On Friday, it was 5-0 after four innings. Today, it was 5-0 after three.
The Rangers, though, held on this time. Jumping all over Phil Hughes, they scored a total of seven runs in the first five innings and turned a five-run lead over to the bullpen in the sixth. Colby Lewis was strong early, although just like in his start against the Rays, he wore down quickly. He gave up a solo homer to Robinson Cano in the sixth to make it a 7-2 game and then allowed two more batters to reach with two outs.
At that point, it was obvious a move needed to be made. Manager Ron Washington, though, again seemed to be throwing darts as far as whom to bring in. Warming up in the pen were probable Game 4 starter Tommy Hunter and lefty specialist Clay Rapada. Due up for the Yankees was the left-handed-hitting Brett Gardner.
Washington had to know that if he called on Rapada, the Yankees were going to counter with right-handed slugger Marcus Thames. On the plus side, that would get Gardner’s speed and defense out of the game. But Thames, who hit nine homers in 127 at-bats after the All-Star break and one more in the ALDS, was a definite threat to make it a 7-5 game with three innings still to go.
Fortunately, it all worked out for Washington. Rapada entered, and Thames came in as a pinch-hitter. The battle went on for nine pitches, with Thames battling back from down 0-2 to work the count full, but Rapada ended up with the strikeouts.
From there, the Yankees continued to threaten, but couldn’t come up with clutch hits. They worked leadoff walks off Alexi Ogando in the seventh and Darren Oliver in the eighth, but left two men on in both frames. Ogando’s strikeout of the red-hot Cano to end the seventh was just as big as Rapada’s an inning earlier.
So now, while the series is even and home-field advantage has gone to the Bombers, one has to think the Rangers are happier with how things went in the first two games than the Yankees are. Both CC Sabathia and Hughes suddenly look vulnerable, and Texas has its ace lined up for Games 3 and 7. The pendulum would certainly swing back in the Yankees’ favor with a win over Cliff Lee on Monday. The Rangers would be at a far bigger disadvantage than the Yankees upon facing a 2-1 deficit.