10/12/10 11:24 PM ET
Rangers aim to reverse history vs. Yankees
By Tim Britton / MLB.com
Before Texas' thrilling five-game victory over the Rays in the American League Division Series, the Rangers had lost all three of their postseason series and their last nine playoff games -- all to the Yankees.
Starting with Friday's Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, Texas can continue to exorcise the demons of its postseason past and continue arguably the franchise's most memorable season to date. Although the Rangers did have home-field advantage for their 1996 Division Series with the Yankees, this will be the first time in team history they host a Game 1 in Arlington.
"We're very excited," center fielder Josh Hamilton said. "We've always lost in the first round to the Yankees. It's kind of bittersweet that we get to the championship of the American League with those guys."
The Rangers came close to ending a dream season with a nightmarish collapse, dropping two chances to close out Tampa Bay in Arlington before winning a third game on the road to earn their first berth in the ALCS.
C.J. Wilson, a 15-game winner who was dazzling in his first career postseason start last week, will start the opener. In Game 2 against the Rays, Wilson managed to top even Lee's effort with 6 1/3 shutout innings. He allowed just two hits and struck out seven.
"He really showed maturity out there," Washington said. "He stayed within himself and used all of his pitches. We needed him to go out there and give us a good outing, and he did."
Wilson, though, has struggled in his three starts against the Yankees this season, posting an 0-1 record and a 5.65 ERA. He has never beaten New York in his career, but is looking forward to facing the Yankees in the ALCS.
"The Yankees historically are the team you have to go through to get to the World Series," Wilson said. "We are on a good run now and we played good against them the second half this season, so we are really optimistic."
On the other side, the Division Series could hardly have worked out better for the Wild Card Yankees. In sweeping the Twins, New York was able to give its veteran roster a full five days off between the two series and to set up its rotation, with ace and 21-game winner CC Sabathia on the hill for Game 1.
Sabathia, believe it or not, was the weak link of the Yankees' rotation in the ALDS, allowing four runs (three earned) in six innings in a Game 1 victory in Minnesota. Sabathia was burned in that contest by a two-run homer he served up to Michael Cuddyer in the second inning and a rare loss of control in his final frame. After not walking a man in his first five innings, Sabathia issued a free pass to three of four batters with two outs, including a four-pitch walk to Danny Valencia that forced in the tying run.
"You know how I am -- I don't want to give up the lead, especially when we battled back so hard," Sabathia said after the game, won by New York, 6-4. "To score four runs in an inning and for me to give it back, that's pretty tough. I'm happy we won, but it was a grind out there."
It wasn't too much of a grind in Sabathia's April start against Wilson and the Rangers. In a game called after six innings because of rain, the left-hander went the truncated distance, allowing a run on three hits.
Sabathia, though, didn't pitch in either of the Yankees' late-season series in Arlington. Actually, he hasn't pitched at Rangers Ballpark since 2008, when he was a member of the Indians, and he hasn't pitched particularly well there, compiling a 4.67 ERA in six career starts.
Sabathia has been good in Game 1 starts as a Yankee, going 3-1 with a 2.28 ERA over the past two postseasons in series openers.
"You don't want to get too high or too low. You try to stay even keel," Sabathia said of his demeanor in series openers. "That's something I try to do all year -- keep my emotions in check and go out and make pitches when I need to."
The one concern for the Yankees heading into the series opener is whether they have, in fact, had too much rest. The Bombers are trying to fill the time between Saturday's Division Series clincher and Friday's ALCS opener with simulated games and workouts, but they understand it's called a "simulated game" for a reason.
The only time in franchise history that the Yankees had more than five days off between postseason games was before the 1996 World Series, when they lost the opener, 12-1, to Atlanta.
"You get somewhat concerned that maybe it's too much of a layoff," manager Joe Girardi said. "You do get a little bit concerned, but this is the time of year they could probably use a little bit of rest."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.