Yankees didn't play like a team that had a lot of fight in it; they just played like a team that wins. They only have to do that two more times to make everyone forget Tuesday ever happened. A million stranger events have happened.

Everybody take a day off and get a couple of good night's sleep. Another go-around Friday, with the possibility of even more. After yesterday, you gotta be happy with that.

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Photo: Al Bello / Getty Images