It's a bit cliche to say, but last night was truly a tale of 2 games. 2 games that showed that while the Rangers are definitely for real, the Yankees are still a better team.
The first 5 innings were all about the Rangers. Cliff Lee was dealing and making the Yankees look awful at the plate, their hitters were pounding Javy and making him pay for his lack of velocity and missed locations, they were running the bases hard, making plays in the field, and looking like an all-around better baseball team. The Yankees looked old, stagnant, and completely outclassed.
But the last 4 innings were a different story. Despite his early dominance, the Yankees did make Lee work for his solid outing through 6 and in the 7th he hit the wall big time. The Yanks started taking and fouling off more pitches from Lee, making him work harder with his diminishing stuff, and finally breaking through on some misplaced pitches. That same patience and feistiness at the plate continued as the game was passed into the hands of the Texas bullpen and the Yanks continued to chip away as Francisco and Feliz spit the bit while the Yankee 'pen went into lockdown mode. It was vintage Yankee baseball: being patient, fighting off pitches, and getting clutch hits when they needed to, taking advantage of other teams mistakes (Granderson & Gardner moving up on the 9th-inning wild pitch), and bullpen guys stepping up to get outs in big spots to hold the opponent down.
The series and especially last night answered 2 of the 3 questions I presented earlier in the week. As far as handling the lefties, the Yanks didn't do that too well. They scratched some runs off of Wilson and touched up Lee after he started to tire in the 7th, but when you're tying a franchise record last night with 17 strikeouts, that's not exactly a good thing. I'm not even going to get into the lineup management. Between injuries, sickness, and Teix staying with his wife and kid, I think Joe did the best with what he had. Maybe the everyday Yankee lineup fares a little better at the plate. Maybe it doesn't.
But the most important answer was the one on how the Rangers would hold up in a high-leverage situation. The Rangers stood tall in the face of pressure on Tuesday night and completely collapsed under it last night, proving that they are still a wildcard when it comes to handling big-time playoff situations. The Yankees have plenty of guys that have been there before and know how to handle these situations, and that's why they won last night. That's also why they have the upper hand on the Rangers should the two meet down the road in the playoffs, and that's why the Yankees still have to be the favorites to win it all.
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