A story in gifs.
Beware slow PC users, there be gifs below.
Game 6 of the ALCS started off as practically every important game this postseason has started, with Elvis Andrus making his presence felt. He led off the Rangers 1st inning with a double and scored the first run of the game. This allowed Colby Lewis to just do work. Throw strikes and the defense would make plays. Elvis made sure of it.
Colby pitched to the minimum without allowing a hit until a lead off double by Alex Rodriguez in the 5th inning. After A-Rod advanced to third, the Yankees would score their only run on a disputed play in which the ball clearly hit Nick Swisher before bouncing away from Bengie Molina as he dove the other way to block the ball.
Tied 1-1 going into the bottom of the 5th, the Rangers would have perhaps their most meaningful, and memorable, inning in franchise history. Mitch Moreland led off the inning with a single to shallow right. He advanced to second on a hit-and-run ground out on a ball Elvis slapped to second and after a ground out to Phil Hughes by Michael Young, Josh Hamilton walked up to the plate. It might as well have been Barry Bonds because the Yankees were not going to pitch to him. In a similar situation in the 3rd, the Yankees walked Josh Hamilton intentionally, and Vladimir Guerrero meekly popped out to second base. It was perhaps the only thing Vladimir Guerrero has done meekly in his life. This had become a theme for the series. It was clear the Yankees were not going to let Josh Hamilton beat them, especially not with a righty on the mound. It was time to get mad, Vlad.
Josh Hamilton said he could see it in his eyes. Nelson Cruz said he told him, "Don't let them do this to you." Phil Hughes had gotten away with it once before. He had gotten away with a wild pitch on a previous IBB attempt. But he had gotten away with disrespecting Vladimir Guerrero for the last time. On a 0-1 count, Vlad got mad. He drilled a curve ball up in the zone on a line to center. Time stopped. I'll never forget the sight of that ball flying over the head of Curtis Granderson. All I remember besides that ball bouncing off the centerfield wall was screaming, "TWO TWO TWO TWO!" just willing Josh Hamilton to come around himself to make the game a two run affair.
I was not unlike Ron Washington.
Vlad did the claw so emphatically that you could tell that his relief was our relief. His release was our release. If we were finally going to see the Rangers in the World Series, the world was finally going to see Vlad Guerrero in the World Series.
And then he passed the torch. It was time for Nelson Cruz to put one a little bit farther into the night. Burned once again by intentional walks, Joe Girardi took Hughes out of the game. Instead of going to Kerry Woods or Joba Chamberlain from an all-hands-on-deck pen, Girardi went with David Robertson whom had turned a 2-0 game in Game 3 into a massacre by allowing 5 runs on 5 hits in a third of an inning. It was questionable at the time, and with hindsight to our advantage, a move that Girardi is going to have to spend all winter answering for. Still with two outs, Vlad at second, Robertson threw five straight curve balls to Nelson Cruz. Nellie had them timed, as he fouled off the last two, so he had forced Robertson to throw him a fastball. Sometimes you probably know you're about to make a mistake before you do it. I have to believe David Robertson understands that.
The Rangers had never had an inning like this. This was special. We were all witnesses to history. We were all witnesses to the inning that put the Texas Rangers into the World Series. We were all witnesses to the moment the Rangers ended the New York Yankees. Not just their World Series hopes. Not just their repeat dreams. Not just their reign as American League Champions. But perhaps their dynasty. The Yankees will be back. They'll win again. But perhaps it won't be again with the core four of Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, and Rivera. It was conceived in 1996 in Arlington. Let it die in 2010 in Arlington. The Rangers tacked on a run in the 7th. It too came after the Yankees had walked Josh Hamilton. They also intentionally walked Nelson Cruz. When the Yankees weren't just plain laying down, the were quivering in the corner.
Colby Lewis never let the Yankees consider anything other than defeat. Colby Lewis never let the Rangers consider anything other than victory. He pitched 8 innings, allowed one phantom run, 3 hits, and struck out 7. Including the final three batters he faced. His finally opponent was Derek Jeter. He struck him out on what Eric Nadel would call, "a feeble hack." Colby Lewis walked off the mound to 51K+ standing and chanting his name. Colby Lewis. THAT Colby Lewis. The one from some of the worst Texas Rangers teams we've ever watched. If you ever feel the need to describe just why baseball is amazing to someone that doesn't get it, if you ever feel like they might be worthy of this great game, tell them the story of Colby Lewis. Tell them the story of Colby Lewis and watch them become a fan for life.
And then came the 9th. There's something you're going to have to get used to, Rangers fans. No longer can we say, "Well, it's the Rangers..." to mean impending failure. In the 9th inning we could say that. And we did. We watched our team with three outs to go with our ghosts. The Yankees have their ghosts. They're friendly ghosts. They're a bunch of Caspers in pinstripes. The Rangers have ghosts, also. They're Lenny Randle waiting to sucker punch us in the kisser. Until that final pitch, for us, the other shoe had always dropped. 6-1 could have been 30-1 and felt like 2-1 until Bengie Molina was in Neftali Feliz's arms.
Feliz started the 9th with a 3-1 count on Curtis Granderson and those 39 years in Arlington, TX of abject failure perked up. The funny thing is, though, Neftali Feliz didn't give two shits about your 39 years. What ghosts? What failure? Neftali Feliz is Ernie Hudson. He busts ghosts and I hope he has a bigger role in the sequel. Curtis Granderson struck out. Robinson Cano came up next. You might recognize him as Juan Gonzalez circa October 1996. Until Game 6, when he became Juan Gonzalez circa October 1999. Robinson Cano grounded out to first, curiously, loafing it to first.
And then, one more.
I said before the ALCS started that of course it was going to be the Yankees. It just couldn't have happened any other way. And so, when I assessed the situation as the Rangers were a final out away from winning the American League Pennant, of course it was going to be Alex Rodriguez. I don't hate A-Rod like a lot of Rangers fans do. I think he was an amazing player when he was here--arguably the best in baseball--but it was pretty clear that it was a relationship that was just never going to work. I don't hate any of my exes, either. Maybe that's just me. But, of course it was going to be A-Rod. So the joke goes, A-Rod was always destined to put the Rangers into the World Series. He knew it himself. "I'm sure it made it a little sweeter for them,'' Rodriguez said of his final out.
That out, on a "dragon of a curve," he would say. It might be the most beautiful pitch I've ever seen. It was unhittable. It was knee-buckling. It was Pennant winning.
And thus, celebration.
I never before wanted so much to see a bunch of men on top of an on-all-fours Frank Francisco like I did on Friday night.
LSB's oc said it best, "It's snowing in October!"
This actually happened.
Josh Hamilton said he cried before the final out was even made. If Josh Hamilton cried, it's OK that you and I cried.
What more is there to say? The Rangers are going to the World Series!