Some Quick Thoughts On Game 4 Of The ALCS

I understand the Giants and the Phillies played a game of their own this afternoon, but the Yankees and Rangers just played for four hours and five minutes, and I don't remember anything that happened earlier. I think there were sandwiches. Some things were red, and some things were yellow. My mother speaks glowingly of the Before-Time. I wonder what things I have done, and what places I have been.

  • What's most incredible to me isn't that the Rangers have won three of four games against the Yankees. The Rangers are a good team. They're well-built for the playoffs. Winning three of four was a distinct possibility. No, what's most incredible to me is the way in which the Rangers have won three of four games against the Yankees.

    The Yankees won Game 1 by a run, needing to stage a late rally from a 5-0 deficit. Game 1 was very close, and the Yankees eked it out.

    The Rangers won Game 2 by five runs. The Rangers won Game 3 by eight runs. The Rangers won Game 4 by seven runs.

    Over the last three games, the Rangers have outscored the Yankees 25-5. Granted, Monday's game was close until the ninth, and Tuesday's game was close until the seventh. But Monday, Cliff Lee took the Yankees right out of the game, and Tuesday, the air came out of the sails when Bengie Molina went deep. The Rangers have gotten in control, and once in control, they've been able to pile on such that the Yankees' last at bat is little but a formality.

    The Rangers have played two straight games in Yankee Stadium - the first road ALCS games in franchise history - and there have maybe been 10,000 combined people on hand to witness the final out in each. The Rangers have just choked the life out of that place, and the team that plays in it.

    Obviously, it isn't over. What's 3-1? The Yankees just need to win three games in a row. It happens all the time. The Rangers just did it.

    What's nuts is that it feels like it's over. The Rangers have been that good, and the Yankees have looked that bad.

    The Rangers are a rival of ours, but one can't help but be impressed by what they've put together.

  • In the bottom of the second, Robinson Cano hit a controversial solo home run to right field. As Nelson Cruz went up to attempt a leaping catch, some fans reached over and appeared to make contact with his glove, and the ball came down behind the wall. Cruz and Ron Washington argued, but the dinger was upheld. Me, I agree with the decision. Though Cruz's glove was touched, I think the ball was uncatchable. Regardless, no matter what you think about the call or non-call, the one point everybody can agree on is that the fan who wound up with the ball will have a miserable life, with miserable kids and a miserable wife. His only escape will be rapping that line, right there, that I just wrote for him.

  • Earlier in the series, the TBS announcers went on and on about how the Rangers couldn't afford to be stranding baserunners against a team like the Yankees. It's only fitting that, tonight, it was the Yankees who couldn't afford to be stranding baserunners against the Rangers. I know Texas won by seven. But consider the following situations:

    Bottom 4: Bases loaded, one out
    Bottom 5: 1st and 2nd, none out
    Bottom 8: Bases loaded, one out

    Out of those situations - which took place when the game was still winnable - the Yankees squeezed all of one run. One run, against the Ranger bullpen, with that lineup, in that stadium. The Yankees wound up on the business end of a blowout, but they had their opportunities.

  • Of course, there were two factors that contributed to their inability to score more than one run out of those chances:

    (1) With the bases loaded in the fourth, Brett Gardner grounded a ball several feet to Elvis Andrus' right. Andrus ranged over, made a diving stop, found his footing, and threw to third for a force out. At first, that didn't look like a grounder any shortstop could reach. Then, it didn't look like Andrus would be able to do anything more than keep it in the infield. He reached the ball, and he got an out. So few shortstops can make the play, and it's appropriate that, in the very next inning, Andrus slapped an identical groundball right past Derek Jeter. It wasn't a webgem, but Andrus' effort made a monumental difference, and I don't know that the Rangers would've won without it.

    (2) With the bases loaded in the eighth, Nick Swisher stepped in against Darren Oliver, and on a 0-1 count, Oliver threw a low inside breaking ball that barely clipped Swisher's right pant leg. That hit batsman should've driven in the Yankees' fourth run. However, the umpire didn't rule it a hit batter, and Swisher, for whatever reason, didn't argue. Swisher would pop out to shallow center later in the at bat. I know it's kind of lame that a batter can be given a base when a pitched ball makes slight contact with the fabric of his uniform, but that's the rule, and Swisher should've walked to first base. The win expectancy impact of keeping Swisher in the box was about 10%.

    It'd been a little while since we saw an umpire make an important mistake.

  • From the bottom of the fifth through the end of the game, the Yankees got outscored 8-0, they got outhomered 4-0, and they lost Mark Teixeira for the rest of the playoffs to a hamstring injury. 

  • The top of the sixth was interesting for a bunch of reasons. Nelson Cruz took second base on a fly out to center. Set up by Cruz's advance, David Murphy drew an intentional walk to bring Bengie Molina to the plate with two outs. A.J. Burnett remained in the game at 97 pitches. And Molina tucked a first-pitch fastball inside the left field foul pole for a three-run homer that turned a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead.

    There is so much to talk about in there. Aggressive baserunning. How things wouldn't have happened as they did had Cruz not taken second base. Joe Girardi leaving his starter in there even though he'd already done more than anybody expected. But Bengie Molina - statistically, that's the biggest hit in Rangers playoff history. And emotionally, I have to figure it's not even close. That was a lead-changer and a complete momentum-changer, and it happened with two outs, in that stadium, in that game. I don't know if the final score will diminish Molina's blast in any way, but that was the kind of home run that people remember for decades. That was a home run that put 'World Series' in everyone's mind.
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