10/20/2010 9:30 PM ET
When Girardi preaches, Yanks listen
'One game at a time' works its magic in Game 5 win
By Sam Borden / SNY.tv
Derek Jeter reacts after tagging out the Rangers' Elvis Andrus on a pickoff at second base Wednesday night. (AP)

NEW YORK -- Late Tuesday night, after the Yankees had lost again to the Rangers and their season had slipped to the brink of winter, Joe Girardi gathered his team in the clubhouse and tried to deliver a message.

Win one, Girardi said. Just win one. Don't worry about Game 6 back in Texas, don't think about Cliff Lee looming in Game 7. Just win one and the rest will fall into place.

Was it a cliché? Sure. Of course it was. One game a time is about as old as it gets in sports. But that is where the Yankees were on Wednesday afternoon. One game is what they needed.

And they got it.

"There was a determination," Girardi would say afterward. "There was a determination that we were going to go out and play our game today."

It doesn't mean they can come all the way back. Coming from 1-3 down in the ALCS, beating this Rangers team three in a row, is going to be as tough a task as any. But they have a chance now, have an opportunity to get this series to one game for all the money.

It wasn't always pretty on Wednesday. Not even close. CC Sabathia had said he wanted to give the Yankees a performance like Lee gave the Rangers in Game 3, the kind of domination that makes eyes get wide.

He didn't do that. Pitching for the first time on regular rest this postseason, Sabathia looked better than he did in his first two outings but hardly as good as he did during the regular season.

He still did enough. The Rangers had a hit in every inning he was on the mound, put runners on base constantly. Every time you looked up it seemed like Sabathia was working out of the stretch.

But that was where it stopped. Each time Sabathia stumbled into trouble, he got a pop out or a weak ground ball. The Rangers were 3-for-15 with men on base against Sabathia, including two double plays.

"I was just trying to battle," Sabathia said. "Our backs were up against the wall today and I just wanted to fight, no matter what the situation was, no matter how many runners were on base in any given inning. I was just going to try to make some pitches to make sure I got some outs."

So he did. Did what he had to do to get the Yankees another game. Even better than Sabathia, though, was the offense finally coming out of its slumber. Girardi took plenty of blame on Tuesday for how he managed his pitchers (much of it absolutely deserved) but the reality is that the Yankees left runners on base all night in Game 4, just like they'd done in Game 3 and Game 2.

This time, with their season in the balance, it was different. The Yankees scored three runs in the second inning, taking advantage of two walks from C.J. Wilson and some aggressive baserunning from -- no kidding -- Jorge Posada.

Most of this series it had been the Rangers scampering all over the bases, but in Game 5 it was the Yankees forcing the action, Posada going first to third on Curtis Granderson's single to right and then running home when the throw bounced to the screen in front of the Rangers dugout, with Wilson somehow finding a way to miss the catcher with the ball from about 15 feet away.

"I was like 'Oh, god,'" Posada said, "and I got lucky and he threw it away."

It was that kind of night, that kind of game for the Yankees who got rewarded for pushing hard. Sabathia gave up 11 hits and still won. Alex Rodriguez finally got his first extra-base hit of the postseason. Nick Swisher broke out of his slump with a home run.

All the Yankees wanted was one. Just one. Get the first, then worry about the rest. That was the mantra coming in and now, as the Yankees fly to Texas, the philosophy stays the same. One more and it's Game 7. One more and anything can happen.

"It's going to be tough," Posada said. "But we are looking forward to it.'

Sam Borden is an award-winning columnist for LoHud.com and The Journal News and is a contributor to SNY.tv.
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