Though they didn't pop the champagne in Oakland until Sept. 25, the Rangers clinched the AL West on July 9. That day changed a season. Changed a franchise's credibility. Changed October plans.
That day, of course, brought Cliff Lee.
The Texas Rangers now have a post-season polished pitching ace. The Texas Rangers now have a legitimate chance to win the first playoff series in their franchise's 39-season history in Arlington.
Here's the ball Cliff. Deliver.
When Lee pitches in Game 1 of the ALDS today at 12:37 against the Tampa Bay Rays he'll do it as the 2008 Cy Young winner, as a guy who won two games in the 2009 World Series against the New York Yankees and as a guy who can dominate a game and control a series.
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Since arriving in Texas Lee was actually pretty medicore in 15 starts. Struggling at times with a stiff lower back, he went 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA. But since getting healthy his ERA in September was 1.93.
Tampa's Game 1 starter David Price has been awesome this season. Second in the AL in wins, third in ERA, eighth in strikeouts and an ERA at Tropicana Field of 1.96. Price beat Lee and the Rangers in St. Petersburg back in August.
Today, none of that matters. Today, it's up to Lee to be better.
Today the Rangers throw their first playoff pitch since 1999. They couldn't ask -- actually, they couldn't have acquired -- a better man to throw it.