After allowing only five baserunners in the game's first eight innings, the Yankees put seven men on in the ninth to turn a two-run deficit into an 8-0 Rangers win, giving Texas a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Boone Logan and David Robertson combined to allow six runs on six hits and recorded only one out between them.
"I was trying to find a way to get out of that -- throw a ground ball, get a double play -- just stop the bleeding," Robertson said. "I didn't get it done today."
Kerry Wood followed Andy Pettitte's seven innings of two-run ball with a 1-2-3 eighth. But Logan allowed a leadoff double to Josh Hamilton, who would be the only batter the lefty would face. Robertson entered the game and allowed six of the seven batters he faced to reach base. Sergio Mitre finally ended the inning by retiring the ninth and 10th Rangers to bat in the inning.
"They were hitting some balls in the hole and we couldn't afford to give them extra runs, so we had the infield in," manager Joe Girardi said. "When you're down two runs going into the top of the ninth, you can't play the infield back and afford to give a club extra runs. So they hit some balls in the hole, and they got through the hole."
Girardi decided against using Mariano Rivera to save the closer for longer outings later in the series.
"Mo is a guy that sometimes we use multiple innings in a situation that we are ahead," Girardi said. "Our bullpen has been really good up until that point. Boone had done his job. Robby had done his job. We were down 2-0, and if you bring in Mo, you may not have him available for multiple innings tomorrow if you want to use him. So we went with the guys that were throwing well in a situation where we were down."
The Rangers, on the other hand, used the eight-run cushion to lift Lee. Had the score stayed 2-0, Texas manager Ron Washington said Lee would have remained in the game despite having thrown 122 pitches.
Instead, the Rangers turned to closer Neftali Feliz.
"We figured that every time we get an opportunity to get him out there, it would benefit us because he's a young kid," Washington said. "He's saved a lot of games for us, and he did a great job of doing that, but in the playoffs, it's a different atmosphere."
The implosion by the Yankees' bullpen comes after shutdown relief pitching enabled a Game 1 comeback. Joba Chamberlain and Dustin Moseley, relegated to middle relief for the playoffs, responded by pitching three innings of hitless relief. That helped New York complete a five-run comeback in a 6-5 victory. Without that win, the Yankees would be facing elimination Tuesday.
"That's surprising," Pettitte said of Monday's meltdown. "You feel like if you can keep that game close that we have got a shot. If we can get a baserunner on -- if we can keep it at 2-0. It's definitely surprising they were able to blow it open as wide as they did."
Robertson, whose greatest strength lies in his ability to strike batters out, allowed too many balls to be put in play.
"It happens sometimes," he said. "You throw a good pitch and somebody hits it. It's baseball. They've got a good lineup over there. I'm not saying every pitch I threw was great, but they sure put some good swings on them, hitting balls hard.
"When you're pitching, the ball's in your hand. It's your fault when you give up hits."
Thomas Boorstein is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.