ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. | Cliff Lee added another impressive line to his growing October resume, putting the Texas Rangers on his back and carrying them into the AL championship series for the first time.
Lee tossed another postseason gem and Texas won a playoff series for the first time, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 5-1 Tuesday night in a decisive Game 5 on the legs of some daring baserunning.
“It was a lot of fun, I know that much,” Lee said. “We had our back against the wall today and we came out and performed.”
The Rangers will host the wild-card New York Yankees in the opener of the best-of-seven ALCS on Friday night. Texas’ previous three playoff appearances ended with first-round losses to New York, in 1996, 1998 and 1999.
The teams split eight games during the regular season, with the Rangers winning the final four.
“They’re a great team and that’s why they are where they are,” Lee said. “They’re going to be a good challenge, just like these guys.”
Ian Kinsler hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning for Texas, which had been the only active major league franchise that hadn’t won a playoff series.
Lee improved to 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA and three complete games in seven career postseason starts, striking out 54 and walking six in 56 1-3 innings.
The left-hander, acquired from Seattle in July, threw 120 pitches and walked none. He retired his final nine batters and prevented Tampa Bay from completing an improbable comeback after losing the first two games at home.
When B.J. Upton popped out to shortstop for the final out, Lee didn’t even watch the ball drop into Elvis Andrus‘ glove. He simply walked toward catcher Bengie Molina and the two hugged as Rangers players poured onto the field to mob Lee near the plate.
The Rays had the AL’s best record this season, giving them home-field advantage in the playoffs. But they lost all three games at Tropicana Field, managing only two runs in the process.View Entire Story
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