Yanks push ALCS back to Texas with Game 5 victory

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Trailing 3-1 in this year’s seven-game ALCS against the Rangers, the Yankees’ offense finally decided to wake up on Wednesday evening in New York.

Jorge Posada kicked off the game’s scoring with an RBI single in the second inning, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano hit back-to-back homers in the third and Lance Berkman even registered an RBI against a left-hander as the Yanks grabbed a 7-2 win.

CC Sabathia did not pitch well, surrendering 11 hits in six innings, but the Rangers struggled to drive in runs for once and C.J. Wilson had issues finding the plate for most of the night.

Josh Hamilton finished 1-for-4 with a strikeout, Vladimir Guerrero did not register a hit in four plate appearances, Elvis Andrus was picked off second base with the Rangers threatening in the seventh inning and Nelson Cruz exited early with a tight left hamstring.

Losses breed bad news.  Or perhaps bad news breeds losses.

Either way, we now move to Game 6, set for Friday in Arlington, Texas.

The Rangers will throw Colby Lewis, a right-hander with a 3.72 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 32 starts during the regular season and a 1.69 ERA over two starts in these playoffs.  He was signed last winter out of Japan and became a real catch for Texas almost immediately.  The 31-year-old native of Bakersfield, California struck out 196 batters and walked only 65 spanning 201 innings in 2010, but he will have his hands full against a tough and suddenly hot Yankees lineup.

The Yanks will put their faith in Phil Hughes, a 24-year-old righty with 18 wins and a 1.25 WHIP over 31 outings during the regular season.  He held the Twins scoreless during a dominant seven-inning start in the ALDS but was lit up for seven earned runs on 10 hits in Game 2 of this Championship Series against Texas.  It’s anyone’s guess as to how he might fare in Game 6, and a quick hook seems likely if his stuff is not looking sharp.

Hughes had a 3.65 ERA during the first half of 2010 and a 4.90 ERA in the second half.  He’s been a force in one outing this postseason and far too hittable in another.  Inconsistency is a norm in baseball and it tends to render useless the practice of predictions and predeterminations.

As this American League Championship Series heads back to Arlington, only one real looming question remains: If a Game 7 is played, how will the Yankees get through Rangers ace Cliff Lee?

Lee has allowed only two earned runs in three starts this postseason and shut out the Yankees over eight innings in Game 3.  He boasts a total of 34 strikeouts in 24 playoff innings this year and has walked just a single batter.

The Yankees will go with veteran lefty Andy Pettitte on normal rest in a potential Game 7 and will make Sabathia available out of the bullpen.  Pettitte is great, and he’s been fairly sharp this postseason, but he’ll be a definite underdog in what could be the most important baseball game ever played in the Dallas area.

Off we go.

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.