ARLINGTON, Texas - Nolan Ryan hollered from the front row, manager Ron Washington pumped his fist in the dugout, and C.J. Wilson kept in control on the mound.
Finally, a home playoff victory for the Texas Rangers was within reach. Even better, they were beating their old nemesis, the New York Yankees.
And then Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees did what they do best. They rallied to win, using a five-run eighth inning to down Texas, 6-5, on Friday night in the AL Championship Series opener.
“That was a classic example of us having a tough start for the first six innings,” said Rodriguez, who scooted home with the tiebreaking run soon after his two-run single that was nearly a double-play grounder. “Then a great at-bat and a great slide gets us going.”
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The Rangers still have never won a postseason game at home (0-7). This one hurt the most, since they led 3-0 in the first inning and knocked out CC Sabathia with a 5-0 lead after four.
Robinson Cano hit a solo homer in the seventh to begin the Yankees’ comeback. Brett Gardner’s headfirst dive for an infield hit the next inning started a string of seven straight hitters reaching base against Wilson and a parade of four relievers.
“The first seven innings didn’t go too well for us,” Gardner said. “(I was) just trying to get something going. Sometimes, I feel like I can get there faster, depending on how my body’s leaning.”
After a majors-best 48 come-from-behind wins in the regular season, the defending World Series champion Yankees have done it three more times in the postseason.
The latest left Washington and everyone else in the Texas dugout looking on in disgust. Ryan, the Rangers’ part-owner, sat with his arms crossed and his shoulders slumped.
Texas had a runner picked off in the eighth, then threatened in the ninth against Mariano Rivera by putting a runner on second with one out. But Rivera struck out Michael Young and retired Josh Hamilton on a weak grounder to end the game.
New York has won 10 consecutive postseason games against the Rangers, who were knocked out of the playoffs by the Yankees in their only three previous playoffs appearances (1996, 1998 and 1999).
“I don’t know if we gave it away. We just didn’t execute,” Washington said. “It certainly was our ballgame. We needed six outs. We just didn’t get it.”
The Yankees became the first team to win a postseason game after trailing by at least four runs in the eighth since the 2005 Astros. Houston was behind Atlanta 6-1 in the eighth inning of NL Division Series Game 4 and went on to win, 7-6, in 18 innings.
“I’m never surprised at what our guys do. Maybe thrilled, but never surprised,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.