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Mike Napoli sends the Rangers home

9/29/2011

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton called it one of the top-5 happiest days of his life, watching Mike Napoli's two-run home run stay fair down the left field line in the ninth, helping the Rangers to a 3-1 win to clinch the No. 2 seed and homefield advantage in the ALDS.

"No wait, it was top-6," Hamilton said. "Marrying me wife and the birth of our four girls, so the sixth. It was awesome. It means we go home so I can see those wife and kids, it's pretty cool."

That was the universal sentiment in the Rangers' clubhouse. There were lots of "thank yous" to Napoli, who fittingly ends his best season as a professional by beating his former team. He hit two home runs -- Nos. 29 and 30 -- and accounted for all three Rangers runs. He finishes the season with six homers against in Anaheim against his former team and his 30 homers and 75 RBIs, not to mention his .320 batting average, are career-highs.

"I don't even know what to say, it's just ridiculous," Ian Kinsler said. "Just an incredible season. There's no doubt in my mind he's going to carry it over to the postseason."

Napoli's first home run was hit to an area of the park many can't reach: over the trees in straightaway center field. Bo Jackson was one that hit one there in a memorable blast. His second was one that just did get inside the foul pole down the left-field line.

With Michael Young at first and two outs, Napoli couldn't catch up to a fastball to fall behind 0-1. But a good eye enabled him to get the count in his favor at 3-1 against Angels closer Jordan Walden.

"I know Walden throws pretty hard, so I was trying to get my barrel out front a little bit," Napoli said. "I got lucky enough to get a pitch I could do that with. It was a great feeling. It got us homefield advantage and we're all happy in here."

Napoli said at first he thought it was fair.

"Then it started tailing a little bit," Napoli said. "I was talking to it a little bit. It stayed fair."

Napoli, who praised starter Matt Harrison and bullpen mates Koji Uehara, Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz for holding the Angels to a run, admitted he was checking the Detroit score every inning, wondering if the Tigers would lose and give the Rangers home field without needing a win. Other players said the same.

"We're curious and wondering who we might play too," Michael Young said.

After the win, players were sitting around the big TVs in the clubhouse, watching Tampa Bay. They had seen the Rays go from down 7-0 to tied at 7 just as they were leaving the field.

"It's nice to sit and watch," Young said. "But the fun starts Friday."

Thanks to Napoli, it was start at 4:07 p.m. at home.