But the ultimate result became one of the darkest moments in the Yankees' mostly proud postseason history as the Red Sox went on to the World Series.
Well, Wednesday, the Yankees began the long climb out of their self-dug hole with a 7-2 victory over the Rangers in Game 5 of the ALCS. Trailing 3-2 in the series, they need two more victories to accomplish what only three others in the ALCS have accomplished in 17 tries.
"It's not disappointing," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of the loss. "It's a seven-game series."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he could tell before Wednesday's game it could be a special one.
"There was a determination," he said. "We have not played extremely well in this series, to say the least. I saw it during batting practice, the mood was very businesslike and we knew what we had to do and the guys went out and did it."
That included CC Sabathia, who might not have been at his best, allowing 11 hits, but struggled through six innings and left with a four-run lead. And that was far better than his five-runs-in-four-innings outing in Game 1.
With Girardi taking no chances with his maligned middle relief, Kerry Wood pitched two innings and Mariano Rivera one to end it. Acquired late in the season, Wood has allowed one run in six postseason innings.
"I felt that he would pitch good," Girardi said of Wood, "but I don't think anyone (would expect) after two months his ERA would be below 1.00."
As for Yankees hitters, who came into the game with a .198 average, they jumped on starter C.J. Wilson in the second inning for three runs with the help of two walks and an error.
An inning later, they added two more on back-to-back homers from Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano, batting third in place of Mark Teixeira, who will miss the rest of the postseason with a hamstring strain.
"I feel good at the plate," said Cano, hitting .421 in the series. "The bottom line is just to win a game and stay alive."
The Rangers tried to chip away at the five-run deficit with Matt Treanor's home run in the fifth inning and his RBI in the sixth, but the damage was too much.
"(The Yankees) are a very good team," Washington said. "That's why they are the defending champions.
"I certainly love the position we are in, but (you) don't win being in a certain position. You have to go out and play."