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ALCS 2010 Game One Recap

I’m trying to come up with a reasonable lede for tonight’s game recap. It was such a dramatic, feel-good team win that it’s hard to know what’s over the top. On the one hand, it might play out that this come-from-behind statement in the ALCS opener turns out to be just another leg of the steamroller’s journey. On the other hand, chipping away and never giving up is the everyday business of these Yankees.

In the tremendous (yes, I’ll use the word tremendous) eighth inning rally, the Yankees employed the strategy an old coach of mine called “hit it hard somewhere.” The Yankees call it “keeping the line moving.” Tremendous? Yes. According to the Stats Inc. tweet-feed, there have only been four other games in postseason history where a team overcame a 4-run or larger deficit in the 8th or later. Yes, what we saw tonight was rare.

That explains the morose expression of Nolan Ryan, caught by TBS’s cameras sitting next to George W. Bush looking very disgruntled, to say the least. All that was missing was a cartoon thought bubble reading “%$#&* Yankees!”

The Yankees had plenty of chances to lose the game. CC Sabathia was not sharp and seemed like he couldn’t find Gerry Davis’s strike zone. How much of that was Davis’s zone appearing arbitratily small in the first inning, at least according to TBS’s strike zone graphic, forcing Sabathia to feel for it? And how much was just 8 days of rest leaving too much rust on the big lefty? There are not many ways for a game to start worse than letting the first two men on and then giving up the three-run homer. Fortunately he wasn’t too rusty to get a big out at the plate on a wild pitch, and fortunately no one in the bullpen suffered the same rust. Kerry Wood did have some command struggles against the first batter he faced, Ian Kinsler, but then he picked Kinsler off, erasing the mistake and deflating the Rangers just that much more.

Fangraphs has a dramatic graph of the win probability changing from the Rangers’ favor to the Yankees’ (here) that must have been nearly as much fun (or painful) to watch live as the game itself.

Pretty much everyone had to contribute to the win. Brett Gardner sparked the big rally with a head-first dive for an infield single. Marcus Thames had the go-ahead hit on a broken bat line drive. Both Jeter and A-Rod had nothing at the plate in the early innings; both were part of the steamroller eighth. Cano’s solo shot in the seventh can’t be forgotten, especially when it turned out to be a one-run game. The bullpen never gave the Rangers much hope, and it was fitting that Dustin Moseley, who pitched two innings and struck out four, was tabbed with the win.

I’m still wondering what the heck Nick Swisher was doing trying to bunt in the ninth. Swish proved that he’s not good at it, popping up to produce a useless out. But at least he was only trying to get an insurance run, which in the end Mariano did not need. With the tying run in scoring position and Micchael Young at the plate, Mariano did not look nervous, but the same can’t be said of Yankees fans everywhere. Young had faced Mo 22 times, gotten 7 hits (.318), and only struck out thrice. He put on a big battle, too, getting Mo to throw lots of pitches, but in the end Mo won the battle, striking him out and bringing the Rangers’ own entry into the MVP sweepstakes to the plate. Josh Hamilton, who thrilled us so much at the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium, no doubt had dreams of sending a ball a long way here, too. But on the very first pitch, he grounded softly to A-Rod to end the game.

A couple of other notes. Posada appears to be keeping up with this pattern of hitting the ball hard, but right at a fielder. Teixeira didn’t show us mucch in this game, but he had a good ALDS, so I’m not worried yet. Swisher didn’t do much either. It’s likely Cliff Lee will shut everyone down again tomorrow, but can he pitch yet another complete game? Or will the bullpen be lying in wait?

Only time will tell. See you here tomorrow, my friends.

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