Facing a humilating end to their season, the defending World Series champions fought back in Game 5 after three back-to-back losses to the Rangers, including two in a row at Yankee Stadium.
"It's not disappointing. It's a seven-game series," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Those guys over there are champs. We didn't expect them to lay down, and they came out today, and they were very aggressive."
That wasn't the only thing that went wrong for the Rangers, either. Streaking slugger Nelson Cruz was pulled with tightness in his troublesome left hamstring, though he said it was merely a precaution and he expects to play Friday night in Game 6.
Still, so much for smooth sailing past the star-studded Yankees.
"The postseason's not supposed to be easy," Ian Kinsler said.
The good news is -- the Rangers are still within one game of winning the ALCS.
The (sort of) bad news? They're coming home to Arlington for Game 6 and, if necessary, Game 7. Wednesday's game was their first loss in six postseason road games this year.
But fans have seen the team win only one postseason game this year at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington -- Saturday's Game 2 win. The road-warrior Rangers lost to the Rays in their two home games in the ALDS and also lost the ALCS opener at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
But Colby Lewis, who will start for the Rangers in a rematch of Game 2 against Yankees starter Phil Hughes, is ready to be back in the Metroplex.
"It's great. We're going back home," Lewis said. "We've got to win one out of two."
The Yankees, on the other hand, are trying to overcome their first 3-1 postseason deficit since 1958. And the odds are pretty good that the Rangers will eventually close out the series. Since the LCS went to a best-of-seven format, 24 of the 30 previous teams to take 3-1 series leads have won pennants.
Even if New York wins that one, Cliff Lee looms in Game 7, the ultimate postseason ace in the hole.
"Who cares about Cliff going in Game 7?" Texas right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "We've got a game to win in Game 6."
But it's always dangerous to let the Bronx Bombers off the deck, and that's exactly what Wilson did.
Fiddling with his spikes on a sticky mound, the 29-year-old left-hander never looked comfortable on an overcast late afternoon at Yankee Stadium. And this one got away from him early.
"It was weird. Just kind of a twilight zone," he said. "Shake it off and let it go."
After compiling a stellar 2.03 ERA in his first two playoff starts, Wilson worked carefully to a pair of right-handed hitting sluggers in the second inning, Alex Rodriguez and Lance Berkman.
Both walked, and the converted closer gave up one-out RBI singles to Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson.
Posada turned for home after a throwing error by right fielder Francoeur, but Wilson backed up the play and had an easy out lined up at the plate. Problem was, he launched a wild toss high over the head of catcher Matt Treanor, giving New York a 3-0 lead.
"We didn't play our best today," Francoeur said.
The next inning, Wilson served up consecutive homers to Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano, making it a five-run spread. The second one was out of character -- Wilson held lefty batters to a major league-low .176 slugging percentage this season.
"Just mechanically got a little out of whack," Wilson said, adding that he wasn't giving up a lot of hits but the ones he did were timely. "Every pitch had three little wrinkles on it. Each pitch had one or two layers of mistakes."
With Yankees ace CC Sabathia working out of jams and holding the Rangers in check, Wilson had dug his teammates a hole too large to climb out of. Texas piled up 13 hits but went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
"In a vacuum, two solo homers wouldn't have been a big deal. But it was more the three runs the inning before," Wilson said. "Giving them that big of a cushion to work with made it way too easy."
It was the fifth time Wilson started against the Yankees this year, perhaps making it tough to fool them anymore. He pitched well in the series opener, allowing three runs in seven-plus innings, but New York rallied in the eighth for a 6-5 victory that cost him his second win of these playoffs.
"I think the difference with C.J., the second inning, he couldn't throw the ball over the plate," Washington said. "You start putting these guys on the bag they do what they do and they make you pay for it."
Wilson threw 6 1-3 innings of two-hit ball in a 6-0 victory over Tampa Bay in Game 2 of the division series. This time, he yielded six runs -- five earned -- and six hits in five innings. He walked four, one intentional, and threw only 48 of 93 pitches for strikes against the patient Yankees, leading to Texas' first loss in six road playoff games this year.
"It had to happen sometime," Josh Hamilton said.
Digging dirt out of his spikes, Wilson said he found himself "pawing" at a mound that was "kind of muddy." But it wasn't anything he wasn't used to. He said the mound at new Yankee Stadium has an unusual consistency, and he's dealt with it before.
"It was just the combination of me not making the adjustments," Wilson said. "I just didn't do it tonight."
Primarily a starter in the minors, Wilson saved 52 games for Texas from 2005-09 but asked the team for a chance to switch back and secured a spot in the rotation this spring. He went 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA in his first full season as a starter.
Cruz, who also had a fine season when healthy, has been one of Texas' best hitters this month. But he was replaced in left field by David Murphy in the bottom of the fifth because of his latest hamstring problem. The slugger missed 51 games this year due to hamstring injuries that landed him on the disabled list three times. The last two were left hamstring strains, including his latest DL stint in August.
"The other time was kind of worse," Cruz said. "I don't feel it right now. I should be good to go on Friday."
Cruz came into the game batting .371 with four homers, four doubles and six RBIs in the playoffs. He said he thought he tweaked his hamstring when he charged hard on Posada's RBI single in the second and made a strong throw to the plate that was a little wide, allowing Rodriguez to score standing up.
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