|The fightback by the reigning World Series champions stunned the Rangers’ 56.000 strong crowd [GALLO/GETTY]|
The New York Yankees have scored 6-5 win in the opening game of the American League Championship Series. The Yankees overcame a 5-0 deficit on Friday’s game in the eighth inning.
The fightback by the reigning World Series champions stunned a red-clad capacity crowd of nearly 56,000 and gave New York a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that determines the American League representative in the Fall Classic.
Texas was sailing along behind the strong pitching of starter CJ Wilson and the power of Josh Hamilton before New York’s eighth-inning charge in which the first seven batters reached base against five different Rangers pitchers.
“It’s just a great win for our club, the big inning in the eighth all starts with a hustle play by Brett Gardner,” New York manager Joe Girardi told reporters.
Trailing 5-1, Gardner started the game-winning rally with a desperate dive to first base for an infield single, before Derek Jeter, former Ranger Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Marcus Thames followed with RBI-hits.
For Texas, it was a case of missing out on a golden opportunity to make a strong opening statement.
“Just a bad eighth inning,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
New York’s late scoring burst had begun in the seventh when Cano cracked a solo homer down the right-field line to make it 5-1 and returned to add to the tally with interest an inning later.
The Yankees looked anything like winners in the first six frames, which were dominated by the Rangers as Wilson outdueled Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia.
Texas, whose 3-2 first-round triumph over Tampa Bay marked their first playoffs win in 50 years of existence, played like polished post-season performers, while 27-time World Series champion looked more like rookies.
Sabathia, coming off an eight-day layoff, had trouble finding the strike zone and walked lead-off hitter Elvis Andrus then fell behind to Michael Young, who laced a single.
That brought up Josh Hamilton, who missed most of September with fractured ribs and had struggled since returning.
The power-hitting centre-fielder rose to the occasion, crushing a hanging slider down the right field line and over the fence for an instant 3-0 lead. Young made it 5-0 with a two-run double to right-centre in the fourth inning.
From that point on, the Yankees bullpen took over to keep the Rangers within range. Four relievers combined for five shutout innings with premier closer Mariano Rivera getting the last three outs for the save.
“We just didn’t execute,” Washington lamented. “When you face a team like the Yankees, you’ve got to execute.”
Wilson, who yielded just four hits through seven innings, left with a 5-2 lead after Jeter’s RBI-double scored Gardner.
Darren Oliver came in and walked Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira to load the bases. In came Darren O’Day to pitch to A-Rod, who ripped his first offering past Young at third for a two-run single.
Lefty Clay Rapada was summoned to pitch to Cano, who lined his first pitch for a single to tie the game before Thames hit a broken-bat single off Derek Holland for the go-ahead run.
“That’s how baseball works. You got to get 27 outs,” said Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler.
Game Two of the series will be played in Texas on Saturday.