Results tagged ‘ Mitch Moreland ’

Yanks ride rollercoaster to victory

The momentum swings in Tuesday night’s game resembled the rollercoaster at the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park across the highway from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Yankees went up to a 3-0 lead, then down to a 4-3 deficit and then up again to a 5-4 victory.

Just a week after getting a save in the All-Star Game where Mariano Rivera served as his setup man, Joe Nathan sustained only his second blown save in 33 opportunities this year as the Yanks staged a dramatic rally that sent Texas to its first loss in 52 games this season when the Rangers were leading after eight innings.

To finish things off, Rivera returned to his normal role and got his 32nd save of the season and 640th of his career with a 1-2-3 ninth featuring two strikeouts, a perfect end to an absolutely startling comeback for the Yankees, who appeared down for the count against the Rangers’ impressive bullpen.

Texas relievers recorded 10 consecutive outs before Nathan walked Vernon Wells with one out in the ninth. Nathan further improved the Yankees’ condition with a wild pitch that not only advanced Wells to second base but also forced the Rangers to bring their outfielders in shallower for a possible play at the plate.

Eduardo Nunez benefitted from the altered defense with a drive to the wall in left-center for an RBI triple, the Yanks’ first hit since the fourth inning. The run scored by Wells ended a streak of 25 2/3 scoreless innings by the Texas pen dating to July 11. Brent Lillibridge then atoned for an earlier damaging error with a single to left that scored Nunez with what proved the winning run.

Phil Hughes has had somewhat surprising success at Rangers Ballpark despite its being a hitters’ paradise. Tuesday night it appeared that success would continue as the Yankees gave Hughes an early lead and he was doing a good job at protecting it. For five innings anyway.

Everything fell apart for Hughes, however, in the sixth. An error by Lillibridge at third base with one out opened the door for the Rangers, who came back from being down 3-0 to take a 4-3 lead. Adrian Beltre followed the error with a double for Texas’ first run. Hughes got the second out on a fly to center by A.J. Pierzynski but gave up a single to Elvis Andrus that got Texas to 3-2.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi made a quick hook of Hughes (80 pitches) for lefthander Boone Logan, who faced left-handed batting Mitch Moreland, who drove a home run over the center field fence. Only one of the three runs charged to Hughes was earned as his ERA at Rangers Ballpark fell to 1.90 over 23 2/3 innings.

The Yankees also had an exceptional defensive game with second baseman Robinson Cano making one of his patented across-the-body throws to first on a far-ranging play to his right in the seventh and center fielder Brett Gardner belly-flopping in right-center to haul down a drive by Andrus.

Andy ties Whitey for K record in loss

Andy Pettitte couldn’t even come away with a consolation prize Wednesday night. A seventh strikeout in the Yankees’ 8-5 loss to the Rangers would have given Pettitte the club record. His strikeout of Adrian Beltre in the fifth inning was career No. 1,957 for Pettitte, who tied Whitey Ford for the most punchouts by a pitcher in franchise history.

Pettitte’s final inning was the sixth. After retiring A.J. Pierzynski, the leadoff hitter that inning, Pettitte got two strikes on the next four hitters but failed to get strike three each time. Lance Berkman grounded out to third. Mitch Moreland singled to center. David Murphy came back from 0-2 to draw a walk. Leonys Martin ended the inning with a popout to shortstop.

The Yankees tried to get Pettitte off the hook in the bottom of the sixth. Trailing, 4-1, the Yanks rallied to make the score 4-3 on RBI singles by Robinson Cano and Travis Hafner but could get no closer. Lyle Overbay, who had homered off Texas starter Justin Grimm for the Yankees’ first run in the second inning, struck out. After a walk to Zoilo Almonte loaded the bases, Jayson Nix grounded into a double play.

Pettitte’s third consecutive loss that dropped his record to 5-6 came down to one bad inning – the third when the Rangers scored four runs, one of which was unearned due to a throwing error by Nix on a sacrifice bunt by Elvis Andrus that filled the bases with none out. Petttitte caught Nelson Cruz looking at a third strike, but Beltre and Pierzynski followed with two-run doubles. Pettitte at least stranded Pierzynski at second by retiring Berkman on a groundout and Moreland on a called third strike.

After the Yankees closed the gap, Joba Chamberlain opened it again in the seventh by giving up a two-run homer to Cruz. Chamberlain needed to be bailed out by Preston Claiborne after being touched for another double by Beltre and a two-out single by Berkman. Claiborne got Moreland on an infield pop for the third out after replacing Chamberlain, whose ERA skied to 6.38.

Chamberlain’s stretch of ineffectiveness covers his past seven appearances in which he has given up nine earned runs in 6 2/3 innings (12.15 ERA).

“He is making mistakes in the middle of the plate,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I still have confidence in him. His stuff is too good not to turn it around.”

The Yankees tried to turn it around for them in the seventh when a two-run home run by Ichiro Suzuki off Ross Wolf again made it a one-run game at 6-5. Yet once again, the Yankees let the Rangers stretch their lead with a two-run ninth. Both runs were not earned. An error by center fielder Brett Gardner, who dropped a drive by Pierzynski on the warning track in left-center, put runners on second and third with one out. A single by Berkman and sacrifice fly by Moreland added insurance runs for Rangers closer Joe Nathan, who notched his 26th save with a perfect bottom of the ninth.

The loss dropped the Yankees 3 ½ games behind the first-place Red Sox in the American League East and in a virtual tie for second place with the Orioles, who also lost.

Yanks could use some late-inning lightning

I had an interesting exchange earlier in the day with Yankees Universe member Marc Cantelmi about a pattern that has developed to this point in the season that is a bit disturbing, and it was in evidence again Saturday night in the Yankees’ 7-5 loss to the Rangers.

Give the Yankees a lot of credit for coming back from a 5-0 deficit in the second inning to tie the score by the sixth. After that, however, nothing. Derek Jeter, who swung the bat with authority, led off the seventh with a single, but the Yankees went down in order the rest of the way against relievers Darren Oliver and Neftali Feliz. The duo followed Arthur Rhodes, whom the Yankees have historically dominated but who struck out both batters he faced in the sixth, Jorge Posada and Russell Martin, after Nick Swisher’s solo home run off Brent Tomko had tied the score.

The Yankees’ offensive letdown after the sixth inning has been a problem all year. As Cantelmi pointed out, the Yankees have scored 45.3 percent of their runs in the first three innings. After that the percentages drop to 31.5 percent from the fourth to sixth innings and 20.1 percent from the seventh to ninth innings (they have scored 2.5 percent of their runs in extra innings).

The Yankees are batting .247 as a team and only .194 after the sixth inning. As I mentioned to Marc, this suggests that the Yankees have problems once they get into an opponent’s bullpen. This was once considered a team strength, working starters into deep counts, running up pitch counts so that opposing managers have to turn the game over earlier than they would like to the pen where save the closer and perhaps the setup reliever you are looking at the dregs of the staff.

The Yankees followed their 2011 pattern again Saturday night. They knocked out starter Derek Holland one batter into the fourth inning and had four runs, four hits and five walks against him. Against the Texas bullpen, though, the Yanks had one run, two hits and one walk in six innings and failed even to put a runner in scoring position.

As for whether this can eventually become a major problem, I would say yes. Beating up on relievers in the middle innings of games is how teams mount victories, and the Yankees are showing a pattern of not doing that. It may just be part of an overall hitting slump. Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson aside, the Yankees are getting underwhelming offense from what should be a devastating lineup.

Bartolo Colon’s first poor outing put the Yankees in a five-run hole, but they climbed out of it. The Rangers won the game against the Yankees’ bullpen, specifically lefthander Boone Logan, who gave up successive hits to left-handed swinging Mitch Moreland and Chris Davis and a suicide-squeeze bunt to another lefty swinger, Julio Borbon. Michael Young’s fourth hit, a single off righthander David Robertson, knocked in a two-out insurance run.

The Yankees need to turn this around. Don’t look now – and normally glancing at the standings daily doesn’t start until June – but the Yankees are now in a virtual tie with the Rays for first place in the American League East. Tampa Bay started the season 1-8 but is now 19-14 with a .576 winning percentage that is only slightly behind the .581 of the 18-13 Yankees.

How much did Lee lose?

Did Cliff Lee hurt his bargaining power with his two losses in the World Series? Although he pitched brilliantly for six innings Monday night, the three-run home run Lee allowed to Edgar Renteria in the seventh essentially lost the World Series for the Rangers, who will have to dig deep into their pockets, which aren’t exactly Texas size, to retain the lefthander bound for free agency.

The Yankees haven’t made any secret of their interest in Lee, who beat them twice in the 2009 World Series and again in Game 3 of this year’s American League Championship Series. General manager Brian Cashman tried to trade for Lee in July and almost had a deal in place before the Rangers swooped in and grabbed him from Seattle.

Lee was not exactly lights out for Texas during the regular season (4-6, 3.98 ERA) after a terrific start with the Mariners (8-3, 2.34 ERA). That’s a combined record of 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA, which is not all that imposing. Lee is looking for CC Sabathia-type money, but those statistics aren’t CC Sabathia-type numbers.

Speaking of numbers, Lee went from 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in the 2009 World Series to 0-2 with a 6.94 ERA in the 2010 World Series. Now I’m not forgetting his two victories over the Rays on the road in the Division Series or his Game 3 gem against the Yankees in the ALCS, also on the road. In fact, Lee did not lose on the road or win in Texas in the post-season, so maybe Rangers Ballpark In Arlington is not the place for him.

One thing the Yankees have to be careful about is how they look at a pitcher who has been successful against them (9-4, 3.81 ERA, including post-season play). Not to pick on A.J. Burnett, but his attractiveness to the Yankees two off-seasons ago was based a lot on how he pitched against them. The problem is that if a player goes to his “cousin,” then he doesn’t have that “cousin” anymore.

Don’t get the idea that I’m ranking on Lee. He would be a great addition to the Yankees. I’m just saying his price tag may have to be re-arranged a bit.

For old-time Giants fans, the ones still sore at their leaving the Polo Grounds for San Francisco in 1958, you will have to admit that the Curse of Coogan’s Bluff is over now that the Giants have their first championship in the Bay Area. The 1962 Giants of Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal couldn’t do it. The 1989 Giants of Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell and Matt Williams couldn’t do it. The 2002 Giants of Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent and Robb Nen couldn’t do it. Managers as talented as Alvin Dark, Roger Craig and Dusty Baker couldn’t do it.

It came down to the Bruce Bochy-directed Giants of Renteria, Juan Uribe, Aubrey Huff and Cody Ross, plus a string of excellent young pitchers Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, plus an exceptional rookie catcher Buster Posey, plus a paint-it-black bearded closer Brian Wilson, not to be confused with the Beach Boy.

Lincecum outpitched Lee in Game 5, which was also characterized by Bochy out-managing Ron Washington. In the sixth inning, Mitch Moreland led off with a single for the Rangers in what was then a scoreless game. Instead of playing for one run against the overpowering Lincecum, Washington eschewed the sacrifice and had Elvis Andrus swing away on a hit-and-run play, but he lined out to center and Moreland had to scurry back to first base. Again, no bunt with one out, and Michael Young flied out to center as well.

In the seventh, when the Giants put their first two runners on with singles by Ross and Uribe on two-strike pitches, Bochy ordered the bunt from Huff, who did not have a sacrifice in a 13-season career.  A pro, Huff got the ball down and put the runners in scoring position. Lee got the second out by punching out Pat Burrell, who had a brutal Series (0-for13, 11 strikeouts).

Again, Washington blundered by not ordering Renteria walked intentionally and let Lee go after Aaron Rowand. Lee appeared to be pitching around Renteria, but why take the risk of a pitch going awry, such as the 2-0 cutter that the Giants shortstop clubbed for a three-run homer? Never mind that Lee didn’t want to walk Renteria; who’s running the club, the pitcher of the manager?

It was the second game-winning hit in a World Series clinching game for Renteria, who won the 1997 Series for the Marlins against the Indians with an 11th-inning single. Only two other players have done that in Series history, both Yankees – Lou Gehrig (Game 4 in 1928 against the Cardinals and Game 6 in 1936 against the Giants) and Yogi Berra (Game 4 in 1950 against the Phillies and Game 7 in 1956 against the Dodgers). Joe DiMaggio also had two game-winning RBI in Series clinching games (Game 4 in 1939 against the Reds and Game 5 in 1949 against the Dodgers), but the latter was not on a hit but a sacrifice fly.

Renteria’s were far more dramatic than the others because in each case the hits broke ties from the seventh inning on. The Giants simply shut down the Rangers after Texas got back into the Series by winning Game 3. The Rangers scored one run (on Nelson Cruz’s seventh inning solo homer off Lincecum) in the last 21 innings and did not get a single runner in scoring position in Game 5.

It was hard to believe this was the same team that had, in Cashman’s word, “manhandled” the Yankees.

Moreland showed mojo vs. Mo

Of all the players I have watched in this post-season who I did not know much about, the one who has impressed me most is Mitch Moreland, who shot the Rangers into a 3-0 lead in Game 3 of the World Series with a home run off Jonathan Sanchez in the second inning.

I liked the way Moreland hung in there against Mariano Rivera in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. Moreland was sent up as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning of that game after the Yankees had rallied for five runs in the eighth inning to take the lead. I made a notation to keep an eye on this guy when Moreland lined a single to right-center off a reliever who has made his reputation embarrassing left-handed hitters.

Moreland got another hit off Mo in Game 5 and hit a smoking liner off him that was caught for an out in Game 6. I liked Moreland’s approach in each of those at-bats and couldn’t believe it when I learned that the Rangers once tried to talk this guy into giving it up as a position player and switch to pitching. Someone who showed so much savvy in the batter’s box had potential as a big-league hitter, in my view.

So I watched closely again Saturday night as Moreland dueled Sanchez, showing a good eye on balls off the plate and fouling off several close offerings in a nine-pitch at-bat that was climaxed by teeing off on a 89-mph fastball that had “crush me” written underneath Bud Selig’s signature.

On a night when the Rangers were in the position of the volunteers at the Alamo against a Giants team that has been as dominant in the Series as Santa Ana’s forces, Moreland got off a Davy Crockett blow. The only surprise to me is why this guy is still batting ninth.

Giants push Lee off cliff

Cliff Lee’s invincible reputation as a post-season pitcher took its first hit Wednesday night in Game 1 of the World Series. The lefthander spit out a 2-0 lead and watched from the dugout after being knocked out in the fifth inning as the Giants rolled to an 8-2 spread on the way to an 11-7 victory.

Given his previous work in the post-season this year for the Rangers and last year for the Phillies, Lee seemed in total control at 2-0. He even helped build the second run with his bat on a double off a butcher-boy swing that got tortoise-slow Bengie Molina to third base from where he scored on a fly ball by Elvis Andrus.

Door closed, everybody might have thought considering that Lee had won three starts on the road in this post-season (two at Tropicana Field and one at Yankee Stadium) with a 0.75 ERA and had a career post-season mark of 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA.

The Giants’ comeback started with their starting pitcher, Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young Award winner with the violent delivery who settled in effectively after a shaky first two innings. Mitch Moreland, who doubled and was stranded in the fourth, was the only base runner off Lincecum after the Andrus sac fly until two out in the sixth when Ian Kinsler walked and scored on a double by Molina.

The Giants began chipping away in the third when an error by third baseman Michael Young opened the gate for a rally which Lee fed into by hitting a batter and giving up the second of three doubles to Freddy Sanchez. It looked as if Lee righted himself with two called strikeouts to end that inning followed by a perfect fourth. But he failed to stop San Francisco’s merry-go-round in the fifth after one-out doubles by Andres Torres and Sanchez tied the score.

After striking out Buster Posey, Lee, who never walks anybody, put Pat Burrell on with a wayward 3-2 pitch and gave up two-out singles to Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff as the Giants moved ahead. Lee was at 104 pitches, which is usually where he is in the ninth.

Juan Uribe, whose home run against the Phillies in the National League Championship Series got the Giants into the World Series, greeted reliever Darren O’Day with a three-run shot.

For Yankees fans, there was a dual pleasure in watching what happened to Lee after the way he had tormented them in the World Series last year and the American League Championship Series this year. The Yankees nearly traded for Lee in July, and it is no secret that he is high on their off-season shopping list. Should the Rangers triumph in the Series with Lee playing a major role, Texas may be able to persuade him to stay with a club on the rise located only a 40-minute flight away from his Arkansas home.

If the Rangers don’t win the Series, however, Lee might find rejoining his former Indians teammate CC Sabathia a better option. Much was made this week of a story in USA Today in which Lee’s wife, Kristen, complained about rude behavior toward Rangers family members in the stands at Yankee Stadium in which she said beer was tossed at them and that some fans in the upper deck spat upon them.

Lee said he could not blame the Yankees organization for the oafish behavior of some fans. Still, a wife’s view can be important to where a player signs. One of George Steinbrenner’s many strengths in the pursuit of free agents was his penchant for charming players’ wives in convincing them there was no better place to play, or shop, than in New York. The current front office could find Mrs. Lee to be quite a challenge.

At the seventh inning stretch at AT&T Park, Tony Bennett sang “God Bless America.” The singer, 84, has long been identified with the Bay Area because of his 1962 hit, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” He is, however, a native New Yorker. The former Anthony Benedetto grew up in Astoria, Queens, in the same neighborhood as a guy named Edward Ford, who would find success with the Yankees by the nickname of “Whitey.”

Yanks send ALCS back to Texas

We have still yet to see in the post-season the CC Sabathia who was a Cy Young Award candidate during the regular season. Despite that, the lefthander is undefeated in three starts and played a major role Wednesday in keeping the American League Championship Series alive for the Yankees.

Just as a late-inning rally by the Yankees in Game 1 took him off the hook in a lackluster outing, Sabathia took the Yankees off a hook in Game 5 that might have ended their season with a serviceable performance that was still good enough to prevent the Rangers from clinching their first invitation to the World Series.

The Yankees’ climb in the ALCS remains uphill, but they at least earned a return trip to Texas, which is all they could hope for after having lost three of the first four games in the series. Who would have thought they would look forward to another date with Cliff Lee? That would come in Game 7, another victory away.

Sabathia was far from dominant. The Rangers reached him for 11 hits, but only one – a home run by catcher Matt Treanor in the sixth – did any tangible damage. The other run off him came on an infield out. In many ways, Texas let Sabathia off the hook. The Rangers stranded eight runners – six in scoring position – in his six innings. A pair of double plays served as part of the rescue party for Sabathia.

“He made key pitches when he had to,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Sabathia. “That’s why he’s the pitcher that he is and won all the games that he won this year.”

“I felt more prepared than I was in Game 1,” CC said. “I wanted to keep us in it and make the pitches I needed to.”

The bug guy didn’t hurt himself with walks (none). He had seven strikeouts, including a big one on Mitch Moreland looking at a slider with runners on second and third with his 112th and last pitch. Sabathia has allowed 22 hits in 16 innings and has a 5.63 ERA in his three post-season starts, but his record is 2-0 and the Yankees 3-0 in those games.

That the Yankees won behind Sabathia will only lend credence to the critics of manager Joe Girardi’s decision not to have CC start Game 4 instead of A.J. Burnett. It is too late for all that. One more time: the Yankees needed a fourth starter in the ALCS – who else you got? Whether Burnett should have pitched beyond five innings in Game 4, well, that is another argument and one that does the Yankees no good in rehashing now.

The Game 5 victory had the Yankees looking ahead, not behind. Their bats were noisier with home runs by Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano (four in the ALCS) and Curtis Granderson and doubles by Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez and Granderson, pretty good amplification without Mark Teixeira, out for the rest of the series with a strained right hamstring.

Texas lost left fielder Nelson Cruz to a tight hamstring in the fifth, but the injury may not be as serious as that of Teixeira.

The extra-base hits were important for the Yankees because they still were anemic in the clutch. They had two hits in 11 at-bats (.182) with runners in scoring position and are 8-for-51 (.157) in the series in those situations.

The Rangers, who could have closed out the series with a victory, displayed a sloppiness not previously seen in the series. They threw the ball over the lot in the Yankees’ three-run third inning. In the seventh, Elvis Andrus, who had three hits and a stolen base, got himself picked off second base by Kerry Wood, who also picked Ian Kinsler off first base in Game 1.

The Yankees’ play in the field was flawless.

“There was determination on our part,” Girardi said. “We haven’t played our best in this series. But I saw the mood during batting practice, and the guys knew what we had to do.”

So the Yankees are on their way to Texas, and Yankees fans hope there will still be more games at Yankee Stadium this year. That would mean there would be another World Series in the Bronx.

Replay cost Yanks early run

For the first time in the American League Championship Series, the Rangers did not score in the first inning, which was an encouraging early sign for A.J. Burnett. The Yankees also took an early lead for the first time in the series, which was an encouraging sign, period.

It was a busy second inning for umpire Jim Reynolds, who was working the right field line. Robinson Cano got the first hit of the game, his third home run of the series, which featured a scene out of Yankees post-season history. As Texas right fielder Nelson Cruz jumped at the wall and reached for the ball, the outstretched hands of two fans in the front row came into view as the ball hit the top of the fence and bounced into the stands.

Cruz claimed interference, and Rangers manager Ron Washington exited the dugout to talk to Reynolds. The exchange was not heated, so Washington apparently accepted the ruling. The situation brought to mind Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS between the Yankees and the Orioles when a New Jersey schoolboy named Jeffrey Maier interfered with a drive by Derek Jeter for a home run. The difference that night was that after the game right field ump Richie Garcia admitted he made the wrong call.

The umpires may now use televised replays on questionable home runs but did not in that case. Two batters later, they did, however. Lance Berkman’s high drive to right kept hooking and from my seat in the press box where the right field foul pole is directly in my view the ball veered foul into the second deck.

I was astonished to see Reynolds signal a home run. The crowd loved it. Pitcher Tommy Hunter and catcher Bengie Molina did not. Washington was out of the dugout again, but he was taking nobody’s word for it until the play was reviewed. The call was correctly reversed to a foul ball. Now Yankees fans were upset, but as the replay plainly revealed the ball hooked in front of the pole and landed in foul territory.

Burnett could have used that extra run, too, because the Rangers came back to score two runs in the third without a ball leaving the infield. After two perfect innings, Burnett had his first burst of wildness. He walked David Murphy and hit Molina with a pitch. Molina was attempting to sacrifice, so Burnett hit a guy who was giving him an out.

After Mitch Moreland bunted the runners over, Mark Teixeira made an excellent, short-hop pickup of a grounder by Elvis Andrus but could not set himself for a throw home. Tex tossed to Burnett covering first instead as Andrus scored the tying run. Michael Young followed with a slow roller to third that Alex Rodriguez had trouble getting out of his glove and beat the throw at first for a single that scored Molina for a 2-1 Texas lead.

The Yankees tied the score in the bottom of the inning with the run also coming on an infield hit. With two out, Jeter missed a home run by inches as the ball hit near the top of the center field fence next to the 408-foot sign. The ball caromed back toward the infield, and Jeter hustled it into a triple.

Curtis Granderson followed with a hard, one-bouncer that ate up second baseman for a single as Jeter crossed the plate with his 32nd run scored in ALCS play. It broke the record he had shared with former teammate Bernie Williams, who just happened to have thrown out the ceremonial first pitch.

Of Lee and legalities

Let’s clear up the issue about the gunk on Cliff Lee’s cap. Some people in the media seem obsessed with it, which doesn’t make sense. If there was anything illegal about it, don’t you think Lee would have been told by umpires to clean it up by now?

The reason they haven’t is because there is nothing in the rules of baseball preventing a pitcher from using resin on his cap or anywhere else. Resin is not an illegal substance in baseball. It is used to help pitchers keep their hands dry. When mixed with perspiration, which Lee’s often is by sweaty fingers rubbing against resin, the combination can improve a pitcher’s grip.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi has dispelled the notion that Lee is pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes, which is the approach to take because to do otherwise would put an idea in his hitters’ minds that they do not need. Dealing with Lee’s pitches is hard enough.

The suspicion by some is that what is on Lee’s cap is not resin but actually pine tar, which is legal for use on bats but not balls. Come on, why would he put if where everyone could see it? Girardi did the right thing by not taking issue with it. If Lee really is loading up the ball – and I don’t think he is – the gunky cap would only be a diversion as he applied the illegal substance from somewhere else.

The last thing the Yankees needed was to fall behind early again with Lee on the mound, but they did as Josh Hamilton hit his second first-inning home run of the series, this one a two-run shot off a 2-1 cutter from Andy Pettitte, who otherwise was at the top of his game in the early going.

Lee, meanwhile, was perfect through the first three innings, although Brett Gardner might have been safe on another of those slide-into-first-base attempts for a hit, which was successful in Game 1 to start the eighth-inning comeback but did not work this time.

From my way of thinking, Gardy lost a golden opportunity to send Lee a message. The pitcher was covering first on the play and crossed over it to take the throw from first baseman Mitch Moreland. Instead of sliding, Gardner could have run through the bag and knocked the lefthander butt over teakettle. It would have been perfectly legal, too.

Pen, late lightning ignite Yankees

The Yankees are dipping into their 2009 formula in the 2010 post-season. Late-inning heroics characterized their championship season last year, and the Yankees have come from behind impressively in three of the four playoff games this time around.

It doesn’t get better than what they pulled off Friday night in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. Down 5-0 entering the seventh inning and looking as dead as ace CC Sabathia did in falling behind by so much so early, the Yankees showed the Rangers they simply will not fold so long as they have some at-bats left.

They forced four Texas relievers into submission in a five-run eighth inning that featured five hits and two walks. Seven consecutive batters reached base before the Rangers got an out that inning, and the out was a ball caught at the wall in right field that missed by a matter of feet being a three-run home run for Jorge Posada.

The Rangers still have yet to win a post-season game in their handsome ballpark, and the Yankees still haven’t lost a road game in this year’s tournament. They showed Texas how much they will fight to get another trip to the World Series.

The Rangers were not out of the game by any means after the Yankees took the lead. It was still a one-run game, but the Rangers hurt themselves with a huge rock in the bottom of the eighth. Kerry Wood walked Ian Kinsler on four pitches, an open invitation to Texas to get back in the game. Kinsler got himself picked off, which is inexcusable in that circumstance.

The Yankees failed to get an insurance run in the ninth by stranding Derek Jeter, who led off with a double. Texas became the first team to beat Mariano Rivera twice in the same season this year and posed another threat in the ninth when pinch hitter Mitch Moreland led off with a single and was bunted to second. Mo shut the door, however, as the Yankees finished off a victory that can have major consequences on the rest of the series.

They have already accomplished what they needed to do by winning at least one game at Rangers Ballpark In Arlington and have a chance to go home 2-0 if they can win again Saturday. To lose on a night when Sabathia was not his usual self could be a crushing blow to the Rangers, who could have put a ton of pressure on the Yankees by winning the first two games at home and having Cliff Lee start Game 3 at Yankee Stadium.

Game 1 turned into a bullpen game, and the Yankees got five shutout innings combined from Rivera, Wood, Joba Chamberlain and Dustin Moseley. The winning decision went to Moseley, which was appropriate. Too often, such a job gets unrewarded because of the timing of the scoring. Moseley’s two hitless innings with four strikeouts kept the Yankees in position to turn things around, which they did in their usual patient, persistent manner.