Five-run lead dissolves after Lee K's 11
Rangers ace exits after 6 1/3 innings; Yanks get to Feliz
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers had a five-run lead with 12 outs to go. They had Cliff Lee on the mound and a fully-charged bullpen ready behind him.They had Neftali Feliz available if needed, and he hadn't blown a save in exactly three months. They had everything needed to complete a sweep of the Yankees in front of former President Bush and a sellout crowd of 48,676. "The whole game, we had them where we want them," manager Ron Washington said. Except at the end when the Yankees were able to complete their comeback with two runs in the top of the ninth and rally for a 7-6 victory over Texas on Wednesday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. "It just didn't happen," Washington said. "We just didn't get it done. We certainly had the people in there we wanted, but we didn't get it done." The Rangers didn't even get it done in the bottom of the ninth against Yankees All-Star closer Mariano Rivera, who took the loss the night before. He was in danger of blowing the save on Wednesday after giving up a leadoff triple to Elvis Andrus. But he kept Andrus pinned at third by getting Michael Young on a short fly to right, Josh Hamilton on a comebacker to the mound and Vladimir Guerrero on a grounder to third. "Obviously we want to find a way to push a run across there," Young said. "There are a lot of things we can point back to in this game where we could have locked it up. He made some big pitches when he had to and we couldn't get that run across."
The Rangers now lead the American League West by 7 1/2 games over the Angels and eight over the Athletics."It's definitely tough, but [it's] just one game," outfielder David Murphy said. "A sign of a good team is resiliency. They obviously showed it from last night and early tonight. We've shown it all season and we'll do it again on Friday."
Lee, pitching on a night when the game-time temperature was 99 degrees, was strong through five innings. He had a three-hitter to that point and a 6-1 lead going into the sixth. But the Yankees started chipping away at him and he was unable to get through seven."I felt good ... I was making pitches early," Lee said. "I started missing a little bit and they're good hitters -- they made me pay for it." Asked how he felt physically in the last couple of innings, Lee said, "I felt like I was running out of gas. That was a hot day and they made me work. I was still making pitches, but I wasn't locating as well as I had been. They're good hitters and when you start leaking up a little bit, they're going to make you pay."
Lee was asked about the weather."It was one of the hottest games I've ever pitched," Lee said. "But it was hot for both sides ... an even playing field. That's part of playing in Texas -- you've got to figure out how to play in the heat. That's an excuse, I'm not going to make excuses. You can't change the environment, you have to figure out a way to deal with it." Derek Jeter, a long-time Rangers nemesis, tripled to lead off the sixth and scored on a wild pitch. An RBI double by Lance Berkman and a run-scoring single by Brett Gardner made it 6-4 in the seventh. The Yankees still had runners at first and third, but Darren O'Day struck out Jeter and Darren Oliver struck out Nick Swisher to end that threat. That was the start of a parade of six relievers and ended Lee's streak of 10 straight starts with at least eight innings pitched. Washington used everybody but long-reliever Scott Feldman to stop the bleeding and couldn't quite do it. "We just couldn't stop them from the sixth inning on," Washington said. Marcus Thames' leadoff home run in the eighth made it 6-5 against reliever Frank Francisco. That left it for Feliz in the ninth to work on a streak of 20 consecutive save opportunities, one short of a club record. He also needed one more save to become the youngest pitcher in Major League history with 30 saves in a season.
The 30th save will have to wait for another day and the other streak is over.
Feliz started the inning by walking Berkman. After Curtis Granderson went in to pinch-run, Gardner blooped a single to left, putting runners on first and second."The walk to Berkman was big," Washington said. "If he couldn't have gotten to Berkman, everything else would have fallen into place." Instead a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, Jeter's single up the middle scored one run and, after Alexi Ogando replaced Feliz, Thames singled through the left side to give the Yankees the lead. "It was a well-fought game," Young said. "Obviously, we would have loved to have wrapped that up, but it didn't happen tonight. Anytime we have a chance to turn the ball over to our bullpen, we feel like we're in great shape. They turned in some good at-bats and they deserve credit for that. If the situation pops up again we like our chances. Our bullpen has been lights-out all season long."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.