For the Rangers and their fans, it's been a long time coming. But at long last, their season is extending as long as it possibly can.
Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz each drove in a pair of runs in a four-run fifth inning, and Colby Lewis spun eight sparkling frames as the Texas Rangers defeated the New York Yankees 6-1 in Game 6 of the ALCS, thereby earning the first trip to the World Series in franchise history.
It was a large, loud, and nervous crowd in Arlington at first pitch, as the Rangers were only a win away from advancing, but had just been throttled by the Yankees in Game 5. You never count a team as good as the Yankees out, and no one was quite sure what to think coming in.
But Colby Lewis got everybody settled down with a scoreless top of the first, and the Rangers were then able to take the lead and get in control in the bottom half.
Elvis Andrus led off against Phil Hughes with a line drive into the left-center gap that went for two bases. Andrus then advanced to third on a single and scored on a slow Vladimir Guerrero grounder to second base. That grounder put the Rangers up 1-0 in the very early going.
And Lewis was able to make that lead hold up for quite a while. Lewis spun a perfect second and a perfect third, and faced only three batters in the fourth when he picked up an inning-ending double play off the bat of Robinson Cano.
That was the good news for the Rangers. The bad news was that, while Lewis was putting up zeroes, they were letting Hughes do the same even though he didn't have his best stuff. The Yankees starter worked around a couple runners in the third and another runner in the fourth to keep the game 1-0.
The Yankees were then able to tie it up in the top of the fifth, with a little help from home plate umpire Brian Gorman. Alex Rodriguez led off with a double, and advanced to third on a long fly out. That brought Nick Swisher to the plate, and on the first pitch, Lewis threw Swisher a low inside breaking ball that bounced in the dirt and then bounced off of his leg, getting behind Bengie Molina. The pitch clearly hit the batter, but Gorman's view was blocked, and he ruled the play a wild pitch, allowing Rodriguez to score from third base.
Lewis, though, would keep the Yankees there despite a double later in the inning. And rather than feel bad about themselves and their lousy luck, the Rangers put it all behind them and then some in the bottom half.
Mitch Moreland led off with a single and advanced to third on a pair of groundouts. Hughes then elected to intentionally walk Josh Hamilton to face Vladimir Guerrero with two down and men on the corners. But Hughes hung a curveball out over the plate, and Guerrero drove it into deep center field over Curtis Granderson's head for a two-run double.
The stadium erupted, and Joe Girardi immediately came out to replace Hughes with David Robertson. Robertson, though, was unable to settle anything down, and on his sixth pitch, he threw Nelson Cruz a low inside fastball that Cruz launched even deeper to center field. The ball cleared the fence with ease for a two-run homer, extending the Rangers' lead to 5-1.
From that point on, things were comfortable, as the Yankees wouldn't threaten the rest of the way. They didn't have a batter reach in the sixth. In the seventh, they stranded Lance Berkman after a two-out triple. And the Rangers would only add an insurance run on a sacrifice fly following the stretch.
And in his final frame of the evening, Lewis might've been at his best in the top of the eighth, when he pitched around a walk by striking out the side. His final pitch was an 0-2 slider to Derek Jeter that the Yankee captain cut on and missed.
Neftali Feliz was called on to close in the ninth, and whatever nervousness he'd shown earlier in the postseason was out of the window Friday night. He struck out Curtis Granderson with a high fastball. He got a grounder off the bat of Robinson Cano. The last batter he saw was - rather fittingly - former Ranger Alex Rodriguez, and Feliz froze him with a two-strike low away slider. Gorman signaled the strikeout, and the celebration was underway in Texas, with fireworks going off and players streaming in from the dugout and the bullpen.
The Rangers are now off to the World Series, leaving the Mariners and the Nationals/Expos as the only remaining franchises never to make it. Even better, they'll have Cliff Lee all rested and ready to go for Game 1, which is scheduled for Wednesday, October 27, at 7:57pm ET. It will be played in either San Francisco or Philadelphia, depending on the outcome of the NLCS.