NEW YORK (AP) — Texas has two more chances to reach the World Series for the first time.
First, Colby Lewis gets a chance to win the pennant. If he can’t finish the job, Cliff Lee would face the New York Yankees in Game 7.
“There’s no frustration or feeling like we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to do,” Rangers third baseman Michael Young said after Wednesday’s 7-2 loss in Game 5. “We’ll just go home and try to finish it off.”
Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano hit consecutive homers to build an early cushion, and CC Sabathia made the lead stand up as the Yankees closed to 3-2 in the AL championship series.
“We’re right where we need to be,” Swisher said.
A late-arriving crowd for the late-afternoon game wondered whether this would be it for the defending World Series champs after Texas outscored them 25-5 while winning three straight.
A difficult comeback? Yes.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi addressed his players early Wednesday after Game 4.
“Before we lost the three games in a row, we won four in a row,” he told them.
By the time Curtis Granderson hit an eighth-inning homer for his second RBI of the game, belief among the Yankees was starting to grow.
Now the teams will go deep in the heart of Texas to decide the pennant in the best-of-seven series. When they resume in Arlington for Game 6, Phil Hughes starts for the Yankees against Lewis in a rematch of Game 2, won by the Rangers 7-2.
“It’s great. We’re going back home,” Lewis said. “We’ve got to win one out of two.”
Texas may be holding the ultimate postseason ace in the hole: Lee would be opposed by 19-game postseason winner Andy Pettitte in a seventh game.
“Who cares about Cliff going in Game 7?” Texas right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. “We’ve got a game to win in Game 6.”
Still, Lee’s 7-0 postseason record is on their minds. In the 50th anniversary of a franchise that has never reached the World Series, Texas remains one win away.
“We’re in a good position,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said.
New York is trying to overcome a 3-1 postseason deficit for the first time since 1958. 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.
For Yankees fans, 2004 is still fresh. That’s when New York won the first three games of the ALCS before the Boston Red Sox became the first major league team to rebound from a 3-0 postseason hole.
“Crazier things have happened,” Swisher said.
Yankees players actually dressed for success. They all arrived at the ballpark ready for a postgame charter flight.
“Our guys came in, everybody was wearing a suit,” Swisher said.
Sabathia recovered from an erratic opener, staying away from too much trouble against Josh Hamilton and Texas’ big bats. Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz made an early exit because of hamstring trouble, a day after Yankees star Mark Teixeira was lost for the postseason with a hamstring injury.
Cruz expects to play Friday. But no matter what, the season is over for Teixeira. The All-Star first baseman was removed from the postseason roster and replaced by Eduardo Nunez, leaving Teixeira ineligible for the World Series. Lance Berkman took over at first base and had a scare when he slipped chasing Kinsler’s foul pop, causing his head and back to snap back. Berkman needed smelling salts in the dugout at the half inning. He stayed in, and caught Elvis Andrus’ foul pop for the final out.
“I hurt pretty much the entire back side from the top of the head to the rear-end area,” Berkman said.
On what would have been Bob Sheppard’s 100th birthday and Mickey Mantle’s 79th, the Yankees took a 3-0 lead in the second as losing pitcher C.J. Wilson had trouble with the muddy mound and created a hole with a pair of four-pitch walks. Jorge Posada and Granderson had run-scoring singles, and another run scored on an overthrow of third by right fielder Francoeur for an error.
Posada, a snail-like runner with just 20 steals in 16 seasons, sped home from first base.
“He looked like Rickey Henderson out there,” said Derek Jeter, Posada’s core four buddy.
Girardi had sensed a change in attitude.
“There was determination that we were going to go out and play our game today,” he said. “I saw it during BP.”
Sabathia lasted just four innings in the opener, when he started on eight days’ rest and the Yankees rallied from a five-run deficit. Leads of 5-0 and 6-1 never seemed comfortable in this one as he allowed two runs and 11 hits — matching his season high — in six innings with no walks.
“It’s not disappointing. It’s a seven-game series,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “Those guys over there are champs. We didn’t expect them to lay down, and they came out today and they were very aggressive.”