Rangers take 3-1 series lead

Posted Oct. 19, 2010, at 8:25 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 20, 2010, at 12:49 a.m.

NEW YORK — No disputing this: The Texas Rangers are routing the New York Yankees and now just one win from their first trip to the World Series.

Bengie Molina hit a go-ahead, three-run homer off A.J. Burnett in the sixth inning, Josh Hamilton added a pair of solo drives to give him four in four games and the Rangers battered the Yankees 10-3 Tuesday night for a 3-1 lead in the AL championship series.

On a night of contested homers, Texas left no doubt with its long shots. Fans started streaming out of Yankee Stadium as the Rangers pulled away in the late innings.

It was a costly loss, too, for the defending World Series champion Yankees. All-Star first baseman Mark Teixeira limped off in the fifth inning with a strained right hamstring. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the team would likely will replace Teixeira on the roster with infielder Eduardo Nunez.

Game 5 Wednesday will have a rematch of starters from the opener, with the Yankees’ CC Sabathia against C.J. Wilson. Since the LCS went to a best-of-seven format, 24 of the 30 previous teams to take 3-1 series leads have won pennants.

While the Yankees are seeking a record 41st pennant, Texas is trying to reach its first World Series since the franchise started play as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961.

Instead of trying to avoid Cliff Lee, the Yankees can only hope to force a Game 7 and face him again.

Aiming for a Series matchup against San Francisco or Philadelphia, Texas has outscored the Yankees 30-11, outhit them 43-26 and would have swept if not for wasting a five-run lead in the opener. Nelson Cruz hit the last of Texas’ four homers, a two-run drive that gave the Rangers seven homers in the series and 15 in the postseason.

In contrast, Alex Rodriguez has been a bust against his former team, going 2 for 15 (.133) with two RBIs.

Molina’s two-out homer came after an intentional walk and put Texas ahead 5-3. Before he circled the bases and pounded a fist against his chest — and left Burnett clasping hands behind his head — not much was clear.

Robinson Cano hit a second-inning home run off the top of the right-field wall that left Cruz screaming and pointing after a fan appeared to block him from making a possible catch.

Two batters later, Lance Berkman hit a high drive down the right-field line that was clearly foul but initially was ruled fair by umpire Jim Reynolds. After a video review — just the third in postseason play since the process began two years ago — umpires reversed the call and ruled it foul. The Yankees didn’t even argue.

An inning after Molina homered, Hamilton added a solo shot off left-hander Boone Logan, who had just come in. Hamilton and Cruz homered off Sergio Mitre in the ninth.

Derek Holland pitched 3 2-3 innings of scoreless one-hit relief after he replaced Tommy Hunter, who was knocked out in the fourth inning.

Holland, Darren O’Day and Clay Rapada walked the bases loaded in the eighth with Texas leading 7-3. After Darren Oliver’s 0-1 pitch may have glanced off Nick Swisher’s back foot — there wasn’t a call or argument — Swisher flied to short center on the next pitch, dropping to 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position in the playoffs. Berkman followed with an inning-ending forceout, and Oliver finished for a save.

Burnett, who took the loss, was one out from making it through six innings, more than the Yankees could have expected.

The $82.5 million man had lost seven of his last eight regular-season decisions, was dropped from the rotation in the first round and hadn’t pitched since Oct. 2. Since 1952, pitchers starting postseason games with 16 or more days’ of rest are now 0-11 with a 7.43 ERA in 15 starts, according to STATS LLC, and Burnett joined a list of losers that includes Roger Clemens, Catfish Hunter and Kerry Wood.

Giants 3, Phillies 0

SAN FRANCISCO — This was just the situation the Philadelphia Phillies must have hoped for against Matt Cain. Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins stepping to the plate with runners in scoring position.

Instead of delivering as they have so often against Cain in the regular season, Utley and Rollins had no such luck in Game 3 of the NL championship series Tuesday. With the rest of the Philadelphia hitters faring little better, the Phillies lost 3-0 to the San Francisco Giants to fall behind 2-1 in the series.

It was the first time the Phillies were shut out in the postseason since Scott McGregor blanked them 5-0 in the clinching game of the 1983 World Series — a streak of 49 games of scoring at least once.

The Phillies are batting .203 this postseason, with just three home runs in the six games.

The Phillies had plenty of regular season success against Cain, scoring 21 runs in 26 innings against him in five regular-season starts. Philadelphia won four of those games, but it was a completely different story on a sun-splashed afternoon when the shadows made life difficult for hitters.

Utley and Rollins have had almost as much success as anyone against Cain in the regular season. Utley’s .467 average is tied for the fourth highest among players who have faced Cain at least 15 times. He also has three home runs in his 15 at-bats.

Rollins has had similar success, going 6 for 10 with a homer, three triples and a double in his career against Cain.

The two combined to go hitless in six at-bats against Cain in Game 3, leaving five runners stranded on the bases. Utley had the first clutch opportunity, stepping to the plate with runners on first and second with two outs in the third inning. He grounded out to shortstop to end that threat.

The Phillies put two runners on again in the fourth inning of a scoreless game before Rollins hit a harmless fly to left field for the second out. Cain then struck out Raul Ibanez to get of that inning.

Utley came up in another big spot in the fifth inning, with the Phillies trailing 2-0. Shane Victorino drew a two-out walk and stole second. Utley then grounded out to second base, standing with his hands on his hips for a few seconds after the play in apparent frustration.

The Phillies had one more chance against Cain, putting runners on first and second with two outs in the seventh inning. Victorino couldn’t deliver this time, grounding out to second on Cain’s final pitch of the game.

Rollins did manage a single in the ninth against Brian Wilson but was erased when Ibanez hit into a game-ending double play to extend his hitless streak to 15 at-bats.

While Rollins delivered a key three-run triple to put away the Giants in Game 2, the Phillies have had very few clutch hits like that against the Giants vaunted pitching staff. They went hitless in five at-bats with runners in scoring position Tuesday, falling to 2 for 19 in those clutch situations in the series. They are 3 for 35 with runners on base.

“Usually someone steps up but that wasn’t the case today,” Rollins said. “When you get a guy on, you get him in. That’s the way to jump-start it. That takes the cap off the rim, so to speak.”

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