Ten straight post-season losses vs. the Yankees: OVER!
Zero wins in 7 home playoff appearances: OVER!
The 2010 Rangers rewrite team history again.
Even diehard Rangers fans had to be wondering how the team would come back after losing the way they did in Game 1. Never mind that they’ve shown the ability to bounce back from disappointment time and time again this season. THIS IS THE PLAYOFFS!!! EVERYTHING IS MAGNIFIED IN THE PLAYOFFS!!!
I should do that- write in all caps the rest of the way because THIS IS THE PLAYOFFS!!!
Never mind. I won’t.
The answer to the burning question was answered in inning #1 when Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton pulled off a perfect double steal, plating Andrus with the first run of the game. When David Murphy followed with a second inning solo home run, it seemed safe to say the Rangers had bounced back nicely, thank you very much. By the time it was all over, Texas had made a big statement: We’re not going anywhere (except to New York for Games 3, 4 and 5)!
The bullpen still made things, shall we say, adventurous, but they still came away with 3 1/3 innings of scoreless ball. As a bonus, everyone who was a part of the 8th inning debacle Friday night got to atone for it Saturday. Clay Rapada’s strikeout of Marcus Thames to end the 6th was probably the turning point of the game in terms of stopping Yankees momentum.
Alexi Ogando saw his first action and, while it wasn’t easy, it didn’t result in scores either. The faithful at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington were noticeably pensive when Darren Oliver came on in the 8th after his two walk performance on Friday. They grew even more restless when he walked the first batter. A 3-pitch strikeout of Jorge Posada relaxed them a bit and Ian Kinsler’s great play on Lance Berkman’s grounder had everyone forgiving Darren for his previous sins. Darren #2, Mr. O’Day, closed out the 8th getting Marcus Thames to ground out, setting the crowd off on their traditional variation on the soccer anthem, singing “O’Day O’Day, O’Day O’Day”!
Neftali Feliz came to the mound for the first time in the 9th and, as in the ALDS, caused many moments of frustration for the fans who were ready to celebrate a win. Feliz struck out Derek Jeter to start things off, but walks to Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira stirred the restlesness pot once again. Instead of Mike Maddux, this actually prompted a visit to the mound from Ron Washington, who seldom does such a thing without pulling the pitcher. Whatever he told Feliz, it worked, because he got A-Rod out on a ground ball and Robinson Cano skied to left for the final out.
For the first time in the playoffs, we saw the respect for Josh Hamilton. Hambone walked four times in the game, two of those intentionally. The Rays had Josh when he was still working on getting his timing back after missing almost a month to injury. After Friday night’s 3-run first inning home run told them he just might have that timing back, you can tell the Yankees, if they can, will avoid Hamilton in key situations.
What more can you say about the Rangers starting pitching? CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis have just shut down the Yankees attack. Meanwhile, Texas has teed off against New York’s #1 and #3 starters in the first two games. On the other hand, the Yankees bullpen has outshone the Rangers relief corps by a wide margin so far.
Did anyone else notice how worthless the TBS PitchTrak system is? I’d say about half the pitches showing outside the right margin of their box was called a strike. When it’s that consistent, it’s not the ump, it’s the electronics!
Thanks to this win, the national narrative for this series can now take a different shape. Disappointed as I was with the Game 1 loss, I could not believe some of the talking heads that pass themselves off as experts were sounding. They were already talking about the series being over. The most egregious of these were two guys on MLB Radio today. I wish I knew who they were but I didn’t catch the names. One was the on-air guy at the time. He closed his segment up by predicting a Yankees blow-out in Game 2. OK, that’s an opinion, so maybe that wasn’t so bad. The other guy, though, I think was one of the newspaper reporters who follows the Yankees. When asked about how the rest of the series was going to go, he said, in no uncertain terms, that Friday morning he was planning on being back in Arlington next weekend, but now he was CERTAIN he wouldn’t have to leave New York next week.
Mathematically, that’s still a possibility, but it was obvious from the way he was talking he already had Game 2 as a slam-dunk no-doubter from the get go. He was right. He was just thinking about the wrong team!
I spoke earlier of a shift in the narrative of the series. Think about this. Not trying to get ahead of myself, but if the Rangers win Game 3 with Cliff Lee on the mound to go up 2-1, there will be a shift in what you hear about the Series. Instead of, “The Rangers 8th blew Game 1 with a horrible 8th inning” we’ll start hearing more along the lines of “If not for one bad inning in Game 1, the Rangers would be up 3-0 on the defending World Champions!” Already, the narrative is shifting the Rangers way with talk about how well the offense has handled CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes. A solid effort against Andy Pettite on Monday (no easy feat, to be sure) and you’ll actually hear some serious doubt raised about the Yankees chances.
That is one narrative I sure would like to hear at the end of the night Monday. On to New York!