Who wrote that the Texas Rangers might be â€œsteamrolleredâ€ by the New York Yankees in their American League Championship Series (ALCS)?Â
Okay, it was me, but in my defence I only wrote that I had a â€œfeelingâ€ that could happen and I did so after the Yankees had staged an almighty comeback to win Game One.Â That result, losing 6-5 at home after New York scored five times in the eighth inning, would have crushed a lesser team.Â For the Rangers to recover and win the series 4-2 is a testament not only to their talent, but also to their spirit and fight.
The Rangersâ€™ series-clinching win in the early hours of the British morning neatly summed this up.Â
The fifth inning proved to be decisive.Â The Rangers entered the frame leading 1-0 and starting pitcher Colby Lewis had thrown four no-hit innings before former Ranger Alex Rodriguez stroked a lead-off double into left-centre field.Â Lewis had been on a roll and that could have knocked him out of his rhythm, especially when A-Rod scampered home from third on a wild pitch that should have been ruled a hit-by-pitch.Â
The way the ball deflected showed that it must have hit somebody and the home plate umpire obviously thought it came off catcher Bengie Molina rather than Nick Swisher.Â He was wrong and Swisher followed his captainâ€™s lead by selling the play to the Yankeesâ€™ advantage.Â Rightly or wrongly, itâ€™s what most (all?) players would have done in the same situation, but it was another little moment to add to the Evil Empire legend and to make the neutrals root for the Rangers that little bit more (incidentally, it was very funny listening to MLB on 5 Liveâ€™s Jonny Gould on Wednesday night recalling Jeterâ€™s angry reaction when he brought up the â€˜Evil Empireâ€™ nickname in an interview at the 2008 All Star Game).
Rather than rattling the Rangers, it seemed to galvanise them in the bottom of the inning.Â Phil Hughes was chased from the game after Vlad Guerrero decided to take offence to the Yankees intentionally walking Josh Hamilton to pitch to him for the second straight time.Â Vlad doubled home two runs and then Nelson Cruz welcomed David Robertson to the game by smacking a two-run homer to give Texas a 5-1 lead. They added another run in the seventh, but it wasnâ€™t needed in the end.
It was a fully deserved series win.Â The Rangers outplayed the Yankees and Joe Girardi can have no complaints about the result.Â There were question marks over the Yankeesâ€™ starting pitchers heading into the postseason and they proved to be justified.Â Add that to a spluttering offence and youâ€™re not going to win many postseason games.Â
As for the Rangers, fighting back in Game Two was important but their two comprehensive wins in Games Three (8-0) and Four (10-3) at Yankee Stadium was what won the series for them.Â Listening to Game Five on Wednesday evening, there was a very muted atmosphere at Yankee Stadium early on, as if the usual Bronx confidence had taken a knock: quite an achievement by the Rangers.
Texas move on to their first ever World Series and will be full of confidence, especially as avoiding a Game Seven showdown means that Cliff Lee will be available for Game One of the Fall Classic.
Cliff Lee facing the Phillies would make for a fascinating story (not so fascinating for Philliesâ€™ GM Ruben Amaro Jr, I suspect); however the Giants hold the advantage despite losing Game Five.Â They have two more chances to make it back to the World Series for the first time since their loss to the Angels in 2002.Â
Unfortunately, the early end to the ALCS has meant that Game Six tonight has been shifted from the UK-friendly time of 20.57 BST to just before one in the morning.Â Still, Sunday gives us plenty of chance to catch up on the missed sleep.Â Roy Oswalt and Jonathan Sanchez are scheduled to start.