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Bengie Molina's 3-run shot leads homer-happy Rangers to 3-1 ALCS lead

NEW YORK -- Big home runs. Shutdown relief pitching. Blowout wins.

The American League Championship Series has turned into the one-sided affair many expected -- except it's the Texas Rangers who are one win from the World Series, not the New York Yankees.

Bengie Molina hit a go-ahead, three-run homer off A.J. Burnett in the sixth inning, Josh Hamilton added a pair of solo drives to give him four in four games and the Rangers battered the Yankees 10-3 Tuesday night for a 3-1 ALCS lead.

"It's not bad for a fat kid that everyone makes fun of when he runs," Molina said.

On a night of contested home runs, a hamstring injury that finished Mark Teixeira for the postseason and more late walks by the Rangers, the AL West champions brought a little bit of the Wild West with them.

A win Wednesday in Game 5 will put them into baseball's showcase for the first time -- in the 50th season of a franchise that started play as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961.

"We came here, we are supposed to lose," a beaming Molina said.

Fans started streaming out of Yankee Stadium in the late innings, while Rangers president and part-owner Nolan Ryan smiled in his seat.

"They all talk about home-field advantage," said Derek Holland, who got the win with 3 2/3 innings of scoreless one-hit relief. "We want to be able to show that there's no such thing."

The big ballpark was as quiet as a minor league field for the second straight ninth inning. Texas is 5-0 on the road in the playoffs, and the Yankees are on the verge of losing three straight postseason home games in a single series for the first time since 1942.

"It's been a little unusual," Texas third baseman Michael Young said. "I think we look at Yankee Stadium as just a fun place to play. This is the ultimate in baseball."

Game 5 will have a rematch of starters from the opener, with the Yankees' CC Sabathia against C.J. Wilson. Since the LCS went to a best-of-seven format, 24 of the 30 previous teams to take 3-1 series leads have won pennants.

"Tomorrow's game is the most important game in the history of this franchise," Wilson said.

Instead of trying to avoid Cliff Lee, the Yankees can only hope to force a Game 7 and face him again.

"We have bounced back many times in this year," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Win, and then you go from there."

Nelson Cruz hit the last of Texas' four homers, a two-run drive in the ninth that gave the Rangers seven homers in the series and 15 in the postseason. Hamilton's homers in the seventh against Boone Logan and the ninth off Sergio Mitre made him 5-for-15 in the series and gave him seven RBIs. Angry Yankees fans booed over and over.

"We're going to keep focused. We haven't done anything yet," Cruz said.

It was a costly loss for the defending World Series champion Yankees. Teixeira limped off in the fifth inning with a strained right hamstring and said he was done for the year. Girardi said the team likely will replace the All-Star first baseman on the roster with infielder Eduardo Nunez.

"You battle all year to get a chance to help your team out in the World Series, hopefully," Teixeira said. "It's not going to happen this year."

Aiming for a Series matchup against San Francisco or Philadelphia, Texas has outscored the Yankees 30-11, outhit them 43-26 and would have swept if not for wasting a five-run lead in the opener.

While Texas is hitting .307, New York is limping at .198, including .154 (6-for-39) with runners in scoring position. Alex Rodriguez has been a bust against his former team, going 2-for-15 (.133) with two RBIs.

Molina's two-out homer came after an intentional walk to David Murphy and put Texas ahead 5-3. Molina circled the bases and pounded a fist against his chest -- and left Burnett clasping his hands behind his head.

"He was throwing the ball good and we decided to leave him in," Girardi said. "We liked the matchup, and it didn't work out."

Robinson Cano hit a second-inning home run off the top of the right-field wall -- his third of the series -- that left Cruz screaming and pointing after a fan touched his glove as he tried to make a leaping catch.

"From the angle I had, I was very confident that the ball was in the stands," right-field ump Jim Reynolds said.

Two batters later, Lance Berkman hit a high drive down the right-field line that was clearly foul but initially was ruled fair by Reynolds. After a video review -- just the third in postseason play since the process began two years ago -- umpires reversed the call and ruled it foul. The Yankees didn't even argue.

"In that situation, I wasn't confident of what I had, and we got together and we went to the replay," Reynolds said.

Holland entered when starter Tommy Hunter was knocked out in the fourth inning.

"I was definitely a little nervous coming into Yankee Stadium, especially in the playoffs, but at the same time you have to have fun with it," he said.

Holland, Darren O'Day and Clay Rapada walked the bases loaded in the eighth with Texas leading 7-3. After Darren Oliver's 0-1 pitch might have glanced off Nick Swisher's back foot -- there wasn't a call or argument -- Swisher flied to short center on the next pitch, dropping to 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the playoffs. Berkman followed with an inning-ending forceout, and Oliver finished for a save.

Burnett, who took the loss, made it through six innings, more than the Yankees could have expected.

The $82.5 million man had lost seven of his last eight regular-season decisions, was dropped from the rotation in the first round and hadn't pitched since Oct. 2. Since 1952, pitchers starting postseason games with 16 or more days of rest are now 0-11 with a 7.43 ERA in 15 starts, according to STATS LLC, and Burnett joined a list of losers that includes Roger Clemens, Catfish Hunter and Kerry Wood.

"Believe it or not, it's probably the best I've pitched in a long time," Burnett said. "It's one mistake. It was down and away. It just didn't go where i wanted it to go. I knew he hit it out."

And now the Rangers are on the verge of knocking out the Yankees.

Game notes
Michael Jordan was at the game. ... Derek Jeter scored his LCS-record 32nd run and set a postseason mark with his 30th double. ... The barrel of Brett Gardner's broken bat flew through the air and shattered a TBS camera.