Two games took place last night, with AJ Burnett and the Yankees trying to dig out of a 2-1 hole against Tommy Hunter and the Rangers, and Matt Cain going up against Cole Hamels looking to take the pivotal game 3 in a 1-1 series. In the past league championship series that have been tied at one, the winner of game 3 has won the series 19 of 27 times.
In the Giants’ game, Matt Cain was on cruise control, looking dominant in going 7 scoreless while giving up only 2 hits and 3 walks. Cain struck out five for his second stellar start of the postseason. He’s now pitched 13.2 innings and hasn’t given up an earned run yet.
The Giants provided all the support Cain would need in the 4th. Edgar Renteria singled to lead off the inning, the Giants’ first hit off of Cole Hamels. Freddy Sanchez bunted Renteria over to second, but Buster Posey’s rough postseason continued as he followed Sanchez with a strikeout. With two down and a man on second, Pat Burrell walked, bringing up Cody Ross. Ross, as any fan who’s been watching this series knows, is as locked in as any player this game has ever seen, and he continued his epic postseason by lining an RBI single to left, putting men on first and third for Aubrey Huff. Huff grounded a ball to Chase Utley’s left. Utley dove and got a piece of the ball but could not come up with it as it rolled into right for a base hit to make the game 2-0.
The Giants would extend the lead in the next inning, as Aaron Rowand doubled to left to lead off the frame. Matt Cain and Edgar Renteria could not advance Rowand, but Sanchez hit a hard liner that took a short hop in front of Chase Utley. Utley booted the ball, allowing Rowand to score. The play was ruled a hit, but it’s a ball Utley really had to do better on. At the very least, he has to keep the ball in front of him and prevent Rowand from coming home. Hamels then struck out Posey for the second straight time to end the inning.
That’s how the game would end, as Cain went 7 and Javier Lopez and Brian Wilson took the 8th and 9th to complete the shutout.
In the late game, the Yankees struck first, as Robinson Cano hit a solo shot to the first row of the rightfield bleachers. Nelson Cruz looked like he might have a shot to make a play on the ball, but he was interfered with by several Yankee fans. However, the ball looked to be over the fence, and the play was not reviewed by the umpires. Nick Swisher then struck out, sending Lance Berkman to the plate. Berkman hit a bomb to right field that was ruled a home run. However, the play was reviewed immediately and was overturned, as the ball clearly hooked just foul. The Yankees, however, held their 1-0 lead.
The Rangers would strike back with two runs in the top of the third. Elvis Andrus hit an RBI groundout with runners on second and third, and Michael Young followed with an RBI single to take a 2-1 lead.
The Yankees tied it back up in the bottom of the inning. After two quick outs, Derek Jeter hit a triple off the centerfield wall and Curtis Granderson drove him in with a single to make it 2-2.
They would take the lead in the bottom of the 4th, as the Yankees loaded the bases with one out. Tommy Hunter’s day ended, with Derek Holland stepping in to face Brett Gardner. Gardner hit a ground ball to short, which Elvis Andrus made a spectacular play on to get the out at third and avoid the big inning. Holland struck out Francisco Cervelli to end the inning with the Yankees up 3-2.
Though there wasn’t any scoring, I figure I should mention that Mark Teixeira injured his hamstring running out a forceout in the fifth inning. Teixeira has been removed from the playoff roster, meaning we won’t be seeing him on a diamond until Spring Training.
The Rangers would tag Burnett for another 3 runs in the top of the 6th. With Nelson Cruz on second, the Yankees gave David Murphy a free pass with Bengie Molina on deck. Molina made them pay with a 3-run bomb, putting the Rangers up 5-3.
They’d tack on another five before the end of the game on two homers by Josh Hamilton and one from Cruz. Ian Kinsler had an RBI single and the Rangers are now one win away from their franchise’s first World Series appearance.
Let’s see it by the numbers.
Giants vs. Phillies:
WPA Leader: Matt Cain (.349)
As stated before, Cain had his second great outing of the playoffs. For all the talk about potential matchup problems for the Giants in the rotations, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain have stacked up to Halladay and Hamels just fine thus far. Cody Ross led all hitters with a .123 WPA, the second time he’s been the most valuable hitter in this series and the fourth straight game in which he’s led all Giants batters in WPA.
Cody Ross’ two-out single to score the first run of the game was good for .144 WPA. Huff’s single to follow Ross was the second biggest play, with a .104. Sanchez’s liner to Utley was third, with the run-scoring play adding .070 to the Giants’ win expectancy.
Raul Ibañez went 0 for 4, striking out twice and grounding into the game-ending double play against Giants closer Brian Wilson. Ibañez has had a brutal series, and he’s now 0 for 11 with 5 strikeouts against the Giants in this matchup.
Rangers vs. Yankees:
WPA Leader: Bengie Molina (.490)
Molina’s big home run helped him to a gaudy WPA total, turning the tide of this game in the Rangers’ favor. Molina went 3 for 4 and was plunked as well, which isn’t surprising considering he’s a relatively large target.
Molina’s 3-run jack trumped every other play in this game, with a .396 WPA. It’s hard to overstate the importance of this home run, as it took place in the third most critical moment of this contest (2.64 LI).
AJ Burnett put up a -.293 WPA allowing 5 runs in 6 innings on 6 hits and 3 walks. Burnett’s deterioration this season has been ugly to watch, as his 1.3 WAR in 186.2 innings this season is his worst total in a full season since he entered the league.