Teams down 3-1 win Game 5s a lot. The trailing team's ace is coming around for another chance, the team needing only one more win is realzing just a bit, and many times, with the 2-3-2. the leading team is going home.
In the Yankees' case, Cliff Lee awaits for any Game 7, as formidable a Game 7 roadblock as Mike Scott was for the Houston Astros in 1986.
With one difference. Houston, down 3-2 in games, had to beat the Mets in Game 6 to get to Scott, and presumably the pennant. (They didn't, losing 7-6 in 16 innings.) The Yankees have to beat the Rangers just for the privilege of meeting Lee. A whole different dynamic.
Plus Sabathia has looked erratic for three consecutive starts. Plus Tex is gone for the year. Pettitte has been fine; against Lee you have to be nearly perfect. Burnett came within one swing of a tolerably successful start. Hughes had two terrific innings (even with the double-steal) and was lost.
The hitting is strange. Counting his bullet (caught) in Game 2, his foul ball in Game 4, and his screaming, bases-loaded line drive in Game 5 he has come within eighteen inches of eight RBI. The Yankees--in what reminds me of that exasperating series against the Angels in 2002--are hitting rockets that fall two feet short at the wall, are caught with Josh Hamilton going Raymond Berry, are rockets right at Ranger fielders, or are upper-deck jobs that slice a few feet, or a few inches, foul. When A-Rod hit his ground-rule double last night, the first words in every Yankee fans' head was, "Swisher doesn't score from third."
It was if--and this is familiar territory here--that ninth inning of Game 7 in Phoenix signaled that all the good luck, all the close calls the Yankees had enjoyed since 1996 were over. In 2002 it was (among others) Robin Venturas missing a three-run homer by three feet, when the ball hit a portion of the center field fence raised there, but not a bit over; in 2003 it was Alex Gonzalez hitting a home run, coversely over a portion of the fence where, and only where, the upraised barrier had been cut out. And so on. Thought 2009 banished all that.