Sabathia tagged for 11 hits but Yankees survive in Game 5

CC Sabathia of the New York Yankee pitches to the Texas Rangers in the first inning during game five of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium on October 20, 2010 in New York.   UPI/Monika Graff Photo via Newscom

It wasn’t a picture perfect outing for CC Sabathia but the Yankees don’t mind.

The Yankees’ ace allowed 11 hits over six innings on Wednesday, but the Bombers managed to beat the Rangers 7-2 to stave off elimination in the ALCS. The series now shifts to Texas for two games, as the Rangers currently own a 3-2 lead.

Sabathia worked himself in and out of jams the entire game, as the Rangers stranded a total of eight batters on the night. He struck out seven and somehow managed to not issue a walk while throwing 112 pitches to pick up his first win of the ALCS (he got a no-decision in the Yankees’ come-from-behind victory in Game 1 of the series).

Offensively, Curtis Granderson finished with three hits and drove in two runs, while Nick Swisher scored twice and drove in a run as well. The Yankees built a 5-0 lead before catcher Matt Treanor hit a solo shot in the fifth off Sabathia to give the Rangers’ their first run of the game. They would add tack on another run in the sixth but that’s all they could muster as Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect 8th and 9th, respectively.

Game 6 will start at 8:07PM ET and will feature Phil Hughes vs. Colby Lewis. The Rangers are just 1-3 at home this postseason.

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The Twins were finished before they got to Yankee Stadium on Saturday

Minnesota Twins' Nick Punto (L) and Jim Thome look out from their dugout late in Game 3 against the New York Yankees in their MLB American League Divison Series baseball playoffs in New York October 9, 2010. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

I witnessed one of the stranger sights on Thursday night after Game 2 of the ALDS between the Yankees and Twins.

There some of the Twins were immediately after the game, hanging out at the top step of the dugout watching the Yankees congratulate themselves after their Game 2 win. It was the same scene you see when a team is officially eliminated from a playoff series, yet Minnesota hadn’t been eliminated yet. It was almost like they knew the series was already over and there was no point heading to New York for Game 3.

Well, now the series is officially over, as the Yankees beat the Twins 6-1 on Saturday night. Phil Hughes pitched seven scoreless frames while allowing just four hits and striking out six batters. Kerry Wood crapped on the party by giving up a run in the eighth, but at that point the game was pretty much in the bag for New York.

Getting back to the Twins, maybe I’m overacting a little but it seemed to me that they believed the series was over on Thursday. That’s probably not right to say that about all of their players, but after the club’s effort last night, it’s hard to argue that they weren’t out of it mentally.

Of course, it’s not like Yankee Stadium is an easy place to play and I don’t want to take anything away from Hughes’ gem. If the Twins’ heads weren’t in it, give the Yankees credit for taking advantage of the situation and not wasting any time putting Minnesota out of its misery. Now they can rest up (which is huge for an older team) and wait to see who emerges from the other ALDS series.

Brian McCann helps the National League finally end 13 years of misery

National League All-Star catcher Brian McCann (L) of the Atlanta Braves celebrates with relief pitcher Jonathan Broxton of the Los Angeles Dodgers after the National League won Major League Baseball's All-Star Game in Anaheim, California July 13, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Down 1-0 heading into the seventh inning, you got the sense of “here we go again” for the National League in the All-Star Game. The pitching was excellent (the one run that the AL scored was unearned), but nobody was hitting and it appeared that the NL was destined to spend the rest of its existence in All-Star Game hell.

Then Braves’ catcher Brian McCann came to the plate with bases loaded and promptly unloaded them with a double to give the NL a 3-1 lead. The Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, the Giants’ Brian Wilson and the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton followed with scoreless innings in the seventh, eighth and ninth to give the NL its first ASG victory in 13 years.

The pitching in most All-Star Games is usually good, but the NL’s staff was excellent on Tuesday night. They allowed just six hits and one earned run, while walking three batters and striking out eight. Roy Halladay had the most trouble in his 0.2 innings of work by allowing two hits, although neither run crossed home plate.

The pitching for the AL was also solid outside of the Yankees’ Phil Hughes, who had decent stuff but was smacked around in the fatal seventh inning. In just 0.1 innings of work, he gave up two runs on two hits, including McCann’s double.

Also noteworthy was how base running came into play late in the game for both sides. Down 1-0 in the seventh, Scott Rolen (who had reached on a single) took second and third on only a single by the Cardinals Matt Holliday because he read the ball off the bat perfectly. While he eventually scored on McCann’s double, Rolen’s savvy base running play was potentially huge because it put a runner at third with less then two outs and the NL down by one run.

On the flip side, the AL was threatening in the bottom of the ninth when David Ortiz singled to right to start the inning and John Buck hit what looked to be another single two batters later. But Ortiz didn’t read the play well enough and while the ball dropped in front of outfielder Marlon Byrd, he still had enough time to pick it up and make a good throw to second to nail Ortiz for the force out.

While it was a tough play for Ortiz to read, the gaff killed any momentum that the AL had built in the ninth and Broxton was able to retire Ian Kinsler to give the NL its first victory in over a decade.

A-Rod redemption

It’s been a surreal year for Alex Rodriguez. It began with disgrace, as he joined the club of major league players implicated in the never-ending steroids scandal. He was never a fan favorites in New York, and now he had sunk to a new low. His reputation would be forever tarnished.

Yet after watching A-Rod’s postseason performance so far, this may be the best thing that ever happened to him. Last night, A-Rod rose to the occasion again to provide a dramatic home run to save the day for the Yankees in Game 2.

• To be honest, for all his remarkable numbers, A-Rod has never inspired legend quite like a Williams or Ruth, a Bonds or a Mantle. Yet through five postseason games, he now has three home runs that have either tied or put the Yankees ahead. One off Joe Nathan and another off Brian Fuentes, two pretty darn good closers, too. Here’s the reaction from The LoHud Yankees Blog:

• His story of exorcising October demons has almost become old hat. Four times he has been asked the same questions and four times he has continued to repeat what he said in St. Pete. “I know you guys are probably looking for something profound. I’m just in a good place. I’m seeing the ball and I’m hitting it. That’s about it.” Rodriguez now has an RBI in each of the first five postseason games, setting a new Yankee record. Here’s audio from Rodriguez:

• Burnett said he, Phil Hughes, Phil Coke and Joba Chamberlain were in the clubhouse watching the 11th inning unfold. People would never believe the scene they made after Rodriguez hit the tying homer. “We were like little kids,” Burnett said, “jumping around and hugging.”

• In the dugout, Mark Teixeira couldn’t fathom that Rodriguez had done it. Again. “I just kept yelling, ‘He did it again! He did it again!” Teixeira said. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

It’s amazing what a great athlete can do when he just focuses on the job at hand. A-Rod has admitted to being so self-absorbed that he put tremendous pressure on himself. The scandal seems to have forced A-Rod to grow up and develop a more mature approach to the game. If he keeps this up and the Yankees win the World Series, this will be one of the fastest and most dramatic image turnarounds we’ve ever seen in sports.

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