The prevailing logic holds that the Yankees, even should they win tonight to force a game 7, will almost certainly have no chance against Cliff Lee in a Game 7 – especially one played at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Logic is wonderful thing. Without it, many of the things we take for granted would never have been created. But, as any Yankee fan knows, you just can’t predict baseball. Besides, there is a historical precedent that is eerily similar to the Yankees – Rangers series.
In 1985, the Toronto Blue Jays won game 4 of that year’s ALCS. It was the first year of the 7 game format in the LCS and under the old rules, would have meant Toronto would have won their first pennant. Instead, they grabbed what still seemed a commanding 3 games to 1 lead in the series. Even if they failed to win game 5 in Kansas City (yes, Kansas City once had really good teams), they would have games 6 & 7 at home. Lined up for a game 7 start was Toronto’s ace, Dave Steib. How good had Steib been up to that point? In his first two starts of that postseason, he had allowed 1 run on five hits – in 14 2/3 innings. KC was looking at what seemed to be an impossible hole to crawl out of.
But then KC won game 5. Toronto was forced to ship their gear – and the champagne they ordered – back to Toronto. Toronto was still confident and playing with the looseness of a team that expected they still had the series in control.
Then KC won game 6. Doubt began to trickle into the city of Toronto. After all, most of the prognosticators prior to the series had picked the Royals. They had the postseason experience. They had the best player in the game, in George Brett – even if he was starting to age some. But, Toronto had that equalizer in Steib.
Game 7 commenced much the way Royals fans expected. Steib showed a few signs of the stress of the situation, allowing two runs. But the game was tied going into the 6th. That’s when IT happened.
Steib got the first batter of the inning to hit a weak flyball to center; 1 out. Then he walked Brett and followed that up by hitting the next batter. A ground out and walk to Steve “Bye-Bye” Balboni loaded the bases with two outs. Despite struggling with his normally impeccable command, Steib was only 1 pitch from getting out of the jam. Unfortunately for him, Jim Sundberg ripped that next pitch into the right field gap for a bases clearing triple. Steib left the game and Toronto never recovered, ultimately losing the game 6-2. And the series, 4-3. As for the champagne, KC purchased it for $1 per bottle – $1 Canadian, that is.
Like Toronto that year, Texas is in their first ever ALCS. Like Toronto that year, Texas has a seemingly unhittable pitcher lined up for game 7. Like Toronto that year, Texas lost game 5 on the road and has to rely on their fourth best pitcher for game 6.
In the end, the better team (the one with the best player of his generation) won that 1985 series (and went on to win the World Series). I suspect the same thing will happen again.