As the top of the eighth inning began, I was brainstorming for this article. I even wrote a title, and was looking forward to chronicling C.J. Wilson’s magnificent start for the Texas Rangers and harping on how woeful CC Sabathia was for the New York Yankees.

Considering they held a 5-1 lead, I assumed Texas was on their way to their first playoff win at home. Assuming is a dangerous thing. And, too much confidence fueled bad case of Karma. My foolish presumption began to backfire.

For two-plus hours of the American League Championship Series’ Game 1, plenty of good came Texas’s way. Wilson was brilliant, picking his spots, mixing his pitches, and keeping the powerful Yankees lineup off-balance. Even when he did get into jams, his fearless mindset—built up under the tutelage of fellow lefty Cliff Lee—helped him escape without any harm done.

Before he stepped to the mound to make his first ALCS start and second postseason appearance, his nerves were calmed by Sabathia’s dreadful pitching and a big blast off Josh Hamilton’s bat.

Sabathia, a 21-game winner this season, was a complete mess. His pitches had no life. He wasn’t deceptive. His changeups, sliders, and curveballs weren’t close enough to even tempt the Rangers, and his fastballs were served on a tee for their big hitters.

Hamilton qualifies as one of those power threats, and his eyes widened as an 0-2 heater left the big lefty’s hand. Thrown high in the zone and placed right down the pipe, the MVP candidate stroked the offering just over the fence in right-field for a three-run homer. Forty thousand-plus fans rose as one.

Texas, a team that had only mustered two runs in their previous 60 postseason innings against Yankee pitching, eclipsed that mark with one almighty swing.

They continued to work Sabathia hard, as the Cy Young contender threw 36 first inning pitches and more balls than strikes. Six of the first seven Rangers reached, but the three runs were all they could muster, as Nelson Cruz ended his team’s bases-loaded, two-out threat in being rightfully called out at home plate trying to score on a ball that evaded catcher Jorge Posada.

Though it was a very close play, that gamble to go for home with Sabathia laboring and on the ropes ultimately came back to bite Texas. Considering what transpired over the next few innings for Texas, who knew it would?

The contrast between Wilson and Sabathia was glaring. Wilson sent the first nine Yankees down in order. He was so composed, so fearless. In comparison, everything was a battle for Sabathia. His pitch count ballooned, equivalent to his heft atop the mound, but though base-runners continued to reach for Texas, runs weren’t pushed across.

Their lead was 3-0 in the third, but the Rangers could have held a five or six run advantage. Would have, could have, should have. Missed opportunities is part of the game, and boy oh boy did it come back to bite the home team in the end.

Wilson could do nothing about the missed chances. All he could do was pitch–do his part. And he continued to pitch brilliantly, and as a result, Texas’s bats finally broke through. Two runs were scored in the bottom of the fourth, in what would be Sabathia’s final inning, as career-long Ranger Michael Young crushed a two-out double deep to center field, scoring Matt Treanor and Elvis Andrus.

Wilson now had a five run lead to work with, and he took advantage. While the Yankees bullpen cooled the Rangers bats following Sabathia’s early exit, Wilson continued to baffle, making the top and heart of New York’s order look far from intimidating. Wilson was indeed the intimidator, but then trouble came his way in the form of Robinson Cano, the Yankees second baseman and MVP candidate who has delivered all season long.

With nine outs to go, New York needed to show some sign of life, and Cano successfully performed CPR, wrapping a flat fastball around the right field pole. New York was on the board.

Wilson regained composure and sent down the next three Yankees in order. Seven superb innings in the books, and his Rangers six outs away from taking a 1-0 series lead into Game 2, and then potentially a 2-0 series lead into Cliff Lee’s start and Yankees Stadium in Game 3.

A lot was riding on these next two innings. There is a reason why winners of the first game more often than not go on to win the series. And if Texas could get six outs without allowing more than four runs the ALCS would be considerably in their favor.

But that would not take place. Wilson came out for the eighth and his pitch count was manageable. But smooth sailing soon turned rough, as Brett Gardner unnecessarily slid into first solely for the “What a gritty, all-out effort by Gardner!” praise he proceeded to receive. The dirtying of the jersey when a simple lunge would have sufficed resulted in a single.

Then, possessing great speed, he zoomed around the bases to score on Derek Jeter’s ensuing liner in the gap. Wilson left to a resounding applause, and acknowledged the crowd. The lead was still Texas’s, and his outing deserved such an ovation, but his would be the last time cheers would engulf the stadium.

The usually solid veteran Darren Oliver entered and stunk. He walked the only two batters he faced, loading the bases with nobody out, a situation another Darren, Darren O’Day, had to deal with. He didn’t handle it well, either. One pitch thrown to Alex Rodriguez, one single roped past Young at third and into left-field, scoring two runs.

Young’s shortstop instincts came into play, as he didn’t have the wherewithal to get in front of the grounder, instead trying to pick it like a middle-infielder would. It was a tough play, considering how hard it was hit, but it was a play the likes of Adrian Beltre, the retiring Mike Lowell, and Scott Rolen would have made.

Suddenly, New York was down just one. And then, after Clay Rapada relieved O’Day, they weren’t. Cano ripped Rapada’s first pitch up the middle, scoring Teixeira and tying the game. Rapada exited to a chorus of boos, but his replacement was no better.

After Derrick Holland fired in a 2-2 fastball to Marcus Thames he turned and watched it helplessly drop into left. The deficit had already been erased, now the tie was no more. The Yankees held the lead. Silence fell over the Ballpark in Arlington.

If the Yankees could comeback, so could Texas, right? They had their chance against Kerry Wood in the bottom of the eighth, but that opportunity was thrown out of the window when Ian Kinsler, who led off with a single, was picked off first. It was just Wood’s second pickoff in the past five years.

Another chance formulated in the ninth, as a runner reached second with one out against the great Mariano Rivera. But Rivera, who entered with the most postseason appearances in history (91), most saves (41), and ERA (0.42), worked his magic, retiring Young and Hamilton to end the wild affair.

The 6-5 defeat was gut-wrenching for Texas. They had a win in their grasp, then, as sport tends to do, it slipped away in the blink of an eye. Sleep will be hard to come by, but luckily the Rangers won’t have much time to think about the collapse. Game 2 is 3:30 Texas time tomorrow.

Read more MLB news on