Tagged: Curtis Granderson

The Stan Musial Award

Last but not least in the BBA Post-Season Awards is the Stan Musial Award for Player of the Year.

Last month, while returning to the Rio Grande Valley from Arlington, where I saw my beloved Rangers top the Mariners in the next to last home game of the season, I tuned as usual into MLB Radio on XM. At the time, they were having a grand debate: Did Justin Verlander deserve to be in the discussion for AL MVP? I don’t remember who the two hosts of the program were, but one was adamant that Verlander, as a pitcher, should not be considered. He was a pitcher, he only starts every fifth game and there’s no way someone who starts every fifth day should be considered right alongside everyday players.

Here’s the kicker, though. This same co-host was asked several questions concerning the upcoming playoffs. Every time he was asked a question about the Tigers chances in the playoffs, he would answer by talking about the Tigers advantage because of Justin Verlander and, conversely, how the Tigers wouldn’t have a chance without Verlander. So apparently, he was saying if he starts every fifth game, he should not be considered for MVP, but it all changes when he’s in a situation to pitch every fourth game. I couldn’t help but laugh.

Seriously, what is the big deal about this? As far as I’m concerned, if a pitcher has a season in which he has so outperformed every other pitcher in the league, why shouldn’t he be considered for an MVP Award? It only happens once every decade or so, maybe even less than that. In all my time of following major league baseball, the only AL pitchers I can think of that would have to be part of the discussion for any one year would have included Denny McLain for his 30 win season of 1968, maybe Ron Guidry for the year he went 25-3 for the Yankees and Verlander this year. That’s three pitchers in 43 years. You’re going to get bent out of shape over something that happens so seldom? In the National League, I would probably have considered Bob Gibson the year he had a 1.12 ERA. Despite being on a last place team, Steve Carlton’s 27 win season for the Phillies has to be one of the singularly best accomplishments of all time. He literally won almost half of his team’s games. But he shouldn’t be considered because he wasn’t an everyday player? Hogwash!

I’m not voting Verlander as #1 on my BBA ballot, but he does have a place there. I don’t care if he only played in 20% of his team’s games. His production in those games and the final result are what earns him the right to be considered.

Herewith is my official ballot for the Stan Musial Award:

1) Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees: Yes, he only hit .262, but on a team of stars, it was his increased production in 2011 (41 HR, 119 RBI) that helped pace the Yankees to the best record in the American League.

2) Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: If I based the award on post-season play in addition to the regular season, Cabrera would probably be #1. We’re just looking at regular season play, though, so despite another MVP-caliber campaign (.344 BA, 30 HR’s, 105 RBI), Cabrera finishes second once again.

3) Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox: It didn’t take long for Gonzalez to become one of the most feared hitters in the AL (.328 BA, 27 HR, 117 RBI). If not for the Bosox collapse at the end of the season, A-Gon might have rated a little higher as well.

4) Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays: Bautista had another great year, leading the league in home runs and adding an over .300 batting average with a ton of walks thrown in for good measure. In my mind, what kept Bautista from finishing higher was his RBI total (103 RBI with 43 HR). They looked kind of low for someone with as many home runs as Bautista had.

5) Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers: Yes, he deserves to be here. Easily the best pitcher in the AL in 2011, leading the league in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts.

6) Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox: A perfect combination of power and speed, Ellsbury was an incredible threat in the Red Sox line-up, hitting .321 with 32 HR’s, 105 RBI and 39 steals.

7) Michael Young, Texas Rangers: Young had personal bests in batting average (.338) and RBI’s (106), while seeing time as DH and playing all four infield positions. Don’t scoff at his low power numbers. You won’t find very many players in either league over the last ten years to get over 100 RBI’s with less than 15 home runs. Young has now done it twice, this time with only 11 long balls. He also topped 200 hits for the sixth time.

8) Robinson Cano, New York Yankees: He could’ve been a Texas Ranger, but Texas took Alfonso Soriano instead in the A-Rod deal, only because they believed Ian Kinsler was going to be a pretty good player. They were right about Kinsler, but boy, can you imagine a Rangers line-up with Cano (.302 BA, 28 HR, 118 RBI)? Scary, right?

9) Asdrubel Cabrera, Cleveland Indians: .273 with 25 HR’s and 92 RBI. From a shortstop. Cabrera was a big reason the Indians stayed in the AL Central race up to mid-September. He played pretty good defense too.

10) Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers: After a monster September, Beltre ended 2011 at .296 with 32 HR’s and 105 RBI while playing stellar defense at third base. Beltre might have been given strong consideration for MVP had he not missed almost a month with a hamstring injury.

There’s the top ten. Interestingly enough, you’ll find no mention of Josh Hamilton, last year’s MVP. He still was right around .300, he still was right around 100 RBI. Yet even Rangers fans would probably list him no better than third for team MVP. Just goes to show how potent that Rangers line-up is.

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What Goes Around Comes Around: Yankees 2 Wins, Rangers 1 Win

I have to confess: I did something Sunday that I have never done while attending a Texas Rangers game: I left early.

Believe it or not, it had nothing to do with the final ugly score. I actually left while it the game was still within reach at 6-5, with the Yankees on top. No, I left because it was Mother’s Day and, after the game, we still had a three-hour drive ahead of us in order to have a Mother’s Day dinner with our Texas kids. As much as I love the Rangers, family still comes first!

Sunday’s series finale was a hot one with occasional breezes taking some of the edge off those of us sitting in the left field foul line seats. The game started out well, with a combination of CC Sabathia walks and horrid Yankees defense contributing to a 3 run first and, after two, the Rangers sported a 4-0 lead on the Bronx ace. Meanwhile, fill-in starter Dave Bush (oh, how I wanted to see Alexi Ogando pitching this game) surprised most Rangers fans with two quick efficient innings.

The Yankees bit back with two runs in the third and added another pair in the 5th, tying things up at 4. Texas brought in Arthur Rhodes in the 7th, who immediately gave up back to back jacks by Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson to make it a 6-4 Yankees lead. Jeter must have gotten some great Gatorade on Sunday. Coming into the game, he had no steals and three extra base hits all year (all doubles). Sunday, he stole his first base and jacked two out of the park. I’d say more nice things about him, but the guy three rows in front of me wearing the Jeter shirt keeps me from doing so. Said fan kept pointing to himself after both home runs, generally trying to take credit for it all like he hit the homers himself. Sorry, dude, your guy would’ve gotten more love from me if not for you!

I really thought we might have a comeback in us when Texas chased Sabathia with a run in the bottom of the 7th to make it 6-5. Joba Chamberlain came close to giving up home runs to Michael Young and Mike Napoli, but both were caught on the warning track. After the 7th, it quickly got ugly. Fortunately, I didn’t witness the carnage of the 8th.

When the smoke cleared, my second live game was a complete mirror of my first game of 2011. That one saw the Rangers beat the Red Sox 12-5. This one saw the Rangers lose 12-5. Texas had four home runs in the Red Sox win. The Yankees had four bombs in their win. Adrian Beltre had a grand slam in the Red Sox game, Francisco Cervelli had one in the Yankees game.

It was a shame, becase the Yankees really did not look that great in the field (4 errors and it probably should’ve been 5) or even on the mound, but that’s just how bad the Rangers are playing right now.

It would be easy to say the Rangers never should have brought Rhodes in to start the 7th. At 42, he’s not a pitcher you should be bringing in on back to back days, let alone when it’s a day game following a night game. Unfortunately, the Rangers bullpen is a mess these days, and there really wasn’t a good alternative.

Now, after Monday’s 7-2 loss to Oakland, the defending AL Champs find themselves a pedestrian 18-18 and in 3rd place in the AL West. This team is just not playing well right now. The hitters are pressing, the defense is pressing, the bullpen is failing and the starting pitching is inconsistent. To top it off, it was hopeful that Tommy Hunter was about ready to return to the Rangers, but then he tweaked his groin again on the final pitch of his rehab start at Round Rock Monday. Now it’s time for an MRI and it could be another month before he’s ready to return.

These are the times that try fans’ souls.

Two Streaks End: Rangers 7, Yankees 2

Ten straight post-season losses vs. the Yankees: OVER!

Zero wins in 7 home playoff appearances: OVER!

The 2010 Rangers rewrite team history again.

Even diehard Rangers fans had to be wondering how the team would come back after losing the way they did in Game 1. Never mind that they’ve shown the ability to bounce back from disappointment time and time again this season. THIS IS THE PLAYOFFS!!! EVERYTHING IS MAGNIFIED IN THE PLAYOFFS!!!

I should do that- write in all caps the rest of the way because THIS IS THE PLAYOFFS!!!

Never mind. I won’t.

The answer to the burning question was answered in inning #1 when Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton pulled off a perfect double steal, plating Andrus with the first run of the game. When David Murphy followed with a second inning solo home run, it seemed safe to say the Rangers had bounced back nicely, thank you very much. By the time it was all over, Texas had made a big statement: We’re not going anywhere (except to New York for Games 3, 4 and 5)!

The bullpen still made things, shall we say, adventurous, but they still came away with 3 1/3 innings of scoreless ball. As a bonus, everyone who was a part of the 8th inning debacle Friday night got to atone for it Saturday. Clay Rapada’s strikeout of Marcus Thames to end the 6th was probably the turning point of the game in terms of stopping Yankees momentum.

Alexi Ogando saw his first action and, while it wasn’t easy, it didn’t result in scores either. The faithful at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington were noticeably pensive when Darren Oliver came on in the 8th after his two walk performance on Friday. They grew even more restless when he walked the first batter. A 3-pitch strikeout of Jorge Posada relaxed them a bit and Ian Kinsler’s great play on Lance Berkman’s grounder had everyone forgiving Darren for his previous sins. Darren #2, Mr. O’Day, closed out the 8th getting Marcus Thames to ground out, setting the crowd off on their traditional variation on the soccer anthem, singing “O’Day O’Day, O’Day O’Day”!

Neftali Feliz came to the mound for the first time in the 9th and, as in the ALDS, caused many moments of frustration for the fans who were ready to celebrate a win. Feliz struck out Derek Jeter to start things off, but walks to Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira stirred the restlesness pot once again. Instead of Mike Maddux, this actually prompted a visit to the mound from Ron Washington, who seldom does such a thing without pulling the pitcher. Whatever he told Feliz, it worked, because he got A-Rod out on a ground ball and Robinson Cano skied to left for the final out.

For the first time in the playoffs, we saw the respect for Josh Hamilton. Hambone walked four times in the game, two of those intentionally. The Rays had Josh when he was still working on getting his timing back after missing almost a month to injury. After Friday night’s 3-run first inning home run told them he just might have that timing back, you can tell the Yankees, if they can, will avoid Hamilton in key situations.

What more can you say about the Rangers starting pitching? CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis have just shut down the Yankees attack. Meanwhile, Texas has teed off against New York’s #1 and #3 starters in the first two games. On the other hand, the Yankees bullpen has outshone the Rangers relief corps by a wide margin so far.

Did anyone else notice how worthless the TBS PitchTrak system is? I’d say about half the pitches showing outside the right margin of their box was called a strike. When it’s that consistent, it’s not the ump, it’s the electronics!

Thanks to this win, the national narrative for this series can now take a different shape. Disappointed as I was with the Game 1 loss, I could not believe some of the talking heads that pass themselves off as experts were sounding. They were already talking about the series being over. The most egregious of these were two guys on MLB Radio today. I wish I knew who they were but I didn’t catch the names. One was the on-air guy at the time. He closed his segment up by predicting a Yankees blow-out in Game 2. OK, that’s an opinion, so maybe that wasn’t so bad. The other guy, though, I think was one of the newspaper reporters who follows the Yankees. When asked about how the rest of the series was going to go, he said, in no uncertain terms, that Friday morning he was planning on being back in Arlington next weekend, but now he was CERTAIN he wouldn’t have to leave New York next week.

Mathematically, that’s still a possibility, but it was obvious from the way he was talking he already had Game 2 as a slam-dunk no-doubter from the get go. He was right. He was just thinking about the wrong team!

I spoke earlier of a shift in the narrative of the series. Think about this. Not trying to get ahead of myself, but if the Rangers win Game 3 with Cliff Lee on the mound to go up 2-1, there will be a shift in what you hear about the Series. Instead of, “The Rangers 8th blew Game 1 with a horrible 8th inning” we’ll start hearing more along the lines of “If not for one bad inning in Game 1, the Rangers would be up 3-0 on the defending World Champions!” Already, the narrative is shifting the Rangers way with talk about how well the offense has handled CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes. A solid effort against Andy Pettite on Monday (no easy feat, to be sure) and you’ll actually hear some serious doubt raised about the Yankees chances.

That is one narrative I sure would like to hear at the end of the night Monday. On to New York!

A New Era Begins

7PM CDT October 15,2010. No matter how many games this lasts, it will be the latest the Rangers have ever played in a calendar year.

Four steps need to be made, each one putting the team closer to what longtime fans once thought unfathomable- the World Series.

Will the 2010 Texas Rangers successfully walk up those steps in 2010? The next 4-7 games will tell.

Funniest thing I heard: Listening the MLB Radio on the XM on the way to work as I always do, I heard a Yankee fan call in to Jim Memelo and Jeff Nelson. His complaint? “Cliff Lee this, Cliff Lee that. Can we please stop talking about Cliff Lee?” Hysterical. Pot, meet kettle. No disrespect intended, but sir, do you realize how much the rest of the nation hears about the Yankees day in, day out? Especially in the off-season? And you can’t take someone talking about someone else for a change for even three days? Please. Wonder if he’d be complaining if Lee had gone to the Yankees instead of Texas back in July.

What 40 years of futility does to one’s mind set: Yesterday I followed two links via Lone Star Ball and read two articles picking the Rangers to beat the Yankees in the ALCS. I didn’t know what to do with this. I’m so used to nobody picking the Rangers, I don’t know how to respond to someone picking for them. I even started thinking it has to be bad news for someone to say the Rangers are favored. This team seems to perform better as underdogs. One regular Rangers blogger was certain we would lose Game 5 against the Rays. That’s how used to failure we are. That’s why success smells so sweet right now.

Sizing Up The ALCS: OK, time for some serious comparisons. Despite home field advantage for Texas, it’s easy to see why the Yankees should be favored. History is definitely on their side. They have a scary offense. They’re sound defensively. Their pitching is pretty good.

I don’t think there’s any doubt the Yankees, around the infield, are the stronger team. Texeira vs. Moreland, no contest. Kinsler-Cano. Edge to Cano because of Kinsler’s 2 DL trips, otherwise a push. Jeter vs. Andrus, edge Jeter. A-Rod vs. Young. Sorry, Michael. You’ve been our rock but A-Rod’s power is the difference there.

On the other hand, the Rangers have the upper hand in the outfield, especially in outfield depth. Hamilton and Cruz certainly top Granderson and Swisher. Plus we have Borbon, Murphy and Francoeur to counter Gardner, Thames and Kearns.

Behind the plate is a wash. Posada and Cervelli are better offensively than Molina and Treanor, but I give the defensive/play calling edge to the Rangers.

DH is easily in the Rangers column with Vlad Guerrero, although he hasn’t been hitting with a lot of power lately. He’s still someone who can change a game in a hurry.

Offensively, then, it’s pretty much even. That brings us to pitching.

To me, this series comes down to how Andy Pettite performs. Pettite missed a big chunk of the season with a groin injury. He’s made four starts since he returned. Pettite pitched well in his first start. Then he got shelled in his second and third appearances before pitching a good game against the Twins in the ALDS. Pettite has given the Rangers fits in the past and he has a sterling post-season record. Still, two good starts and two bad starts since coming off the DL makes him a wild card. Plus, he’s the one who has to contend with Cliff Lee in the ALCS.

To be sure, CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis HAVE to perform well for the Rangers to have a chance. Like Pettite for the Yankees, I’m not 100% sure either pitcher can do it twice in this series. And the Game 4 match-up? I think both Rangers fans and Yankees fans have absolutely no idea who comes out on top in a Hunter-Burnett match-up. From what I can gather, fans on both sides are expecting their guy to LOSE this one!

Bullpens are pretty equal as well. You have to give the Yankees the closer edge with Rivera against the Rangers rookie Feliz, even though Texas has had success against Rivera in the regular season. I think the Rangers have more quality set-up guys than the Yankees, so that puts the bullpens as a wash.

Overall, that spells a pretty even series to me. The keys for the Rangers are Josh Hamilton starting to hit again and the Rangers as a team not letting the Yankees get into their heads. If they stay level-headed and Hambone gets his timing back, they can win this thing and go to the Ultimate Show.

The Prediction: The history of this ballclub says to me (unfortunately) if this is just a 4 or 5 game series, that probably means the Yankees have won. Six or seven games tells me Josh is back on his offensive game and the Rangers will be on top in the end.

In 1996, Texas made the playoffs for the first time in their history. They won the season series from the Yankees, 7-5. They lost to the Yanks in the ALDS in four games.

Despite winning four of their last five against the Yankees (the last three without Josh Hamilton), regular season success does not necessarily mean post-season success.

Time to prove it can!

An Unexpected Sweep: Rangers 4, Yankees 1

One, two, three, look at Mr. Lee
Three, four, five, look at him jive
Mr. Lee, Mr. Lee
Oh, Mr. Lee
Mr. Lee, Mr. Lee
Oh, Mr. Lee
Mr. Lee

-The Bobettes, 1957

Rangers fans held their breaths when Cliff Lee first strode to the mound Sunday to face the Yankees. Which Cliff Lee would the crowd of 40,000+ see? The Cliff Lee of 2009 and the first half of 2010 or the Cliff Lee with the ERA close to nine over the past three starts?

The answer is: this was the Cliff Lee Rangers fans have been waiting for. The back problems behind him, Lee was magnificent, allowing only two hits over eight innings to the hard-hitting Yankees and leading the Rangers to their first sweep of the Bombers in Arlington since 1996- coincidentally, the year Texas first won the AL West and their inaugural playoff berth.

There were anxious moments: first batter of the game, as a matter of fact. Lee, who came into the game with a grand total of 13 walks given up for the year, walked Derek Jeter to lead off the game. Before Rangers fans could even say “Here we go again”, though, Lee induced a double play grounder. Next thing you know, Lee was mowing ’em down right and left and had a no-hitter through five.

Unfortunately, the Rangers weren’t getting on the scoreboard, an annoying habit which has occured in almost all of Lee’s quality starts for the Rangers. In the 6th, Lee gave up his first hit. Then he issued his second walk. Then he gave up a second hit and tthe Yankees had drawn first blood. Lee finally got out of the inning trailing just 1-0.

Texas promptly tied it in the bottom of the 6th the old-fashioned way: with small ball. Elvis Andrus drew a lead-off walk, stole second, went to third on a fly to right by Michael Young and came home when David Murphy hit a grounder to first, Mark Teixeira threw home and Andrus eluded the tag. Tie game 1-1.

Lee took care of business in the top of the 7th. The game swung the Rangers way in the bottom of the 7th.

Ian Kinsler drew a lead-off walk this time. When Mitch Moreland flied to deep right, Kinsler stayed close to first, tagged and went to second. Matt Treanor sent another fly to right, sending Kinsler to 3rd but leaving only one out left for the Yankees to wiggle out of it. Up to the plate strode Julio Borbon.

For those who have never seen Borbon play, he can be an infuriating player. Some of Borbon’s at-bats are horrendous. He hits more than his share of weak ground balls and lazy pop flies. In his first two at-bats Sunday, Borbon somehow managed to hit two balls like he was chipping to the green, popping out to the pitcher.

When Borbon is on, however, magic happens. Magic happened here. With two strikes, Borbon squared to bunt and sent the ball to the pitcher side of first base. Borbon’s head-first slide beat the pitcher’s foot to the first base bag by tenths of a second. Kinsler had scored the go-ahead run to make it 2-1. Borbon promptly stole second and scored the third run on Elvis Andrus’ single. Andrus alertly took second on the throw home, allowing him to score the fourth and final run on Michael Young’s single.

Lee cruised through the 8th on six pitches. He went out for the 9th to face the top of the Yankees order and Derek Jeter coaxed his second walk of the game on a 3-2 pitch Lee obviously thought was a strike. At that point, Ron Washington decided it was Neftali Feliz time.

Feliz was on fire! First he struck Curtis Granderson out swinging. Despite having 100 MPH heat, Feliz got Mark Teixeira looking on an 80 MPH breaking ball and Tex knew it. Former Astro Lance Berkman was sent up to pinch hit and took a 97 MPH heater on a 2-2 count for a called strike three and a sweep most Rangers fans never would have expected following a 4-6 road trip.

Combined with the A’s loss to the Red Sox, the Rangers magic number is now down to 12. Thanks to Lee, the bullpen got a much-needed rest. Combined with an off-day Monday, everyone will be well-rested when the Tigers come to town Tuesday.

A 5-game winning streak coming off a 5-game losing streak and every win without Josh Hamilton in the line-up. This can only bode well for this club’s confidence down the stretch.

Quick trivia: Who leads the Rangers in RBI’s in September? That well-known slugger Julio Borbon, with 9!

In case you hadn’t heard: Nelson Cruz’ walk-off homer on Friday was his 5th extra innings home run of the season. That ties a major league record.

Saving Money: The Yankees must have heard about my offer to Cliff Lee in my last post. Not wanting any part of it, they chose not to play Francisco Cervelli in Sunday’s game. Saved me five bucks…

Did you see the Rangers commit an error in this series? Neither did I. Great job, guys!

The season series ends with both teams having won four games. If this is indeed the first-round playoff pairing, much will be made in the national media about the Rangers being 0-3 at Yankee Stadium this year. It’s a valid statement, but those three games were also all the way back in April before the team had even begun to gel. It would be just as valid to point out the Yankees lost four out of five at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

It is true, playoff baseball is a completely different animal. Just ask the Rangers of ’96, ’98 and ’99 who lost nine of ten to the Yankees in the playoffs. The last one hurt the most, as the Rangers took the season series from the Yanks, including being over .500 at Yankee Stadium, yet they went down meekly in three straight once it was all on the line.

This team may have swept New York this time, but they also are well aware it won’t matter if and when they meet in the post-season. Still, at least it gives the fans, if not the players, hope of more good things to come in October.

Noteworthy: 8/12/10

Taking advantage of the off day to comment on things I wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to…

1) Today the sale of the Rangers was approved unanimously by MLB owners. The group headed by Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg are now officially in charge. Greenberg had the best low-key quote, especially considering all the turmoil that went into this sale going through. He said, “This is really cool.” Virtually every Rangers fan feels the same way, Chuck. Glad you’re here with us.

2) On the same day the sale became official, the Rangers announced they had signed their supplemental first round draft pick for a 1 1/2 million dollar signing bonus, roughly double the suggested slot price for that pick. On their first day, the new ownership group has already sent a message that they are willing to spend money on their product, unlike the last few years of the Tom Hicks era.

3) I don’t want to be a downer, but even with ownership indicating they will make a play for him, I am not currently optimistic about the possibility of signing Cliff Lee to a long term deal at the end of the season. I base this on two things: A) Lee admitted how much the heat took out of him in Wednesday night’s game against the Yankees. Not that he won’t take that as a learning experience and do better next time, but it did bother him. B) I can’t help but notice every time Lee is interviewed about his next start, he pointedly does not refer to the Rangers by name. He just says something along the lines of, “I’m just trying to help my team win.” (Emphasis mine) Maybe that’s just the words of someone who’s played for so many teams over the past two seasons he doesn’t want to commit to any team. Still, I can’t help but feel Lee is sending a message with his choice of words. I sure hope I’m wrong.

4) Wednesday night’s loss to the Yankees. This was a heartbreaking loss. The question is how will the Rangers respond? No matter what the players may say out loud, you know internally they knew the playoff implications of this series. In my mind, the Yankees won the game because they stayed mentally tough and focused to the end, while the Rangers took some time off mentally after they knocked Javier Vasquez out. So will they learn and move on from this loss, or will they let it fester as proof they can’t win the big one yet? So far this season, the Rangers have answered with the former every time. Again, I sure hope they do it again this time.

5) Everyone talks about football being a game of inches but baseball is too. Think about all the implications in last night’s game alone: A) Michael Young’s 1st inning home run barely goes over at the foul pole for the Rangers first run; B) Mitch Moreland’s 4th inning single glances off Lance Berkman’s glove. Two runs score; C) Michael Young gets caught in a rundown off third and manages to just get back to the bag ahead of the tag. He will later score; D) Nelson Cruz barely misses catching Derek Jeter’s fly ball. It turns into a triple and Jeter scores the Yankees first run; E) A pitch to the screen bounces straight back to Bengie Molina who fires to third. If the throw hadn’t bounced, Curtis Granderson would have been out at third; F) The 9th inning seeing eye single that managed to barely go over Neftali Feliz’ glove at the mound and subsequently goes just under the glove of Cristian Guzman at second; and G) Michael Young’s 9th inning fly that Austin Kearns barely caught, keeping Elvis Andrus from scoring the tying run. Just a few inches difference on any one of those plays could have turned the game in any number of directions.