NEW YORK — Can the Rangers seal the deal?
Given how their division series went with the Rays — going home with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series and ending up back in St. Petersburg for Game 5 — that will be a trending topic leading up to Friday's game.
Yankees 1B Lance Berkman said the conversation should be more about how the Rays battled.
"Tampa Bay, we know from first-hand experience, is going to be hard to close out," he said. "I don't care how good a ballclub you have, that's a gritty group of guys so I don't read too much into that. This (Texas) team is good; we're going to have to beat them. They're not going to hand anything to us."
Of the 13 teams to lead an ALCS 3-2, nine won the pennant, seven in six games.
"You're never comfortable because you never know what's going to happen from day to day," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "We will be ready to go Friday, and go out and give it our best and at the end of nine just hope we have more runs than they have."
CC RIDER: The stat line wasn't pretty with the 11 hits allowed in six innings, but the bottom line was exactly what the Yankees expected — and needed — from LHP CC Sabathia: a win.
Basically, what Sabathia did Wednesday — in a marked improvement over his Game 1 debacle — was get the outs when he needed them, allowing only two runs. "I think I was just trying to battle," Sabathia said. "I was able to make some pitches when I got in trouble. In Game 1, I really had no clue."
PAINFUL MOMENT: With starting 1B Mark Teixeira out for the rest of the postseason due to a hamstring strain, the Yankees nearly lost another when Berkman fell hard chasing a foul ball and lay motionless for several minutes. He stayed in the game.
"I wish I knew," Berkman said. "I was running for the ball, my feet came out from under me on that warning track. I felt like I hit an ice rink. I was looking at the ball, next thing I know I was looking up at the sky. It didn't feel great. I didn't hit my head, fortunately, but may have scrambled the brain just a little bit. Definitely left me feeling less than normal."
Rangers OF Nelson Cruz left in the fifth inning due to tightness in his left hamstring. Cruz said afterward that he expects to play Friday.
PERFECT 10s: The Rangers have homered in all 10 of their postseason games. They didn't homer in more than six straight games during the 2010 season and hadn't gone deep in 10 straight since April 6-17, 2009. … Rangers SS Elvis Andrus and Cruz have both hit in all 10 games. They are the ninth and 10th players to hit in their first 10 career postseason games; the record is 15 straight, by Marquis Grissom of the Braves in 1995-96.
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: Reaching back to two of their most dramatic moments, the Yankees had both Bucky Dent, who hit the big home run against Boston during the 1978 one-game playoff, and Aaron Boone, who hit the big home run that won the 2003 ALCS over Boston, throw out ceremonial first pitches on Wednesday.
MISCELLANY: The Rangers lost on the road for the first time in six postseason games. … Yankees RH reliever Kerry Wood is the third pitcher to have two pickoffs in an LCS. … Teixeira was replaced on the roster by INF Eduardo Nunez, who had been working out in Tampa after spending most of the season at Triple A. … Rangers OF Josh Hamilton was named Sporting News Player of the Year in a poll of more than 300 major-leaguers.