And they got there with a win over their old nemesis, the defending champion New York Yankees.
Vladimir Guerrero(notes) drove in three runs before Nelson Cruz(notes) hit a towering, two-run homer and the Rangers beat New York 6-1 Friday night in Game 6 of the AL championship series, the biggest victory in the franchise’s 50 seasons.
Colby Lewis(notes) dominated over eight innings for his second win of the series and Josh Hamilton(notes) earned the ALCS MVP award. And in a state where most sports fans gear up for fall weekends by watching high school football, the Rangers gave a new meaning to Friday Night Lights.
“The World Series is coming to Texas,” longtime Rangers infielder Michael Young(notes) said. “These fans have waited longer than we have. I know how bad we wanted it and they must have wanted it more.”
“Totally worth the wait, totally,” he said.
When Alex Rodriguez(notes) took a called third strike to end the game, fireworks exploded in the sky high above, confetti filled the air and the Rangers embraced each other near the mound.
Rangers icon Nolan Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher who is the team president and co-owner, embraced his wife in the front row before going on the field to join the team.
Cliff Lee(notes) was waiting if needed by the Rangers for a deciding Game 7 against the Yankees. Now the ace left-hander can rest up for Game 1 of the World Series, on Wednesday night in either San Francisco or Philadelphia. The Giants lead the NLCS 3-2.
The Rangers, who had never won a postseason series or a home playoff game before this year, dispatched the $200 million-plus Bronx Bombers with little drama—especially after a four-run outburst in the fifth inning snapped a 1-all tie.
And that makes it even more satisfying for the Rangers and their fans since New York knocked Texas out of the playoffs in each of the club’s three previous appearances. Derek Jeter(notes) is among several players remaining from those teams in the late 1990s and Rodriguez is among several former Rangers now wearing pinstripes.
The Rangers outplayed the Yankees in every facet. Along with their slugging, they showed off something Ryan has brought them—a culture where pitching rules, and starters expect to go deep into games.
Moments after closer Neftali Feliz(notes) fanned Rodriguez for the final out, a flag proclaiming the Texas as the AL champion flapped above the ballpark. The Rangers celebrated on the field with ginger ale in deference to Hamilton’s admitted substance abuse problems.
Quite something for a franchise that began in 1961 as the Washington Senators. They moved to Texas in 1972 with Ted Williams as their manager.
“We are here as a group. This group is here because they don’t know how to fail,” Hamilton said.