Now that the Yankees have beaten the Rangers 6-5 in Game One of the American League Championship Series, Yankee fans can admit that they were never concerned, not when the Yanks were down 5-0 after six innings, not when Arlington was rocking with the passion of those who have been so long denied, not when the top half of the Yankee lineup was 0-for-12 and looking half asleep. There was never any reason to fret. You knew the comeback was coming all along. Of course you did.
As it turned out, Arlington went from “rabid” to “silent” so fast in the eighth inning that we think it created a wind tunnel. Down 5-1 heading into the inning, the Yankees had a 6-5 lead before the Rangers had even gotten an out. It was a wild inning: the Yankees had four singles, a double and two walks off five Texas pitchers, none of whom were Neftali Feliz, their best one not named Cliff Lee. The inning started with Brett Gardner’s successful dive into first base on an infield single. Diving into first base is never the smart play as the saying goes, Carl Lewis never dove across the finish line but it gets everyone excited, not least faux-hustle-obsessed broadcasters.The inning ended with the smiling, happy couple of Nolan Ryan and George W. Bush. Good thing Dick Cheney wasn’t there, because someone would have totally gotten shot. The whole half-inning took 35 minutes and seven seconds. It went by for the Yankees in a blink; for the Rangers it probably seemed like four days.
After that blur of an inning, the Rangers were toast, and they played like they knew it, particularly after Ian Kinsler’s inexplicable baserunning blunder in the Rangers’ half of the eighth, being picked off by a halfhearted Kerry Wood throw over to first. Mariano Rivera gave the Yankees a brief scare in the ninth, but this is Mo: The outcome was preordained. The Rangers were shellshocked, and who could blame them? Yankees fans, of course, they knew it would all be OK from first pitch. Of course.
The out-of-nowhere rally will help many Yankees fans forgive, temporarily, CC Sabatha’s dreadful evening. The most amazing thing about Sabathia’s performance was not that he gave up five earned runs and only lasted four innings, it’s that it wasn’t worse: Sabathia was way off from the very beginning, and escaped jams in both the first and third innings. As it was, Sabathia gave up the most runs he had since May and pitched the fewest innings he had all year. One of the Yankees’ biggest advantages going into this series that their ace could possibly pitch three times disappeared 13 pitches in. C.J. Wilson, the Twitter fiend who threw 133 more innings this season than he ever had in his six-year career, led the Majors in giving up walks this year and was pitching against a team that was second in receiving them. But he only allowed two all night and consistently had the Yankees off-balance. Until that eighth inning, when the Rangers’ wheels came off, along with the camshaft, the fan belt, the muffler and the back bumper. If the Rangers can’t win a game in which they run the Yankees’ ace out after the fourth inning, you have to wonder how they’re going to win a game at all.
So! The Yankees, somehow, have a 1-0 lead in this series and have left the entire state of Texas demoralized. (Seriously, look at poor Nolan Ryan again.) The two teams play again later today yep, it’s past midnight already! and if Phil Hughes can pitch better in Game Two than Sabathia did in Game One, the Yankees are going to take a 2-0 lead into Yankee Stadium on Monday. In 35 minutes, seven seconds, an entire postseason flipped on its head, again. No sweat, you say, no sweat. Hell, at this point, this is the Yankees making it look easy.