By Sean McAdam
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Brian Cashman stood in the hallway, just off the main visitor's clubhouse, and twice, maybe three times, uttered words he wasn't supposed to utter.
"The winter is upon us,'' said the New York Yankees general manager.
Winter is not supposed to happen to the Yankees on Oct. 22. When they reach the postseason, as they almost always do, winter is supposed to be forestalled, put on hold until the champagne flows and the parade route is planned.
Anything less and they've come up short.
"This is tough, really,'' said Jorge Posada, head bowed after the Texas Rangers had bludgeoned the Yankees 6-1 to take the American League pennant away from the defending champs. "You get this far, you advance to this point . . . ''
The Yankees went down without much of a fight under the Friday Night Lights in Texas. The final out came with the bat sitting on Alex Rodriguez's shoulder, which was particularly sweet for fans of the Texas Rangers.
Too many of the big bats, Rodriguez included, were quieted by the Texas pitching staff. Were it not for the heroics of Josh Hamilton (four homers in the series and three intentional walks from Joe Girardi in Game Six), the relatively anonymous Colby Lewis would have been the logical choice for the ALCS MVP.
But it wasn't just the bats which failed the defending world champions.
"They beat us,'' said Joe Girardi. "They outhit us, outpitched us, outplayed us and they beat us.''
Indeed, this was no accident, no mirage. The Rangers outscored the Yankees by a margin of exactly 2-1 (3819). They hit .301 while the Yankees hit a mere .201. And where it counted most, the Rangers compiled a collective ERA of 3.06, while the Yankees were rocked for a staff 6.58 ERA over the six games.
A year ago, Girardi cut some corners and managed to win a World Series title with three starting pitchers. Whenever possible, he went to CC Sabathia on short rest. But that wasn't an option this October. Sabathia couldn't get through the fifth inning in Game One and was hardly dominant in scattering 11 hits through six innings and 112 pitches Wednesday in Game Five.
Other than the terrific outing by Andy Pettitte in Game Three -- in a losing cause, ultimately -- the Yankees didn't get much from their rotation this series. Or, for that matter, the bullpen. After the New York relievers held the Rangers in place when Sabathia stumbled in Game One, the bullpen kept allowing Texas to tack on runs late in the game.
Someone was cataloging the Yankees' problems at the plate, noting that Rodriguez had two extra-base hits in the series, that the Yankees had managed just three hits in their elimination game, but Posada cut the questioner off.
"It's about pitching,'' said Posada. "It's about pitching here. Let's not talk about how we didn't hit. I can tell you that you win series with pitching and we didn't do it.''
Not by a longshot. Phil Hughes was rocked in both of his outings, and when the Yankees finally got around to giving A.J. Burnett the ball, having put it off for as long as they could, they got exactly what they feared.
It figures to be an intriguing offseason for the Yankees. Three of the so-called Core Four are eligible for free agency: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. Even Girardi is without a contract.
Pettitte sounded very much like a man leaning toward retirement. Cashman vowed that Rivera and Jeter, Yankee legacies, would be re-signed, and Girardi, too.
But the rotation is thin and the consequences of the club's inability to cement a deal for Cliff Lee back in July seem to grow larger by the day. Lee is now four wins away from a championship, and the feeling around the Rangers is, the more success he experiences, the tougher it will be to walk away. It doesn't hurt that the Rangers are about to reap the benefits of a 3 billion TV deal which might allow them a chance to beat the Yankees again next month, this time at the bargaining table.
Lance Berkman and Kerry Wood, two deadline rentals, are likely moving on, their stays short and, in the end, unsatisfying. There will be new imports, some obtained by trade, some via free agency, where the Yankees exercise their muscle.
But those are issues for the future. For now, there was just the bitter sting of defeat and the realization that, on a warm night in north Texas, winter was upon the Yankees much sooner than they anticipated.