Encore: Rangers 7, Yankees 6

I put Friday’s extra-inning win over the Yankees as my #2 Rangers game of 2010. Today, I have to admit I was wrong. It is now the #3 Rangers game of 2010. That’s because Saturday night’s game is the new #1.

Listening to the end of the game in bed on the laptop while the wife was contentedly snoozing right next to me, it was almost impossible to celebrate this improbable win without disturbing the sleep of said light of my life. Yet somehow, some way, I managed to do it. It took me about an hour to actually get to sleep afterwards, but still…

What can you say about this one? While it is perfectly plausible to say this isn’t truly a playoff preview, one can’t say both teams haven’t been playing all out to win. And if the Yankees don’t want to tip their hands too much to their likely first round playoff opponent, why bring Mariano Rivera in to save the game. Why not let someone else do it?

But I get ahead of myself. To the game itself…

The Rangers needed Tommy Hunter to give them innings last night after burning up the relief corps in Friday night’s cliffhanger. By the second inning, it appeared this was not about to happen. Hunter labored through a 30+ pitch second inning, at the end of which the Bronx Bombers had a 2-1 lead.

Somehow, Hunter perservered. Not known for his strikeout abilities, Big Game nonetheless retured eight Yankees on strikes in his five innings of work. By the time he left, Hunter and the Rangers had forged a 2-2 tie. It’s doubtful Hunter would have come out for the 6th, but thanks to the rain, we’ll never know.

An hour delay spelled the end of Hunter and his New York counterpart, AJ Burnett. It was up to the bullpens to make it the rest of the way. This favored the Yankees as they didn’t use near the relievers as the Rangers Friday night.

Texas took advantage of the Yankees bullpen. They loaded the bases and scored two in the 6th on a Jeff Francoeur SF and Elvis Andrus single to go up 4-2. The Yanks responded in the 7th with a bases loaded walk to make it 4-3. Mitch Moreland responds in the 7th with an RBI single in the bottom of the 7th to make it 5-3. Then came the crucial 8th inning.

To this point, the Rangers relief pitchers had been Michael Kirkman (effective), Rich Harden (ineffective) and Pedro Strop (walked in the 3rd run but got out of the bases loaded jam). Strop was sent in to start the 8th. He walked Francisco Cervelli, who is now an inexplicable 2-2 with six walks and a sacrifice in the first two games of the series. Time for another pitching change. The call went in for Matt Harrison.

This shows how depleted the bullpen was. Harrison had gone 2 1/3 innings Friday night and had so little left in the tank when he finished he had no control whatsoever. Guess what? He was the same. Harrison gave up a walk and a hit, loading the bases with one out and A-Rod at the plate. Rodriguez proceeded to line a hard double down the line, plating all three runners and giving the Yankees a 6-5 lead. End of Harrison’s night and very close to the end of the Rangers night. Kerry Wood worked a 1-hit scoreless 8th, Alexi Ogando did the same for the Rangers in the top of the 9th. Bottom of the 9th, it’s Mariano Rivera time.

I almost turned the audio feed off. It was well past midnight, the wife was asleep and the game was all but over. I started making the move towards the x button on my window. Then Vlad Guerrero walked. That’s a little different. Rivera had walked only 9 all season before that and Vladdy’s not the kind of guy who takes walks very often. Nelson Cruz came to the plate. I had to keep listening. Could Cruz get his 4th walk-off homer of the year? Against Rivera?

Nope. But he did hit a soft single, sending pinch runner Esteban German to 3rd. Runners on the corners, nobody out, Ian Kinsler to the plate. Double down the left field line scores German to tie it at 6. Great, I thought. Now Rivera will bear down and we’ll go to extra innings again. Who knows how long this game will last!

With runners on second and third, Chris Davis, just up from Oklahoma City, comes to the plate. Despite a .188 batting average, Rivera intentionally walks Davis to load ’em up. Understandable, you want a force at any base. Andres Blanco comes up and swings at Rivera’s first pitch for a weak infield pop-up. Infield fly rule. One out.

Now I’m certain this will be another extra inning affair. Rivera’s just too good. I figure he’ll get a DP grounder or a strikeout and a ground-out to end the inning. Jeff Francoeur comes to the plate with the bases loaded and one out and on the first pitch… Rivera hits him. Did I just hear that right? MARIANO RIVERA HIT JEFF FRANCOEUR ON THE FIRST PITCH!!! NELSON CRUZ SCORES, RANGERS WIN!!!

Amazing. Improbable. Incredible. Unbelieveable. I could write descriptive words like this all day and it still wouldn’t come close to describing the actual feeling I had listening to this game. And here’s the topper. I realized this is the SECOND TIME WE’VE BEATEN RIVERA THIS YEAR! Against the Rangers Rivera is now 0-2 with 2 saves, a blown save and a 5.78 ERA in 2010.

Thus the Rangers stetched their winning streak to four games, proving two things in the process: 1) this team can win without Josh Hamilton; and 2) this team can play with the New York Yankees. It remains to be seen whether they can beat them in the playoffs but they now have the psychological lift of knowing they can do it.

The Rangers didn’t let A-Rod suck the life out of them, they battled through weak pitching performances and came out on top. On a walk-off HBP no less.

Cliff Lee goes for the Rangers sweep this afternoon. Will we get it? Who knows? Texas has not played well in day games, Lee has not pitched well of late and lost the last time he was on the mound when Texas could’ve had a sweep. But I will remain optimistic and will even bypass watching the NFL’s first full day of games to watch this one.

Cliff, if you need some more incentive, here’s some just between you and me. Nobody else has to know. I’ve checked my budget and I’m pretty sure I can make this happen. Cliff, nobody has been able to get Francisco Cervelli out this series. Nobody. OK, he got a sacrifice last night but he was trying to get himself out there. He’s two for two with six walks this series. Cliff, get Cervelli out today and there’ll be something extra in it for you. I’ve got a green bill with Abe Lincoln’s picture on it if you just get Cervelli out once. OK, $5.50 but that’s as high as I go!

If today’s game tops Friday and Saturday’s games, I may be writing my next post from my bed at the local Heart Hospital. GO RANGERS!


One comment

  1. splodie

    The spousal unit and I were there in our annual household Yankees fan v Rangers fan game of the year.

    I was completely gobsmacked. When Rivera threw that last pitch the stadium erupted but I just stood there. The look on my face was nothing, however, compared to the look on the spousal unit’s face.

    I don’t think he even watched the game on Sunday.