GAME 5 - Rangers 5, Rays 1: My Top 10 Observations
10. Antlers > Rays. Ironic that the Rangers - who for years and decades floundered playing feast-or-famine baseball founded on the home run - scored their first three runs via speed. Think about it, the Rangers small-balled, manufactured and ran their way to the American League Championship Series. Yes, Texas, they're playing hockey in Hades tonight.
9. The Rangers did what a lot of us thought couldn't be done: They won a playoff series without an extra-base hit or RBI from their batting champ and Most Valuable Player, Josh Hamilton. Amazing. Josh finishes the 5-game series 2 of 18. (Wait, what? He got an RBI for Elvis Andrus' dash from second on his groundout to first. Cheap? I know, who cares?!!) And this is very cool - and I mean this - the Rangers sprayed some ginger ale in the locker room in addition to champagne.
8. This just in: Cliff Lee is the shit. Total control of the game. He struck out 11 Tampa Bay Rays to set an ALDS record shared by Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina from the mid-90s. After the Rangers went up 2-1 was there ever any doubt? In 61 playoff at-bats against left-handed hitters, Lee has never allowed an extra-base hit. Lee was so in control that he celebrated the final out with only a subtle fist punch into his glove. The dude is unflappable.
6. This is for all those folks who have had the torture/pleasure of calling Rangers games on radio and/or TV. I grew up listening to Dick Risenhoover on WBAP 820 and I'll miss Josh Lewin on Fox Sports Southwest. The roll call of men who I bet tonight are sporting smiles: Don Drysdale, Bill Mercer, Dick Risenhoover, Jon Miller, Mel Proctor, Eric Nadel, Mark Holtz, Brad Sham, Vince Cotroneo, Dave Barnett, Tom Hendrick, Burt Hawkins, Jimmy Piersall, Tom Vandergriff, Frank Glieber, Norm Hitzges, Steve Busby, Merle Harmon, Fred Patek, Phil Stone, Bob Carpenter, Greg Lucas, Jim Sundberg, Tom Grieve and Bill Jones. Gents, have one on the Rangers.
5. Baseball is a game of sabermetrics and mega-crunched numbers, but there's no explaining this: In Day Games the Rangers are 19-25; Night Games 72-47. In this series they were 1-0 in the only game that mattered. Game 5. At night. Game 1 of the ALCS - against those damn Yankees - will be Friday at ... 7:07 p.m. Bring. It. On.
4. What was your "Holy Shit This Is Really Gonna Happen!" moment? Mine was Ian Kinsler's two-run homer in the top of the 9th to give Lee a four-run cushion. I felt good when Andrus scored from second on Hamilton's groundout in the first. I felt better when Nelson Cruz scored on a Rays' error and even better when Vladimir Guerrero hustled from second on Kinsler's almost-double play. But when you've been a Rangers' fan since 1972, you never really pinched yourself until B.J. Upton's pop settled into Elvis' glove.
3. As if you didn't know, the Rangers won a playoff series for the first time. In contrast, the Cowboys' first playoff win was a 52-14 win over the Cleveland Browns in a 1967 Eastern Championship Game. The Mavs, of course, broke through by beating the Seattle SuperSonics in Game 5 - better known as Moody Madness - in 1984.
2. Unbe-LEE-vable!!! As dominant as Lee was in Game 1, he was almost as good tonight thanks to a slow, almost eephus-like curve ball he starting grooving in the 4th inning. Complete game. 6 hits. 120 pitches. 90 strikes. You could tell the Rays, who were prepared to be aggressive against Lee's strikes, were absolutely baffled by Lee's s-l-o-w offerings.
1. Some of us have been waiting 39 years and more than 6,200 games to say this. Mark Holtz I hope you're watching, and listening .... HELLO, WIN COLUMN!!! ... tears, anyone?
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