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10/20/10 8:34 PM ET

ALCS returns to Texas for pivotal Game 6

ARLINGTON -- A Game 6 of a postseason series does not have either the poetic or the folkloric pull of a Game 7. But then, so few events actually have that stuff.

But Game 6 is still loaded with dramatic possibilities for those who know the postseason drill. It is not win-or-go-home for both teams, that's the difference. Here in the 2010 American League Championship Series, it is win-or-go-home for the New York Yankees. It is win-or-go-to-Game 7 (with Cliff Lee pitching) for the Texas Rangers.

And it is also win-and-go-directly-to-the-World Series for Texas. Yes, the Rangers have a somewhat happier situation, but don't make more of it than that. They're playing the Yankees in the postseason. If they win four games, then they're the ones. Until then, no, they get no interim prizes.

With the Rangers leading the series, 3-2, Game 6, to be televised on TBS, is scheduled for an 8 p.m. ET start Friday.

At the start, for the start, the Yankees' continued presence in the 2010 ALCS is now in the hands of Phil Hughes.

This would have seemed like a wonderful situation considering Hughes' AL Division Series performance against the Minnesota Twins -- seven shutout innings in the game that clinched a series sweep. But it seems like a slightly iffier proposition after his Game 2 performance in this series in which he was tagged for seven runs on 10 hits in four innings.

Hughes is indisputably talented, and he was an 18-game winner this season. But he is only 24 and this will be just the third postseason start of his career. He will be opposed for the Texas Rangers by Colby Lewis, who is also making his third postseason start. But Lewis pitched well in both starts and got the victory against the Yankees in Game 2.

The Yankees have to hope that they can maintain momentum from their Game 5 victory. This is not simply a matter of shipping the momentum from the Bronx to Arlington. In this game, momentum is only as good as the next game's starting pitcher, in this case Hughes. And his work as a postseason starter has covered the possible spectrum, from exceptionally good to wholly inadequate.

But Hughes is eager to atone, and if he pitches to his talent level, this could work.

"You know, I'm just thrilled to have this opportunity again," he said on Thursday, a workout day for both teams. "It wasn't guaranteed I would have, you know, another start in the series, and I'm just happy to be able to pitch [Friday] and turn in a better start than my last one."

Lewis does not have the atonement issue before him, his two postseason starts adding up to 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA, including a victory over the Yankees in Game 2. So he's building off those two performances, hoping to get deeper into this start, but working from success.

Asked how much those starts had helped him prepare for this one, Lewis responded: "A bunch."

With a lead in the ALCS, the entire Rangers team has this kind of positive mindset in operation. It is not caught up with the notion that it must end this thing immediately, although that is the aim.

"I don't think there's any extra pressure on us or anything like that," Lewis said. "The clubhouse is really relaxed. We are back at home where we have been playing really well, and we just got to go out and take care of it. I mean, that's all there is to it."

On the New York side, the Yankees can be encouraged by the return of their offense. Over the first four games, excepting the eighth inning of Game 1, the Yankees had scored six runs. But they appeared to put that issue in the rearview mirror with their Game 5 run production. Robinson Cano continued his power output, and two veterans who had contributed little, Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada, looked like they were returning to form. Curtis Granderson also had an extremely encouraging performance; three hits, including a home run and a double.

The Yankees will not have first baseman Mark Teixeira, out with a hamstring injury, for the rest of the postseason. Teixeira's overall value is obvious, but he had not contributed to the Yankees' offense in this series, going hitless in 14 at-bats. The Yankees moved Cano into the No. 3 spot and advanced their cause is doing so. In this season and this postseason, Cano has been their best overall hitter and he should be hitting third.

If the Yankees manage to prevail on Friday, the degree of difficulty would only increase for Game 7. Then they would have Andy Pettitte going, a plus in any postseason situation. But they would have to beat Lee, who so far has not been beatable at this time of the year. Lee is 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA over eight postseason starts. Against the Yankees in the past two postseasons, Lee is 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA. His Game 3 performance against the Yankees was nothing less than dominant.

"I'm not thinking that far," Rangers manager Ron Washington said about a possible Game 7. "But it is nice to know that I have Cliff Lee if it does."

That seems a fair way to put it in general. The Rangers' Game 6 situation has more "nice" to it than the Yankee's Game 6 situation. But neither of these teams has given any indication that surrender is an option. Now, an up-for-grabs Game 6 beckons as the ALCS returns to the Lone Star State.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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