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Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Dazzling Dozen: Clinching the AL West

By Richard Durrett

It may find odd to find the Rangers' AL West-clinching game at only No. 8 on the list of the 12 top moments, but maybe that speaks more to what the club did after that game (and maybe I have it ranked too low). But here goes:

No. 8: Rangers clinch the AL West behind Jorge Cantu's memorable game.

Rangers Celebration
Michael Young was the first to reach closer Neftali Feliz to celebrate when the Rangers beat the A's to clinch the American League West title.
What I'll remember more than the actual clinching game itself are the days on the road trip leading up to it. The Rangers embarked on a 10-game road trip in late September through AL West locales Seattle, Anaheim and Oakland. The trip didn't start very well. Texas lost two of three in Seattle and fell to the Angels in the first two games of that three-game series. There were grumblings that if the A's continued a strong surge, they could make things interesting before a four-game series played in Oakland on Sept. 23-26.

But Wednesday, Sept. 22 was a big day (not quite big enough to make our dozen, but worth a mention). The Rangers faced the Angels in the final game of the series. Oakland lost earlier in the day, so it was an opportunity to gain a full game and reduce the magic number to 4 before the series began. Texas needed 12 innings, but Jeff Francoeur doubled and eventually scored on a passed ball and the Rangers escaped with a 2-1 win.

After falling 5-0 to the A's with Cliff Lee on the mound in the first game of the series in Oakland, Texas rebounded with a 10-3 drubbing in the second game. It was as relaxed as I saw the clubhouse all season as players gathered for a Saturday afternoon game on Sept. 25. The magic number was 2 and they knew they just needed one win in the final two games of the series to clinch the division.

Jorge Cantu, who had no RBIs in 24 games with the Rangers, picked a great time to get his first (and second). The first baseman hit a solo homer in the eighth inning (after he had hit the go-ahead single in the sixth) to give the Rangers a 4-3 lead. Neftali Feliz closed it out.

As soon as the final out was made, Feliz headed toward Michael Young at third base and that's where the celebration started. Players hugged and enjoyed the moment as some Rangers fans in Oakland cheered. They then went into the visiting clubhouse and soaked themselves in champagne.

A gaggle players tried to douse Josh Hamilton with water bottles, but he was already dressed and on his way to speak at Faith Day in Oakland (the Rangers would later get Hamilton with ginger ale in Tampa Bay). But it was pure joy on the players' faces and they had fun. That was especially evident for Young, who had waited 10 years to experience it.

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"I'm glad I'm a Ranger," Young said that day, drenched in a mixture of beer, alcohol and water. "This is where I've always wanted to be. This is the place I call home. These are the fans I'm proud to represent. This is an organization I'm proud to represent."

Why this was in my dazzling dozen:

* Cantu's contribution represented that everyone on the team helped get the Rangers to the division title. Cantu was in the lineup against a righty late in the game because manager Ron Washington had a feeling. And, as was the case so often in 2010, his feeling was right.

* It was fun to see Washington completely soaked, cigar in his mouth, enjoying every minute with his team. He had an up-and-down season and a roller-coaster ride since being hired, but he stuck to his philosophy and it paid off. It was nice to see him enjoy it.

* The Rangers didn't allow the A's to feel like they could make an impossible comeback. When they had the chance to close it out, they did it in the first opportunity. That also afforded the team a chance to get some rest and relax a little before the playoffs and set up the pitching staff just like they wanted it. I'm convinced the extra time helped them in Tampa.

* Feliz was on the mound for the clinching out, and that was fitting. He had 40 saves in 2010 and few were bigger than that one.

* That was supposed to be the game that wasn't on TV, but the Rangers made sure it got on the air. Good thing, too. Can you imagine if they'd clinched the title and no one in Dallas-Fort Worth saw it live?

What do you remember about the game? Where were you watching it?