If you’re going to succeed on the big stage, you have to handle the pressure. What’s sad about Friday’s Game 1 ALCS loss to the Yankees is that the one battle-tested pitcher in the Rangers bullpen is the one who really started the choking.
For seven innings, CJ Wilson was brilliant for Texas, giving up only a solo home run to Robinson Cano and taking a 5-1 lead into the 8th.
The Rangers staked Wilson to a 3-0 first inning lead on a Josh Hamilton home run, then added two in the 4th on a Michael Young double, chasing CC Sabathia after only four innings of work.
It should have been a Rangers win. Then the 8th inning came.
I can’t blame Wilson, who came out to start the 8th. Not when Brett Gardner barely beat out an infield hit. When Derek Jeter followed with a double scoring Gardner, I still wasn’t concerned. Still a 3-run lead, let the bullpen finish it off.
The bullpen finished it off all right.
The disgusting part is the collapse, as mentioned above, came from the one playoff-tested reliever we have, Darren Oliver. Oliver faced two batters and walked them both, showing virtually no command. After that, the roof caved in. Darren O’Day and Clay Rapada both lasted all of one pitch, both of which were turned into hits. Josh Hamilton continued the choke by taking his eye off the ball on one of the hits, allowing an extra base to be taken. David Murphy, while not committing an error, came close when he overran yet another hit to left field. Next thing you knew, it was 6-5 Yankees and there were still no outs in the 8th with two runners on. Derek Holland finally came in and stopped the bleeding.
I’ll give Holland his due. Since giving up a 2-run homer in Game 4 of the ALDS, he has since tossed five scoreless innings in playoff action. Holland’s always shown a lot of promise but has been inconsistent the past two seasons. Maybe this success he’s having on the post-season stage will be the springboard for him to finally match his ability to his results. We can only hope.
Another guy I’ve got to give his due is Matt Treanor. He’s played all of two games in this six game playoff run. He only has one hit but has been on base five times- one hit, two walks and two hit by pitches. He may not be a strong hitter, but the man has consistently given the Rangers quality at bats this year.
On to the bottom of the 8th trailing by a run and another critical mistake by the men in red. Ian Kinsler drew a walk on four pitches and proceeded to get picked off first base. That, combined with a very generous strike zone given Kerry Wood when facing David Murphy, ended any chance of an 8th inning rally.
Even the 9th still showed promise. Mitch Moreland led off with a single against Mariano Rivera. Elvis Andrus sacrificed Moreland to second, bringing Michael Young and Josh Hamilton to the plate. Young had a pretty quality at bat against Rivera, but still went down on strikes for the second out. Hamilton, a notorious first pitch swinger, grounded to short on the first pitch for the final out.
This is the second time this season the Yankees have pulled off a comeback like this on the Rangers. The Rangers have also done the same to the Yankees once this season. On the post-season stage, getting over a loss like this quickly is critical. It now falls on Colby Lewis’ shoulders to pitch Texas to a split heading to New York.
New Bummer: Friday’s loss puts the Rangers at 0-7 at home in their playoff history. No team had ever done that before. What an honor.
Second Bummer: As great as it was to see Michael Young and Josh Hamilton knock in all the Rangers runs, it was just as awful to see them combine for five strikeouts in the game.
Third Bummer: I was really getting irritated with the TBS broadcast team in the 3rd and 4th innings when they kept harping on the Rangers squandering scoring opportunities. At the time they were ahead 3-0. CJ Wilson worked out of jams in both the 3rd and 4th with no runs scored, but did they talk about the Yankees squandering scoring opportunities? Nope, only the Rangers. Little did I know how prescient those words would become in the later innings.
I hope we can recover quickly from this one. We didn’t when we followed our 8th inning collapse against the Rays with a quick turnaround day game. I’ve got to hope this quick turnaround game will turn out better.