The post season has a long history of bringing the unsung heroes out of the woodwork. Remember Gene Tenace? Rick Monday? Billy Martin? It just seems to happen on the big stage when two great teams face each other. All the stars seem to cancel each other out and some guy comes out of no where to be the star. In the first game of the League Championship Series between the Yankees and the Rangers, it was Dustin Moseley, easily the next to last guy in the Yankees bullpen depth chart who pitched two huge innings without allowing a base runner and struck out four of the six guys he faced.
To be sure, poor base running, spotty fielding and bad relief pitching didn't help the Rangers' cause, but they had this game tucked away with a 5-0 lead that chased stud Sabathia after four lackluster innings. Joba Chamberlain pitched an unspectacular inning and then it was up to Moseley, whose sole job was to not let the game get any worse. He didn't. He struck out Elvis Andrus, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz. So it wasn't the weak side of the batting order either. It was yeoman work and without it, the Yankees would never had the chance to win the game.
A real turning point in the game though came when Ian Kinsler, one of the best base runners in the game, made a colossal blunder and got picked off by Kerry Wood. Wood was doing his Lost in Space impression and couldn't find the strike zone. A little rally there after the Yankees took the lead could have changed the entire momentum of the game. But Kinsler was trying to time a steal attempt and got caught. Teixeira almost blew it by tossing the rundown throw to Jeter too early, but Jeter made a great play by deking Kinsler into thinking Jeter was going to throw to first. Kinsler bought it and allowed Jeter to run him down. Another heads up post season Jeter play. There. The Fan said it. Let the teeth gnash.
The play by Kinsler effectively allowed Wood to settle down and get the next two batters. Moreland made it interesting in the ninth with a pinch hit, broken bat base hit against Mariano Rivera, but a two-strike bunt by Andrews, a strikeout of Young and a weak grounder by Hamilton ended the game.
Many will point to the Rangers' relief staff as the goats of the game and that's probably accurate. Darren Oliver's two walks certainly didn't help. But Michael Young HAS to come up with A-Rod's rocket grounder or at least knock it down. He did neither and tried to ole it and the bull got away. When writing the Game Picks post, the Fan said that the Rangers' defense would be a problem in this series and that was example #1.
All in all, the Yankees dodged a bullet on a game that it looked like they were going to lose. The Rangers had much to feel good about for seven innings but the last two innings left them sucking wind.