If you're like me, you weren't quite mentally ready for the early start time that came with Game 5 of the ALCS.
Like a Saw sequel, it just felt rushed. Only hours earlier, the Yankees had bumbled their way to a lopsided Game 4 loss to the Rangers at the Stadium. I had spent a good portion of the night on the phone with my Dad, trying to convince him that the police would almost certainly investigate the sudden disappearance of Joe Girardi.
And while I dealt with defusing short-sighted abduction plots, I also had to squelch the pangs of dread I had thinking about the Yankees' chances in Game 5.
There was plenty to be worried about: The disheartening nature of Tuesday's loss, the season-ending injury to Mark Teixeira, the continued erosion of the bullpen, the curious ineffectiveness of CC Sabathia. There were more questions than answers.
Then there was the date. October 20. Only a masochist like myself would know that as the date Yankee Universe lost its innocence. October 20, 2004. 10/20. Never forget.
So yeah, I was dealing with demons that even Josh Hamilton could respect.
But that's the funny thing about this Yankee team. Just when you have them pegged a certain way, they dart in the opposite direction. There's no possible way to know what to expect.
How else do you explain how loose New York came out in Game 5?
It was the Yankees, not the Rangers, who played like they had house money. Texas gagged with runners on base, Texas made the mental mistakes, Texas threw the ball around the field like the Bad News Bears.
The five runs the Yankees put up by the fourth inning is typically more than enough for Sabathia, who all season cruised through the starts in which his team gave him an early lead.
But this is a different Sabathia than we saw in the spring and summer months. Gone is the pitcher with ace-stuff imposing his will on the opposition. He's been replaced by a pitcher whose every start is a war of attrition.
Sabathia gave up 11 (11!) hits in six innings of work, somehow escaping with just two runs to his ledger. I remarked during my live blog that it may have been the worst good start in the history of the sport.
What does the win mean? It's hard to say at this point. If Phil Hughes pitches like he did last Saturday, the Yankees' Game 5 guile and Sabathia's gutsy effort will be forgotten.
But I like the Yankees' chances against Colby Lewis in Game 6. Up and down the lineup, the Yankees were getting good swings on Wednesday. Both Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson snapped out of funks with homers. Alex Rodriguez continues to hit the ball hard. Jorge Posada showed some life. Derek Jeter is quietly having a nice series. Robinson Cano keeps destroying everything thrown in his general vicinity.
An offensive breakout is certainly possible.
The Rangers will likely be more at ease in their own house, making stupid hand gestures and feeding off 40,000 fans wearing really stupid shirts. But I'm wondering how a still very inexperienced team reacts if the Yankees score first?
Cliff Lee remains a beautiful security blanket, but if the Yankees can get the negative thoughts to creep into their heads, anything's possible.
Like I said about 10/20 ... never forget.
- Even if the Yankees go out like lambs in Game 6, at least fans don't have to sit through a visiting team celebrating at the Stadium. I had the great fortune of being at each of the last two such celebrations in the Bronx: the aforementioned 10/20 and Game 5 of the '07 ALDS against Indians, perhaps better known as The Night Chien-Ming Wang Crapped Himself In Front of 57,000 People.
- I don't want to kick dirt on the man's grave, but did anybody miss Teixeira today? Kind of feels like Cano should have been batting in the three-hole for weeks.
- Speaking of Cano, how good is this guy? Four homers through five games in the ALCS. Here's a question for you: Is Cano now the best player the Yankees have?
- Silver lining if Yanks lose on Friday: No more Ernie Johnson in your life. Even better, you'll be done listening to John Smoltz openly root for young Texas pitchers to escape jams. That dude seriously hasn't gotten over 1996 yet. I think he talks about it four times a broadcast.
- Aaron Boone and Bucky Dent threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Ramiro Pena was the catcher, because catching ceremonial first pitches is Ramiro Pena's only role with the Yankees.
- "Let's go, two more, two more!" -- Swisher, to teammates immediately following the final out.