Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Game Five of ALDS recap

By Kshell

In the baseball playoffs very rarely do we get the opportunity to see an elimination game. When an elimination game occurs even more rare is when both starting pitchers in that game went to the All-Star Game that very season. Today featured the Texas Rangers who once held a two games to zero lead in this series versus the Tampa Bay Rays who battled back to force a game five in their home ball park. The loser of this game was going to feel like they choked away a golden opportunity. Both teams are facing the serious possibility of getting blown up in the offseason.

Cliff Lee pitches Rangers to first playoff series victory with 5-1 win over Rays

When Ian Kinsler belted a Rafael Soriano pitch into deep left for a two run homerun everyone in Texas started celebrating. With the way Cliff Lee was pitching a 5-1 lead felt like being up 20 runs. Everyone knew the Texas Rangers were going to win their first ever playoff series.

Going into the game all the statistics were working against the Texas Rangers. No playoff series has had the road team win every game. No team who has blown a 2-0 lead in a best of five series has won a game five. The Rangers had never won a postseason series in their franchises history. The one stat that actually mattered for today's game was working for the Rangers. Starting pitcher Cliff Lee was 5-0 with a 1.52 ERA in his postseason career and his team was 6-0. Momentum is all about the next days starting pitcher.

The Rangers got on the board first on a strange play. Elvis Andrus was on second base after stealing second base. David Price who had been roughed up in game one induced Josh Hamilton to ground out to first. The problem is when Pena toss the ball to Price, Price had turned his back towards third base and home plate so Andrus who is fast raced home to score the games first run. He would score from second base on a ground ball out.

Lee faced a big moment in the third inning. He allowed an RBI base hit to Ben Zobrist who had homered off Lee in game one. With the score tied at 1-1 and the Rays having second and third one out Lee was in serious trouble. Lee was facing the Rays number three and four hitters in Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria. He would get Crawford to ground out to third as Young tagged out Bartlett in the run down. Lee would get Longoria to ground out to keep the game tied at one.

Then in the top of the fourth after Price quickly got two outs faced Nelson Cruz who had homered in three games already this series belted a pitch to the deepest part of the stadium for a double. Cruz thinking he had a homerun starred and admired his shot or else he would have had a triple. On the first pitch to Kinsler Cruz stole third and a wild throw by Kelly Shoppach into the outfield allowed Cruz to score making the game 2-1 in Texas favor.

In the sixth inning the Rangers scored another run on a strange play. The Rangers had first and second and one out for Kinsler. Kinsler grounded to first and Pena then tossed to second base to get Cruz out then on the relay to first Price had thought he had Kinsler out for an inning ending double play. Instead he was safe and again Price turned his back to third base and home plate which allowed Vlad Guerrero to score from second base. The Rangers led 3-1 which behind Cliff Lee looked like a huge lead. The Rangers had scored three runs without getting a base hit on any of those runs.

Lee in the seventh gave up a leadoff single to B.J.Upton and then Upton stole second. With game two starter C.J.Wilson and possible game one starter of the ALCS warming up Lee battled out of the inning. Lee was sent out to pitch in the eighth and retired the Rays in order. After the Kinsler home run in the ninth off of all-star closer Rafael Soriano giving the Rangers a 5-1 lead Lee was sent out there to finish the game and the series.

Lee finished the game and gave the Texas Rangers who had been in Texas since 1972 their first playoff series victory. Lee would end up pitching 9 innings, giving up just the one run and struck out 11 batters and of course walked none. Lee would tie Kevin Browns LDS record for 21 strikeouts. Lee was 2-0 with an ERA of 1.12 and had 21 strikeouts in 16 innings. This is exactly why the Texas Rangers gave up their top prospects to division rival Seattle Mariners for games and series like this.

The Tampa Bay Rays are facing an interesting offseason. After going from perrenial doormats in the American League East the Rays have produced three consecutive winning seasons and won the American League East two of the last three seasons. However Tampa Bay will have key free agents in Carl Crawford who has been the face of the franchise for a decade, Carlos Pena who often strikes out but when he connects he goes yard and all-star closer Rafael Soriano. With the owner announcing they will slash payroll odds are those three will be playing eleswhere. It will be interesting if Tampa Bay will reload or disolve.

The Rangers now must face the team who has eliminated them in their previous three postseason series in 1996,1998 and 1999. The Rangers will host the New York Yankees these first two games but still have never won a postseason home game in franchise history. The Rangers will have to go with C.J.Wilson against C.C.Sabathia in game one then in game two it will be interesting who Texas goes with. The Yankees were happy to see Lee pitch game five so they won't have to face him until game three. The Yankees I'm sure would have rather seen Tampa Bay win so they could flat out avoid Lee who has pitched well against them the past two seasons. Should make for a great American League Championship series which starts this friday.

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