By Michael Tapia
After 49 long years, the great state of Texas has finally won a playoff series – a baseball one that is. A team which was once the Washington Senators made the residents of the greater Dallas area proud last night – after staving off a massive collapse to the Tampa Bay Rays – off the backs of staff ace Cliff Lee, who was acquired mid-season to win decisive games like last night’s.
In this year’s divisional round, the only one to go the full distance was the Texas/Tampa series. The Rangers took the fifth and final game of the series thanks to poor fielding from the Rays and phenomenal pitching from their ace Cliff Lee.
Lee’s 11-strikeout performance helped the Rangers advance to the American League Championship Series for the first time ever. For the series, he struck out of a total of 21 outpitching young Tampa stud, David Price, in both games. The ice-cold lefty took the Ron Washington led team to a place that not even their owner, Hall of famer Nolan Ryan was able to during his tenure with the team (the second round of the playoffs).
But despite the great performance by Lee, the Tampa Bay defense did themselves in with “little league” errors that cost them the game. Nelson Cruz and Vladimir Guerrero had no mercy as they didn’t hesitate to expose the Rays lack of experience.
In the top of the 4th inning, Nelson Cruz created his own run with a courageous play; while at 2nd base after a double, Cruz decided to steal 3rd base causing catcher Kelly Shoppach to throw wildly to third baseman Evan Longoria; and allowing Cruz to put the Rangers up 2-1. Two innings later, Vladimir Guerrero made an audacious play as well on an Ian Kinsler fielder’s choice, Guerrero took advantage of a distracted David Price to score from third. Guerrero was at third as he watched Price double check to see if he caught Kinsler out at first on the fielder’s choice. When Price totally forgot about him, Guerrero slid in to home plate making the score 3-1.
The final score of the game came in the top of the 9th when Kinsler hit a two run homer off Rafael Soriano that scored Cruz for the 5-1 final.
Now that Texas has finally earned their way into the ALCS, they will face the Yankees in a best of seven scheduled to start on Friday night. CC Sabathia is presumed to start for New York while C.J. Wilson will be on the mound for Texas.