The 2010 season ended for the New York Yankees tonight as they lost Game Six of the American League Championship to the Texas Rangers 6-1. The Rangers pounded out the big, two-out, run-scoring hits that win pennants, and the Yankees put forth a display of offensive futility against Colby Lewis that will leave a gag-inducing aftertaste long into the winter.
Light rain fell on the first inning. Curtis Granderson walked and was eager to get into position to draw first blood. He tried to steal second as Cano popped out, and then doubled down and ran again as Alex Rodriguez was working his count. Granderson beat the throw, but his foot hiccuped on the damp dirt and delayed touching the bag for a split second. It was enough time for Ian Kinsler to snatch the ball and slap a tag, and enough of an incongruity to confuse the umpire into a blown call. As the replay clearly showed otherwise, the announcers congratulated the umpire for getting it right. That was it for the sound.
The Rangers jumped onto the scoreboard in the first inning, again. This was the fourth time in the series they scored in the first inning. The Yankees have put nothing on the board in the first inning all postseason. With two-strikes on the leadoff hitter, Phil Hughes couldn’t sneak a fastball up and in. Elvis Andrus shot it through an heavily shifted outfield and pulled into second with an easy double. Josh Hamilton singled when Hughes again tried to go up and in, but missed badly up and out over the plate. Washington, fearing the double play, put Hamilton in motion and when Vlad grounded to second and the Yankees needed two outs to prevent the run from scoring, they could only muster one.
Lewis held the Yankees hitless through four. Curtis Granderson worked two walks, but was erased on the bases both times. In the fifth inning, Alex Rodriguez doubled, his second hard-hit ball of the game. He moved to third as Lance Berkman flew out to the warning track.
That brief instant, when Berkman’s shot flew into the night was the only happy moment of the game for the Yankees. It looked like a 2-1 lead was in reach, but Josh Hamilton tracked it down. Alex scored on a ball that hit Nick Swisher and bounced away, but the umpires missed it. That’s the second time they’ve missed Nick Swisher getting hit in the leg. Both times it cost the Yankees an out, as Swisher couldn’t do anything as the at bat continued.
In the fifth inning, the game fell apart. Much like the sixth inning of Game Four, the Yankees faced a relatively benign one-on, one-out situation. An intentional walk to a left-handed batter to gain a platoon advantage raised the stakes and the Rangers held the trump. Vlad Guerrero ripped the game-changing double on the hangy-i-est of curve balls. After Robertson replaced Hughes, Nelson Cruz ripped the season-ending homer on the flattest of fastballs.
Hughes hung a few curve balls and was up in the zone with his fastball too often. He didn’t give the Yankees what they needed tonight, but since the Yankees only got three hits tonight, who could have given them what they needed? The Yankees were in this game as long as the pitching was perfect. The Rangers hitters are too hot; perfection was never an option.
From the point where it was 1-1, with the Yankees proud owner of two shiny doubles in one inning, it was hard to imagine the game would be effectively over a few minutes later. The Yankees managed one more hit the rest of the way. Kerry Wood got in trouble in the seventh, and Girardi called his third and fourth intentional walks of the night. The Rangers still plated another run to set the score in stone at 6-1. Recapping the Yankee offense from the sixth through the ninth is too depressing to endeavor. You’ve seen better wood from the “before” guys in Viagra ads.
At this point, I had one request from the baseball gods. Do not let the stink of this game get on Mariano Friggin Rivera. They obliged. Mariano threw a scoreless, meaningless inning and for a few outs, if you squinted, you could turn the Rangers’ “6″ into a “0″ and imagine better times.
There’s not much shame losing any best-of-seven series. Texas has good players and won their fair share of games. They beat a very good Rays team before the Yankees. They are worthy American League Champions. But the Yankees did not just get beat by the Rangers. They got blown off the field. For a six game series, it was about as lopsided as I have ever seen.
When the Yankee season ends, that’s the start of my winter. And the only kind winter I enjoy is one wrapped up in World Championship. Things were put off with baseball as the excuse. Dentist? Hard to schedule until I know when the Yankees play. Dinner with friends? Are they Yankee fans? Yes, well they’re busy too. No? I don’t want to see them until after the Yankees win. The weight of the world comes crashing in, and there’s no good reason to keep it out.
This is not the time for a review of the season. But with no division title, no pennant, and a really poor showing in this final game of the year, no matter our conclusions, the 2010 Yankees are not going down in franchise history as anything special – the curse of being the Yankees is that the minor successes of 2010 will be completely ignored.
I hope it will be a team that is skipped over, as we track along to more championships, and not one that stands out as the start of a long, bleak drought as the players age into mediocrity and the team cannot replenish their bank of stars. This hurts, but it could be as early as next year that the empire regroups and strikes back – the blessing of being the Yankees is that they are the only team that intends to win the World Series every year. And sometimes, they do.