Game 4 of the 2010 American League Championship Series was basically a microcosm of everything that went wrong for the Yankees at one point or another this season: A.J. Burnett had a lousy start (though was actually one out away from a surprisingly fantastic start), the offense excruciatingly squandered a seemingly earth-shattering number of opportunities to score runs and the bullpen threw gasoline on a fire, as the Rangers beat the Yankees 10-3 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
This was the fourth straight game in which the Rangers thoroughly outplayed the Yankees, and save for that miraculous eighth inning in Game 1, would've represented a decisive sweep by Texas. The Rangers have led in a ridiculous 30 of the 36 innings the two teams have played, and have run out to a four run-plus lead at one point or another in all four games. Texas has scored a whopping 30 runs, for an absurd 7.5 runs per game. This has been a postseason ass-whupping the likes of which the Yankees really haven't seen since the 2002 ALDS against the Angels, who scored 7.8 runs per game in their four-game obliteration of the Bombers while hitting .376/.406/.624 (though Cleveland did hit .315/.417/.524 in the 2007 ALDS).
Things actually began semi-promisingly in this one. The Yankees actually scored first(!) for the second time all postseason, on a Robinson Cano solo home run in the second, and managed to keep the Rangers off the board in the first inning for the first time all series. A.J. Burnett pitched two lights-out innings before a leadoff walk and hit-by-pitch came around to score in the third to give Texas a 2-1 lead. However, Burnett settled down until the fateful sixth inning. With two out and Nelson Cruz on second base after astutely tagging on a deep fly to center, Joe Girardi -- who apparently underwent a lobotomy at some point during the game -- subsequently put the Yankees on a path to self-destruction. Girardi ordered Burnett to intentionally walk David Murphy, bringing noted Yankee Killer Bengie Molina to the the plate.
With Burnett clearly nearing the end of his effectiveness, the fact that Burnett was left in at this point in the game was rather mind-boggling, and A.J. of course promptly rewarded Girardi by giving up a go-ahead three-run shot to Molina (of course) to put the Rangers ahead 5-3. Though it was only a two-run deficit, it felt much, much larger considering how much time the Yankees have spent playing behind in this series, and sure enough it ended up being plenty as Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan and Sergio Mitre(!) punted away any remaining chance the team may have had at staging a dramatic, late-inning comeback.
And of course, the Yankees had their chances in this one, once again failing to capitalize countless times in a horrific regression to their awful September stranded-baserunner shenanigans, going 2-13 with RISP and stranding eight. After tying the game in the 3rd, the Yankees put runners on first and second with no outs in both the 4th and 5th innings (not to mention bases loaded with one out in the 4th), yet only managed to score one run. Oh, and to add insult to injury, Mark Teixeira apparently pulled a hamstring trying to run a ball out for first and is out for the playoffs. However, sad as it is to say, this probably isn't even much of a loss, considering Tex was hitting .000 in the ALCS.
After three straight crushing losses, it's getting pretty hard to remain optimistic at this point. The Rangers still need to win one more game, and so the Yankees are not done yet. However, the Rangers have throttled the Yankees in every single facet of the game, looking like World Champions in doing so. The Yankees have looked absolutely, positively awful, and there's no way to color their performance in this series any other way. They've only received one quality start in four tries from their starting pitchers, who have collectively pitched to an 8.14 ERA, while the offense has managed 2.8 runs per game.
None of the Yankee losses have even been close, with the slimmest margin of victory five runs in Texas 7-2 Game 2 win. Not only has almost no one in the lineup shown up on the offensive side of the ledger except for Robinson Cano and (surprise) Derek Jeter, but several players -- Nick Swisher and the injured-for-the-rest-of-the-postseason Tex -- have incredibly looked even worse than they did in last year's postseason. Receiving zero extra base hits from Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Marcus Thames and Curtis Granderson has also been devastating.
The Yankees apparently haven't been in a 3-1 hole in a best-of-seven series since 1958, and so the team is now facing the ultimate test. Though reeling three straight wins off is far from impossible, and you have to like CC Sabathia's chances of extending the series another day, even if Phil Hughes is able to deliver the Yankees to a Game 7 they then get to face Cliff Lee as their reward, as if the offense being mired in one of the most hard-to-watch, painful slumps they've ever been in wasn't bad enough.
It's foolish to throw in the towel before that 27th out of the opponent's fourth win is recorded, but barring a complete one-eighty on the part of both the offense and the pitching, it's difficult to envision a scenario in which the Rangers won't be representing the American League in the 2010 World Series.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
by Larry Koestler