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Friday, November 19, 2010
Dazzling Dozen: American League champs

By Richard Durrett

Texas Rangers celebrate
The Rangers recovered from a Game 1 meltdown in the ALCS to beat the Yankees and produce the greatest moment in franchise history.


We've arrived at No. 1 in our countdown of the 12 most memorable moments for the 2010 Rangers. And I think it's probably one we can all agree on.

No. 1: Rangers win the ALCS

It's one thing to beat the Tampa Bay Rays and finally win a playoff series. It's quite another to beat the New York Yankees, the franchise that ended Texas' playoff runs in the first round in 1996, 1998 and 1999.

Texas began the series with a bullpen meltdown in a loss to the Yankees. Four relievers couldn't get outs in the eighth inning and a comfortable lead turned into a loss. But that was just Game 1 and the Rangers immediately bounced back in Game 2 to head to Yankee Stadium with the ALCS tied at 1 game each. Cliff Lee was superb in Game 3 to put the Rangers ahead and Bengie Molina hit a huge three-run homer in Game 4 to put Texas on the brink of the World Series.

Colby Lewis
Colby Lewis made sure the Rangers wouldn't need Cliff Lee again against the Yankees, pitching eight brilliant innings in Game 6.
Despite a Game 5 loss for C.J. Wilson, the Rangers came home confident. They had a 3-2 series lead and Colby Lewis on the mound for Game 6. If that didn't go well, they had Lee poised to pitch in Game 7.

But that Game 7 insurance policy wasn't needed. Lewis was brilliant. He had all of his pitches working and full command of the strike zone. Lewis pitched eight innings and gave up three hits. Vladimir Guerrero hit a huge two-run double to break a 1-1 tie after the Yankees had intentionally walked Hamilton for the fourth time in the series. Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer that all but ended the series.

The fans cheered "Col-by, Col-by" as Lewis finished the eighth inning, understanding how well he'd pitched. Lewis ended up beating the Yankees twice and if not for Hamilton's .350 batting average and four home runs, he would have been the ALCS MVP.

Once the game ended, players, coaches and their families celebrated on the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington field. The 50,000-plus fans stayed well after the final out was made to cheer the fact that their Rangers were going to a World Series.

"We took down the champ," C.J. Wilson said after the game. "We took down the Big Empire. Everybody always says you've got to go through New York. We've got one more team to beat. Everybody's been aiming for this the whole season. We've been on this quest since spring training."

Josh Hamilton
ALCS MVP Josh Hamilton proved his worth even when he wasn't swinging the bat.
Why this made No. 1 on the dozen list:

* There were more dramatic moments throughout the season, but no game or point in 2010 was bigger than beating the Yankees in the ALCS. For now, it goes down as the greatest moment in franchise history.

* The win sent the Rangers franchise to its first World Series. And while they lost in five games to the Giants, the Rangers took a huge step forward as an organization by bringing a World Series to Arlington.

* The fact that Lewis was the winner in Game 6 was also fitting. He was another player brought in by GM Jon Daniels and his staff that had something to prove. He pitched well for two seasons in Japan, but before that had bounced around the majors and never really figured things out. But the former supplemental first round pick by the Rangers in 1999 had a solid season. His win-loss record was misleading because he didn't get much run support, but he kept his team in games and had good stuff. He kept the Yankees bats silent in that Game 6, making sure Lee wasn't even needed in Game 7.

* The Rangers got to celebrate with the hometown fans, too. That was the first time in the postseason. They clinched the AL West in Oakland on Sept. 25 and beat Tampa Bay in Game 5 at Tropicana Field in the ALDS. So both times, they had their champagne on the road. This time, they got to share it with the fans.

* Hamilton was named ALCS MVP. He hit .350 with four homers and bothered the Yankees enough that they decided he wasn't going to beat them in Game 6. But by intentionally walking him, New York had to deal with the veteran Guerrero behind him and he made him pay. But Hamilton stepped up on the big stage and produced.

Do you like our No. 1 choice? Did you attend that game? If so, please share your thoughts about it in the comment section.