Bullpen meltdown stings Rangers in Game 1
Wilson's outing spoiled after Yanks rally in five-run eighth
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have now lost 10 straight playoff games to the Yankees and seven straight playoff games at home.Of those losses, this one could be the most difficult one to believe, to swallow and to accept. After a brilliant outing from C.J. Wilson, the Rangers' bullpen fell apart in the top of the eighth, allowing the Yankees to rally to a 6-5 win in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night. This night should have belonged to Wilson, who allowed three earned runs in seven-plus innings in what could have been his finest moment with the Rangers. Then the Yankees ripped it away as well as the hearts of 50,930 fans that filled the Ballpark. Game 2 of the best-of-seven ALCS is scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
"It happened so fast ... " outfielder David Murphy said in the Rangers clubhouse afterward. "Obviously, everybody in here is thinking how did we let this one get away so fast."They did let it get away in a five-run eighth inning that will live in Rangers infamy, especially if the damage proves to be irreparable in their hopes of advancing to the World Series. Historically, the winner of Game 1 has gone on to win the ALCS 24 times in 40 chances. The loss now makes the Rangers' losing streak against the Yankees the second longest against one team in postseason history. The Red Sox won 11 straight over the Angels. The club is also now 0-7 in home playoff games and has been outscored, 33-16, in those losses. "We should have won the game," said reliever Darren Oliver, who played a big part of the eighth-inning meltdown. "But that's why you play a seven-game series. Obviously, we thought we had it but they battled back and beat us. You can't do anything but come back tomorrow." Wilson, dominating the top of the Yankees' order, took a shutout into the seventh inning and, after a leadoff home run that inning by Robinson Cano, still had a 5-1 lead going into the eighth. That left the Rangers six outs away from taking Game 1. They ended up being down, 6-5, before they even registered one more out. "It's tough, but we're not going to lose any sleep over it," third baseman Michael Young said. "Game 2 is right around the corner. You lose Game 1, you have to come back and play hard in Game 2. They had good at-bats in the eighth, it's as simple as that. We don't spend a lot of time thinking about stuff that has happened. This team always moves forward and gets ready to play the next game."
"You've got to get 27 outs before they score more than you," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "We didn't do that tonight. We're not stunned or hanging our heads. Tomorrow is another game; hopefully we can get to their starter again."The Rangers did get to CC Sabathia, the Yankees' 21-game winner. Josh Hamilton hit a three-run home run in the first and Young had a two-run double in the fourth. That made it 5-0 and appeared to be enough for Wilson and the Rangers. Wilson had pitched 12 1/3 scoreless innings in the postseason before Cano homered in the seventh. "The pitch was right down the middle," Wilson said. "I could have hit it out and I'm a pitcher." He went on to retire the next three hitters but got into trouble in the eighth, when Brett Gardner reached on an infield single and scored on a double by Derek Jeter. That's when manager Ron Washington went to the bullpen and Wilson didn't argue. "I made a mistake to Cano and a mistake to Gardner and Jeter," said Wilson, who threw 104 pitches. "I felt good and energetic, but I didn't make my pitches and it was time to turn it over to the bullpen. They have been great all year." Not this time. Oliver walked Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira. Then Darren O'Day faced Alex Rodriguez, who hit a smash past Young, who tried to side swipe the ball and couldn't make the short-hop play. "That was tough," Young said. "He hit it hard and it took a weird hop. I would have loved for it to have found my glove." Instead, two runs scored. Cano, in a lefty-vs.-lefty matchup vs. Clay Rapada, singled home the tying run and Marcus Thames, going against Derek Holland, singled home the winning run. "Something like that you won't see very often and I'm sure you won't see it again," Oliver said. The Rangers still had two chances and did get the tying run on base in the eighth and ninth. But Kinsler was picked off first after a leadoff walk in the eighth. Mitch Moreland led off the ninth with a single against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and was bunted to second by Elvis Andrus. But Rivera struck out Young and retired Hamilton on a grounder to third to complete the Rangers' lurid late-inning drama. "It's really hard," outfielder Nelson Cruz said. "Up five runs in the seventh inning, this was not what we expected."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.