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After making the playoffs as the American League’s wild-card representative by finishing the 2010 regular season one game behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the A.L. East with a record of 95-67, the New York Yankees swept the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS for the second consecutive year.  They subsequently faced in the American League Championship Series a Texas Rangers team that advanced to the ALCS by defeating Tampa Bay in five games in the first round of the postseason tournament.

Texas initially earned a spot in the playoffs by finishing nine games ahead of the second-place Oakland Athletics in the A.L. West, with a record of 90-72.  The Rangers’ 90 victories represented the lowest win total of any American League playoff team.  Yet, since they won their division while the Yankees failed to do so, the Rangers held the home field advantage in their postseason matchup.  Nevertheless, New York remained the favorite to represent the junior circuit in the World Series for the second consecutive year.

The Yankees certainly had a more potent offense than Texas.  New York scored 72 more runs (859 to 787), hit 39 more home runs (201 to 162), compiled a higher team on-base percentage (.350 to .338), and posted a higher team slugging percentage (.436 to .419).  The only major offensive categories in which Texas surpassed New York were stolen bases (123 to 103) and team batting average (.276 to .267).  Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Robinson Cano all had extremely productive years for the Yankees.  Although Teixeira batted just .256, he knocked in 108 runs and led the club with 33 home runs and 113 runs scored.  Rodriguez hit 30 homers and placed among the league leaders with 125 runs batted in.  Cano hit 29 home runs, knocked in 109 runs, scored 103 others, batted .319, and collected 200 hits and 41 doubles, en route to earning a third-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting.         

Still, the Rangers had to be considered a serious threat to New York’s chances of repeating as American League champions due to their outstanding team balance.  Four members of the Rangers’ starting lineup hit more than 20 home runs, and three of them also batted over .300 and knocked in more than 90 runs.  Michael Young hit 21 homers, drove in 91 runs, scored 99 others, and batted .284.  Nelson Cruz hit 22 home runs and batted .318.  Designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero went deep 29 times, knocked in 115 runs, and batted .300.  A.L. MVP Josh Hamilton hit 32 home runs, drove in 100 runs, scored 95 others, and led the league with a .359 batting average and a .633 slugging percentage.

Texas also had a solid pitching staff, placing third in the junior circuit with a 3.93 team ERA (the Yankees finished seventh with a mark of 4.06).  C.J. Wilson and Tommy Hunter were the Rangers’ most reliable starters.  Wilson led the staff with 15 victories and a 3.35 ERA.  Hunter finished 13-4 with an ERA of 3.73.  However, the man who perhaps gave the Rangers the upper hand heading into their postseason showdown with the Yankees was Cliff Lee, who they obtained from Seattle in early July.  Although Lee won only four of his 10 decisions with Texas during the season’s second half, he had a history of pitching remarkably well during the postseason.  Lee also gave the Rangers a starter capable of matching up against Yankee ace C.C. Sabathia, who finished 21-7 during the regular season.  Meanwhile, Neftali Feliz, who saved 40 games for the Rangers, gave them a closer just a notch below the great Mariano Rivera, who continued to anchor the Yankee bullpen.  

Game One in Texas started out very well for the Rangers, who scored five times in the first four innings against C.C. Sabathia, en route to taking a 5-0 lead into the top of the seventh inning.  Josh Hamilton got Texas started with a three-run homer against Sabathia in the first inning.  Michael Young drove in two more runs for the Rangers with a fourth inning double.  Robinson Cano hit a solo home run for New York in the top of the seventh, to make the score 5-1.  With Texas still leading by four runs, the Yankees mounted a rally in the eighth inning that drove Rangers starter C.J. Wilson from the mound.  After Derek Jeter knocked in New York’s second run with an RBI double, Alex Rodriguez delivered a two-run double that reduced the Yankee deficit to one run.  Robinson Cano and Marcus Thames subsequently drove in the tying and go-ahead runs with RBI singles that gave the Yankees a 6-5 lead.  Kerry Wood worked a scoreless eighth for New York, before turning the ball over to Mariano Rivera, who preserved the Yankee victory by getting the final three outs in the bottom of the ninth.

Despite losing Game One after it seemed as if they already had the contest won, the Rangers rebounded in convincing fashion to take Game Two by a score of 7-2.  Texas knocked out New York starter Phil Hughes after only four innings, collecting seven runs and 10 hits against the 18-game winner.  David Murphy did much of the damage for Texas, going 2-for-3, with a homer, a double, two runs batted in, and two runs scored.  Meanwhile, Colby Lewis worked 5 2/3 solid innings for the Rangers, allowing the Yankees just two runs, one of which scored on Robinson Cano’s second home run in as many games.  The Rangers’ bullpen worked 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief, surrendering just one hit to New York.  The 7-2 Texas victory evened the series at one game apiece, with the next three contests scheduled to be played in New York.

Game Three remained close for eight innings, with Josh Hamilton’s two-run homer against Andy Pettitte in the top of the first inning giving the Rangers a 2-0 lead that Cliff Lee did a magnificent job of protecting.  Lee allowed just two hits and struck out 13 Yankee batters over the first eight innings, before being removed from the contest when Texas scored six runs against three Yankee relievers in the top of the ninth.  Neftali Feliz worked a perfect bottom of the ninth inning for Texas, striking out two of the three men he faced to give the Texas staff 15 strikeouts for the game.  The 8-0 victory gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead in the series.

After the Yankees built a 3-2 lead over the first four innings of Game Four against Texas starter Tommy Hunter, the Rangers took control of the contest and the series by scoring eight times over the final four frames against A.J. Burnett and four Yankee relievers.  A three-run homer by Bengie Molina in the top of the sixth gave the Rangers a 5-3 lead.  They later put the game out of reach with two runs in the seventh inning, and another three in the top of the ninth.  Two home runs by Josh Hamilton highlighted the Rangers’ scoring.  The 10-3 victory gave Texas a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.

The Yankees refused to go quietly, though, jumping out to a 5-0 lead after the first three innings of Game Five and then coasting the rest of the way, en route to posting a 7-2 victory that brought them to within one game of Texas.  C.C. Sabathia allowed the Rangers 11 hits in his six innings of work, but he limited them to only two runs.  Meanwhile, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, and Curtis Granderson all homered for New York.  Cano’s blast was his fourth of the series, tying the ALCS home run record.

After the two teams returned to Texas for Game Six, the Rangers ended the suspense by defeating the Yankees in convincing fashion, closing out the series with a 6-1 win.  Nelson Cruz keyed a four-run rally in the bottom of the fifth inning for the Rangers by hitting a two-run home run off Yankee reliever David Robertson.  Meanwhile, Colby Lewis dominated the vaunted Yankee lineup, allowing New York just one run on three hits over the first eight innings.  Neftali Feliz worked a perfect ninth, striking out Alex Rodriguez to send the Rangers to the World Series for the first time in franchise history.

By Bob_Cohen
 

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Tagged:
2010 ALCS, A.J. Burnett, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, Bengie Molina, C.C. Sabathia, C.J. Wilson, Cliff Lee, Colby Lewis, Curtis Granderson, David Murphy, David Robertson, Derek Jeter, Josh Hamilton, Kerry Wood, Marcus Thames, Mariano Rivera, Mark Teixeira, Michael Young, Neftali Feliz, Nelson Cruz, New York Yankees, Nick Swisher, Philip Hughes, Robinson Cano, Texas Rangers, Tommy Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero

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