Uncharted Territory: Rangers 6, Rays 0

Forgive my giddiness. This 40-year-fan is feeling a bit like a teenager getting his driver’s license. My Texas Rangers have now officially become the most successful playoff squad in team history. Never before has Texas been just one win away from the ALCS. I feel like calling total strangers on the phone to share my excitement at what I’m witnessing!

Sidebar: Even a rabid Rangers fan like myself can be objective as well. That Michael Young check swing sure didn’t look like a check swing to me. So Rays fans, I feel your pain there. Still, the Rays could do nothing against Texas pitching all day, so Young’s subsequent home run really wasn’t the difference maker in the game. And, to paraphrase an umpire saying from years ago, “It may have been a strike yesterday. It may be a strike tomorrow. But today, it’s a check swing!”

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined the Rangers taking both road games to start their playoff drive. They were 0-3 in the Trop in the regular season (although they should have been 1-2 were it not for the defensive lapses of the unmissed Joaquin Arias). But 2-0 they are heading into Games 3 & 4 in Arlington.

Listened to most of the first six innings on my MLB audio feed at work, but I still had the DVR running for viewing when I returned home. Loved to hear Eric Nadel get to call a playoff game again after so many years broadcasting Rangers games. This time I could safely fast forward on the DVR, knowing the outcome already.

TV Review: I do not particularly like the TBS broadcast crew of Don Orsillo and Buck Martinez. Orsillo in particular is so dry he makes the game sound boring. I heard Martinez on a regular basis last season on MLB radio and didn’t much like him there. But Martinez did say something today that struck me as very true (when he wasn’t accidentally calling the Rays the Rangers). The Rays are known for being disruptive on the basepaths and causing real problems for pitchers. Martinez pointed out the Rangers are playing the Rays type of game and it’s the Tampa pitching staff that’s getting rattled.

James Shields didn’t need much to rattle him. Shields was the very definition of a player trying too hard to keep his team in the playoffs. He overthrew many times and overconcentrated on Elvis Andrus on first base and it cost him big time.

CJ Wilson, meanwhile, was almost as brilliant in Game 2 as Cliff Lee was in Game 1 (arguably better than Lee). Wilson only gave up two hits and no runs in 6 1/3 innings in proving he’s as good a #2 starter as any team has in the American League. Darren O’Day and Darren Oliver finished off the game, making for a pretty well-rested relief corps heading into Saturday.

Special kudos to the Rangers Matt Treanor. Other Rangers will get more print for this game, but Treanor was a key factor. For those unfamiliar with Misty May’s husband, Treanor’s a low .200 hitting catcher who not only calls a great game behind the plate, he also has been known to give the Rangers quality at bats when the’re most needed. You may not think getting hit by a pitch twice is anything great. Yet both times, that HBP led to runs on the board for Texas. He just has a knack for finding his way on base at critical junctures of a game.

And oh, how Michael Young’s fortunes turned around. When playoff time rolls around, two hitless games are enough to get fans and media alike to start wondering if a player is choking under the pressure. Young was 0-6 and one check swing away from 0-7 when a three run center field shot turned the worry to applause for Rangers fans. Young added another hit and is now at 2-8 in the series. Texas has now gotten positive production from just about everyone in the line-up except the two first basemen, Mitch Moreland and Jorge Cantu.

Off day Friday, then Colby Lewis vs. Matt Garza at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Garza’s beaten the Rangers twice this year, while the Rays haven’t faced Colby Lewis at all. I’d like to think that plays in the Rangers favor, but fortunes can turn quickly in baseball. The Rays can be scary good offensively, but they are a streaky team. They’re in a cold spell now. Texas has capitalized. Keep Tampa’s bats cold for one more game and the ALCS will be played in Texas for the first time.

The Yankees made it two in a row in Minnesota today. Could we be seeing the 4th edition of Rangers-Yankees playoff baseball? Could be.

Giddy as I am, I refuse to talk of it as a given. Not until we get ONE MORE WIN!