Hughes, slumping sluggers will decide Yankees' fate in Game 6
Phil Hughes was lit up for seven runs and 10 hits in four-plus innings of Game 2
Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano are the only Yankees swinging hot bats
Colby Lewis hasn't allowed more than 2 earned runs in any of his last 7 starts
Cliff Corcoran breaks down each day's games throughout the postseason.
Series: ALCS, Game 6, Rangers lead 3-2
Time: 8 p.m. EST
Starters: Phil Hughes (2010 postseason: 1-1, 5.73 ERA; 2010 regular season: 18-8, 4.19 ERA) vs. Colby Lewis (1-0, 1.69 ERA; 12-13, 3.72 ERA)
As Cliff Lee looms for Game 7, it's hard to escape the feeling that the Yankees simply delayed the inevitable with a 7-2 win in Game 5. Of course, anything can happen in a single baseball game, but New York still has to win on Friday night to even have a chance to face Lee in a winner-take-all game on Saturday. The Hughes-Lewis matchup was bad news for the Yankees in Game 2 as Hughes, who had not given up a run in two previous starts and one relief appearance in Arlington in his career and had turned in a sparkling seven innings in the clinching third game of the Division Series against the Twins, was lit up for seven runs in just over four innings. Hughes gave up 10 hits in that game, seven for extra bases, including a pair of doubles by Nelson Cruz and a double and a homer by David Murphy.
Cruz had to leave Game 5 in the fifth inning due to tightness in the left hamstring that sent him to the disabled list twice during the regular season, most recently in August, but he is expected to start Game 6. The Rangers certainly hope that Cruz can go, as he has hit .353/.421/.706 in this series and .378/.410/.838 with four home runs in the postseason overall. Then again, the entire Texas team has hit .316/.383/.520 in this series, with eight home runs and nine stolen bases in 10 attempts. CC Sabathia held the Rangers to two runs in six innings in Game 5, but he still gave up 11 hits, including a double by Cruz, and a pair of steals, and Texas had 13 hits overall, so it's not as though the Yankees found a way to quiet the Rangers' bats. Andy Pettitte, who would start Game 7, remains the only Yankees starter to do that in this series.
The biggest positive for the Yankees coming out of Game 5 is that their offense woke up, producing seven runs on nine hits (plus six walks); six of those hits were for extra bases, including a double and a homer by Curtis Granderson, who went 3 for 4. But six of those seven runs were scored against C.J. Wilson from the second inning on, after a blister on Wilson's pitching hand tore open, so there's room for debate about just how much of that performance was Wilson struggling rather than New York heating up. Still, the Yankees have one thing going for them in Game 6 that they didn't have in Game 2: previous exposure to Lewis. Heading into Game 2, the only Yankee who had faced Lewis since his return from Japan, where he spent two seasons with the Hiroshima Carp, was Lance Berkman, who singled and walked in that game. Now, however, every member of New York's starting lineup except Marcus Thames, the righty platoon DH pressed into full-time action by Mark Teixeira's season-ending hamstring injury, saw Lewis just six days ago.
Though he hasn't completed the sixth inning in any of his last three starts, Lewis also hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last seven, posting a 2.20 ERA over that stretch while striking out 42 in as many innings and allowing just three home runs. However, one of those three dingers came off the red-hot bat of Robinson Cano in Game 2. With Teixeira out and the righty Lewis on the hill for Texas, lefties Granderson and Cano, who are a combined 13 for 34 (.382) with five of the Yankees' six home runs in this series, will hit second and third on Friday night. Lewis will have to tread carefully there, but the other seven men in the Yankees lineup have combined to hit just .176 in this series, even after that Game 5 outburst. Hughes and someone from that slumping seven will have to step up if the Yankees are going to survive to play another day. The Rangers, meanwhile, want to wrap up the first pennant in franchise history on Friday night so as to save Lee for a matchup against either Roy Halladay or Tim Lincecum in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday.