Bullpen performs for Rangers in Game 2
The Rangers relievers got quick redemption, and Texas finally has won a postseason game at home for the first time in its 50-season history.
Elvis Andrus got the Rangers off to a running start, David Murphy led a parade of extra-base hits and the bullpen that faltered the night before held strong this time as Texas got even in the AL championship series with a 7-2 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 2 on Saturday.
The Rangers again built an early 5-0 lead — and stayed ahead this time, unlike the series opener when the Yankees had their biggest postseason comeback in the seventh inning or later. Texas snapped a 10-game postseason losing streak against New York.
The best-of-seven series now switches to Yankee Stadium for Game 3 on Monday night, when Texas will have hired ace left-hander Cliff Lee on the mound. Lee has won his last four starts in New York, including a complete game for Philadelphia in last year’s World Series.
Colby Lewis limited New York to two runs over 5 2-3 innings and the bullpen rebounded from the eighth-inning debacle in Game 1 that allowed the defending World Series champion Yankees to escape with a 6-5 victory even though CC Sabathia lasted only four innings.
”That’s what they have been doing for us all year. That’s how we got to this point,” manager Ron Washington said. ”Last night, we didn’t get it done. We didn’t make any excuses. … I was going to give to ball back to those guys if it presented itself. It presented itself, they did a great job. I expected that.”
New York’s postseason winning streak over the Rangers included knocking them out of the playoffs in 1996, 1998 and 1999, Texas’ only other postseason appearances.
These Rangers don’t plan to be easily dismissed by the Bronx Bombers, who have won 27 World Series titles and 40 pennants.
Andrus led off the first with an infield single on a chopper that deflected off starter Phil Hughes’ glove. Andrus went to second on a wild pitch, then stole third before Josh Hamilton drew a walk.
With Nelson Cruz batting and two outs, Hamilton took off for second base, and Andrus ran home when Jorge Posada threw the ball to second. The double-steal put Texas up 1-0 before Cruz’s inning-ending strikeout.
”Elvis got on and basically took three bags,” Lewis said.
”Opportunity seemed right, so I took a chance. That’s the way we play,” Washington said. ”It worked. Got us going.”
Murphy homered off the facade of the second deck of seats in the second for a 2-0 lead, then an inning later he and Bengie Molina had consecutive RBI doubles to make it 5-0.
Texas had lost its first seven home playoffs games, the most by any team before finally getting a victory in front of its own fans, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Five of those losses had been to New York, plus two to Tampa Bay last weekend in the first round when the Rangers had to go back to Florida for a deciding Game 5 with Lee pitching to win a postseason series for the first time ever.
Andy Pettitte pitches for the Yankees against Lee on Monday night. Manager Joe Girardi decided before this series started to swap the rotation order of Hughes and Pettitte, who will be going for his 20th postseason victory.
”Cliff Lee doesn’t beat himself. And he’s going to throw a lot of strikes,” Girardi said. ”The guy that’s getting lost in this is Andy Pettitte, and he’s pretty good.”
After the Rangers built a 5-0 lead through four innings in Game 1 and chased Sabathia, they didn’t tack on any more runs. New York then finally scored on Robinson Cano’s homer in the seventh and rallied for five runs off five pitchers in the eighth.
Cano homered again Saturday, his 435-foot solo shot deep in the second deck of seats in right making it 7-2 in the sixth.
Cano also again scored the first Yankees run, leading off the fourth with a double, moving to third on a wild pitch by Lewis and scoring on an RBI single by Lance Berkman, who then got caught off base for the final out.
After a majors-best 48 come-from-behind victories in the regular season, and three more this postseason, the Yankees couldn’t pull off another one against the Rangers relievers.
When Lewis was pulled with two on in the sixth and a 7-2 lead, Clay Rapada struck out pinch-hitter Marcus Thames for the final out.
The previous night, Rapada gave up an RBI single to Cano on the only pitch he threw. And Thames had a broken-bat single that sent Alex Rodriguez home with the tiebreaking run.
Reliever Alexi Ogando then allowed a couple of base runners in the seventh, but got out of that jam unscathed when he struck out Cano for the final out.
Darren Oliver, who walked the only two batters he faced Friday night, walked the leadoff hitter in the eighth. He then got a strikeout and a grounder before Darren O’Day, who allowed a two-run single on his only pitch the night before, got Thames on a grounder.
Rookie All-Star closer Neftali Feliz, who was peeking through the bullpen door waiting for his chance to pitch in the ninth, walked two before finally getting Cano out on a game-ending flyball, setting off a fireworks burst over the ballpark.
Lewis struck out six while allowing two runs and six hits in his second postseason start. The right-hander, back with his original team after the past two seasons in Japan, threw five scoreless innings in his postseason debut a week earlier against Tampa Bay.
Hughes had allowed only three hits in 15 1-3 scoreless innings his three previous games at Rangers Ballpark. In his second major league start three years ago, Hughes had 6 1-3 hitless innings before coming out of that game with a hamstring injury.
The Rangers had 10 hits, seven for extra bases, off the 24-year-old right-hander when it counted most.
Hughes was coming off seven scoreless innings in his only other postseason start, the clinching game of the AL division series over Minnesota a week earlier that the Yankees swept in three games.
After Murphy’s homer in the second, rookie first baseman Mitch Moreland singled and came home on Michael Young’s double.
Texas had three doubles in the third, when Cruz led off with a ball that hit on the right-field wall only inches from going over. Ian Kinsler then had a sacrifice bunt before the consecutive two-baggers by Murphy and Molina.
Cruz just missed hitting a homer again in the fifth, when he led off with a ball that hit off the top of the wall in center field. Kinsler followed with a triple into the right-field corner and Hughes was done.
Hughes struck out three — all in the first inning — with three walks while giving up seven runs.
NOTES: Hamilton is the only Rangers starter who didn’t have a hit. But he walked four times, two of them intentional passes. … The three stolen bases by the Rangers in the first tied a championship series record for the most in an inning. That had been done four other times, the last by the New York Mets in the 1999 NLCS. … Texas has homered in all seven postseason games. … The last player to steal home in a postseason game was Brad Fullmer on a double steal for the Los Angeles Angels in Game 2 of the 2002 World Series.