Yankees rally to take Game 1 of ALCS from Rangers, 6-5

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 16, 2010; 1:42 AM

ARLINGTON, TEX. - The gates to the Texas Rangers' bullpen swung open late Friday night, in the middle of the biggest party Rangers Ballpark in Arlington had ever hosted. The Rangers had the New York Yankees on the ropes, Game 1 of the American League Championship Series halfway into their back pocket. The relievers emerged in rapid succession, spent brief moments of infamy on the mound, retreated into the dugout and, down the tunnel, disappeared.

What must the inside of the Rangers' clubhouse have looked like Friday at 10:20 p.m. local time? At that precise moment, the momentous eighth inning of the Yankees' incredible 6-5 victory ended. The Yankees, by suddenly scoring five runs to erase a four-run deficit, had sent four pitchers to the showers.

Three relievers - Darren Oliver, Darren O'Day and Clay Rapada - appeared in the disastrous eighth inning and did not record an out. They watched the end of the inning from the dugout then sought refuge in the clubhouse, united by disbelief and failure.

"I was kind of incredulous," O'Day said. "We were all saying the same thing to each other. 'How did we all do that on the same night?' "

They had learned what everyone should have known - the Rangers, their delirious fans, the masses watching at home and cheering the demise of the defending World Series champions. You can knock out their ace after four innings. You can shut them out for six. You cannot rattle them, and you can never assume the Yankees have lost an October game until the final out is made.

The Rangers led by five runs with nine outs remaining, and by four runs with six outs remaining. By Saturday morning, they will only wonder how it all went wrong, how the Yankees, and not themselves, are the ones holding a 1-0 series lead. In 10 of their past 15 playoff wins, the Yankees fell behind. This series now hinges on how the Rangers respond to a devastating loss, in a Game 2 that will begin some 14 hours after Game 1 ended.

"I mean, come on, this is just one game," starter C.J. Wilson said. "It's a seven-game series. It's not a one-game series. We're playing tomorrow. I don't think anybody is worried. Everyone is going to think we're more worried than we really are."

Said O'Day: "I'd rather have that than a 15-run boat race. It's a tough loss. It certainly is. I think it's great that we have a game tomorrow. We can get back at it."

The Yankees stole the first game, and their accomplices were a group of men, prior to Friday night, happily resigned to relative anonymity: Wilson, Oliver, O'Day, Rapada and Derek Holland. Together, those five Rangers pitchers allowed seven consecutive Yankees to reach base to start the eighth inning.

When Marcus Thames ended the streak by scoring Alex Rodriguez with a single off Holland, the Yankees had turned a 5-1 deficit into a 6-5 lead, had turned a raucous crowd into the most silent 50,930 people - former president George W. Bush among them - in all of Texas.

"It's tough to watch something like that," Oliver said. "It was like, 'Wow.' How many times are you going to go through three relievers, and nobody gets an out?"

Wilson stood in for Cliff Lee, who was not available to start after he pitched the Rangers into the ALCS in Game 5 of their first-round series. It was thought the Yankees had the decided advantage with CC Sabathia on the mound. But Josh Hamilton sent a jolt through the Yankees with a three-run home run in the first, and the Rangers took a 5-0 lead on Michael Young's two-run double in the fourth. Sabathia lasted only four innings.

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