October 23, 2010 4 Comments
That. Just. Happened. In April, if you told me the Rangers would be playing into November and eliminating the Yankees, I would have said you’re crazy. Even as big of a “homer” as I am, I’m still pinching myself to make sure this isn’t a dream. I just arrived back in Austin minutes ago, and wanted to share my experiences.
Those who read my MLB Playoff Picks (here), you’re welcome. We all know I pick the Dallas team to win it every year, and it never happens. As for the World Series, I don’t want to jinx the Rangers but you can guess which way I’m leaning. I was fortunate enough to attend the biggest game in Rangers franchise history, and like my great mentor Bill Simmons, I wanted to share my Game 6 photo diary.
It all began after Game 3 on the ALCS. Cliff Lee proved again that he is as much of a sure thing as the sun setting. After watching this historic 13-strikeout performance, the Yankees had little hope left. I was positive if somehow, Texas can bring it back to Arlington up three games to two, it was over.
I arrived to the game about 90 minutes before the first pitch, just in time to see the Yankees batting practice. My seats were down the 3rd base line pretty close to the field (for a hefty price).
The first thing I see as I get to my seats is the Great Yankees Captain, Derek Jeter. I don’t care who you are, but Jeter deserves respect. Yes, he is the captain of the Yankees’ “Evil Empire”, but he is also the best shortstop of all time (not up for debate). Anyway, unlike most star players Jeter is a very nice guy. His happy go-lucky attitude makes him a fan favorite wherever he goes. He smiles at the crowd during warm-ups, and will even respond to the chants of “JETER!” (Trust me I know)
As for his counterpart A-Rod, I can’t say the same. Watching the game on TV, it is easy to hear the loud boo’s of A-Rod. At the game, it is a whole different beast. I have never seen so much hatred for one player at any stadium in my life. This would be as good a time as any to mention I was wearing my A-Rod Rangers jersey to the game (given it is the only Texas jersey I have that isn’t a youth large). By some amazement, I somehow avoided being heckled. Either the fans behind me thought I was wearing a Pudge Rodriguez jersey, or were just too drunk to put two and two together.
Then all of a sudden, rain began pouring down in Arlington. I kept thinking to myself, “Please, please don’t be a delay!” When are they going to tarp the field? I wasn’t worried. Nobody knows the weather better than a major league grounds crew. Having interned with the Astros grounds crew team last summer, no one knows what the weather is going to do better than the crew. About mid-way through the National Anthem, a quick thunderstorm stopped by, and the field was tarped. For some strange reason, this lasted all but 5 minutes and it never came back again. The baseball gods wanted to see some baseball.
On to the game… never have I seen the Ballpark this full or this loud. I had a feeling it was going to be one of those games where you really didn’t even need a seat as everyone around me was standing throughout the whole game. The game wasn’t a huge marquee pitching matchup (Hughes vs. Lewis) at the start but Colby Lewis pitched the game of his life.
Beginning in the first inning, the Rangers started their journey. Here’s an interesting tidbit: the Rangers have scored in the first inning in three of the five games this series thus far. That didn’t change Friday night. After hits by Elvis and Hamilton, things were looking good. Little did I know this was the only at-bat Hamilton was going to get. After a Guerrero RBI on a fielder’s choice, the Rangers were on the board.
Then began the pitching duel. For the next four innings, both bats were silenced until the Yankees got their first hit by A-rod into the gap. Then the baseball gods showed up. On a fluke wild pitch that grazed Nick Swisher’s shin, A-Rod scored on the “passed ball.” I remember seeing Bengie Molina furious. Quite a rare sight, I must say. If you upset our 37-year old catcher, then something must be wrong. As usual, the Ballpark replay officials were on break only for that play so I had to make a few texts to see what truly happened. Unfortunately, the umpires were unable to solve wild-pitchgate, and the game was tied going into the bottom of the fifth.
At this point. I called my shot. That is, after a few innings of knocking on the door, I had that gut feeling that the Ranger’s bats would break through. Was I wrong? Of course not. Starting off with a tough grounder in the hole overthrown by Cano, Mitch Moreland was on base to start the Rangers rally. Very similar to the eighth inning of Game 1 when Bret Gardner beat CJ Wilson to first base prompting a Yankees comeback for the ages. After a well executed hit-and-run by Elvis Andrus, the Rangers were once again in scoring position. A quick out by Young and up came MVP Josh Hamilton. Throughout this series, Girardi has made it quite clear that he wants no part of Hamilton and issued him his second free base of the game (somewhere Barry Bonds is laughing).
The stadium was deafening with Boo’s as we could only hope Vlad finally comes through. All of a sudden Vlad blasts a lined shot into deep center and BOOM!! The stadium erupted. Chants of “Vladdy,Vladdy, Vladdy swept Arlington. (I can’t feel my legs). The Rangers were up 3-1 and bye bye Phil Hughes. Up comes David Robertson (on the record, I questioned this move immediately but I’ll go ahead and continue) to face the powerful Nelson Cruz. With a 1-2 count, Nelson hits a moonshot into deep left center: it’s going, going, GONE! Cue the home run music!
O My, THIS is why you go the game. Texas didn’t stop there, scoring Cruz on a double by Kinsler down the line. And before you knew it, the Rangers were up 6-1 on THE YANKEES. This marked the first time I realized, WOW, Could we actually win the Pennant? Up by five runs, I saw what happened in Game 1, and wasn’t calling it yet. 12 outs left.
All that cheering and yelling sure does make you hungry. After a quick consumption of Nachos, two hot dogs, and chips I was ready to go.
Fast forward to the eighth. A quick glance over at the Rangers scoreboard to see Colby Lewis with only 86 pitches. Can he finish the game? Literally seconds later, Lewis strikes out the side in dominant fashion, and THREE OUTS LEFT. Cliff who? No, but seriously. Many people wondered why Ron Washington wouldn’t throw Lee on short rest. Answer: Colby Lewis. Plus, it is going to be very handy having Cliff Lee at our disposal in games 1 and 5 of the World Series.
Disclaimer to Nolan Ryan, Chuck Greenberg, and Jon Daniels: get that checkbook ready because Cliff Lee isn’t going to be cheap (around 4 yrs/ $100 million).
In came Mariano Rivera and for some strange reason, the crowd of 51,000+ was silenced. Forget about the five run lead, this was the best closer of all time (aka the “Hammer of God”). I never understood why it became so silent, but you have to respect Mo. Even the stadium stopped playing music… it was uncomfortably quiet compared to the craziness moments before.
On to the Ninth. My video camera was ready and prepared to see what nobody has seen… a Rangers pennant. The young fireballer Neftali Feliz came in to shut the door.
Granderson out, Cano out, ONE MORE OUT! And who was it going to be? None other than Alex Rodriguez. You can’t script this any better. To this day, I still don’t understand the utter hatred Texas fans have for A-Rod but who knows. Is it A: his move to New York, B: his failure to deliver on a $250 million contract, C: his steroid era in Texas, D: his talent, or E: All of the above.
A perfect ending to a perfect ALCS. In order to get to your first World Series, you must beat your arch-nemesis (sounds like a Star Wars movie). Thoughts immediately began swarming through my head: Do I rush the field? This idea was quickly shut down when the PA announcer said, “All unauthorized persons who enter the playing surface are subject for arrest.” Aw, shucks. Then it began: Strike one, Strike two… Get your popcorn ready. Then time froze as Feliz delivered a slider on the black outside edge of the plate. STRIKE THREE!
RANGERS WIN THE PENNANT! RANGERS WIN THE PENNANT!
From the verge of bankruptcy to American League Champions! It can’t get any better than this!
I will conclude with this video I took at the end:
And folks, it’s not over yet!