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Rangers earn first World Series trip, beat Yankees in ALCS

Posted by Joshua Kummins on October 23, 2010

By Paul White, USA Today

ARLINGTON, Texas — Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington said the road to the World Series in the American League usually goes through New York.

The Rangers have New York in their rearview mirror now — disposing of the Yankees 6-1 Friday in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series — but it was somehow fitting that it was Alex Rodriguez who got New York’s last look as the Rangers roared into the World Series.

“It was appropriate or ironic, I don’t know which,” said Rangers general manager Josh Daniels of the called third strike from Neftali Feliz that clinched the first World Series appearance for a franchise that was born in 1961 as the Washington Senators.

Rodriguez remains the face of Rangers past — a past efficiently exorcised Friday — and easily attracts the most wrath among the Yankees from Texas fans. It was his trade in 2004 from a Rangers team that had finished last four years in a row that began the slow and often painful building process that finally has paid off.

“I’ve only been here nine years,” said Daniels, a New York native. “It’s been a long time for me but it’s nothing compared to our fans.”

The fans — 51,404 of them — were on their feet as Feliz cruised through a ninth that was as dominant as the Rangers were for most of the series but almost anti-climatic thanks to a stifling eight innings from Texas starter Colby Lewis.

Save all that Cliff Lee talk for Wednesday in San Francisco or Philadelphia, when he’ll start Game 1.

Lewis, who pitched the last two seasons in Japan, made sure there would be no need for a Game 7 appearance from Lee, whose post-season effectiveness had been so much the talk of this series though he pitched just once.

The Yankees didn’t get a hit until the fifth, when Rodriguez led off with a double and eventually scored to tie the game 1-1. They had three hits all night and never mounted a threat after Texas’ four-run fifth broke open the game.

The Rangers had a runner on second with two outs when Yankees manager Joe Girardi elected to intentionally walk series MVP Josh Hamilton for the second time in the game. It worked two innings earlier when Yankees starter Phil Hughes got Vladimir Guerrero to pop up for the third out.

This time, Guerrero doubled to the wall in left-center field for a 3-1 Rangers lead. Girardi replaced Hughes with David Robertson and Nelson Cruz greeted him a two-run homer.

From there, it was back to the pitching that shut down the Yankees’ star-studded lineup and turned out to be the theme of the series.

“They were able to control our firepower,” said New York center fielder Curtis Granderson.

Indeed. The Yankees hit .201 in the series. Of their 19 runs, 10 came in three innings. The Rangers hit .304, scored 38 runs.

“You take away one inning (a five-run Yankees eight to win Game 1) and one game (New York’s 7-2 win in Game 5) and it was very one-sided,” Girardi said. “They out-hit us, they out-pitched us, out-played us and they beat us.”

Lewis, who also won Game 2, is a Rangers first-round draft pick from 1999 who had turned into little more than a journeyman before heading to Japan in 2008.

“He reinvented himself (in Japan),” Daniels said. “He shortened his arm action, smoothed out his delivery. He added a good cutter. He used to be a four-seam fastball, big-curve guy and tried to throw it by everybody. He’s almost a completely new pitcher.”

He needed to be.

Daniels remembered the old Lewis. Was he really worth bringing back?

“I asked that question,” Daniels said. “You have to ask that question. But, first, he was healthy. Second, he had matured. It takes a lot to pick up your family and move over there.”

Daniels’ questions were answered by his scouting staff.

Josh Boyd, director of pro scouting, pushed for signing Lewis. The Rangers were thorough, making sure more than one set of eyes saw Lewis pitching for the Hiroshima Carp.

“There was Joe Furakawa, Don Welke, A.J. Preller, Keith Boeck,” Daniels said, rattling through members of his scouting department who were part of the decision.

The Rangers took the chance on him as part of a rotation makeover that also included coverting C.J. Wilson from a reliever and trading for Lee in July.

“These guys came together,” said Washington, referring to his entire roster. “I love this team because all they do is show up and play baseball.”

They’ll show up again Wednesday.

BOX SCORE: Rangers 6, Yankees 1
ALCS MVP: Rangers’ Josh Hamilton wins award
SEASON OVER: Yankees chance for No. 28 ends
RECAP: How Game 6 played out
GALLERY: Images from the 2010 postseason
SCHEDULE: Postseason matchups, times and results

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