Before this season started, I said that I didn't want a tense, exicting, thrilling playoff race in the A.L. West. I wanted a boring race. I wanted the Rangers to get up early, build a big lead, and suck all the suspense out of the race before the tough second-half schedule started. I wanted it to be a victory march the last month or two, not a nailbiter.
I got my wish.
Similarly, today, with the Rangers' first playoff game in 11 years, I wasn't interested in an "instant classic." I didn't want big swings in WPA and Neftali Feliz coming in to close out a one run game. I wanted the Rangers to get up, stay up, and let me forget about 1998 and 1999.
That, they did.
Cliff Lee was Cliff Lee. The Rangers traded for Cliff Lee because they wanted him to be a shut-down ace in Game 1 of a playoff series. And despite not being at his sharpest, and despite Tim Welke basically treating the bottom third of the strike zone as a no-fly zone, Lee threw 7 innings of 1 run ball, walking no one and striking out 10. Lee allowed the Rangers to take away home field advantage from the Rays and seize the upper hand.
Neftali Feliz was shaky to the first three batters, and if Ben Zobrist's 9th inning line drive is a dozen feet farther to one side, he might not have made it out of the inning without being pulled. But he settled down after that, and the Rangers were fortunate to be able to let Feliz get his feet wet in the playoffs in a situation with a significant cushion, since Texas is going to need him to come up big this month if they are going to make some noise.
And the Rangers had a big offensive day without getting much from Josh Hamilton. Bengie Molina, of all people, probably the most maligned of Jon Daniels' mid-season acquisitions, came up big today at the plate. Jeff Francoeur, who also had a big hit, we all knew was brought in here to mash lefties, but what folks have often overlooked about Molina is that, while he is overall not much of a hitter, his track record shows that he has pretty significant platoon splits, and that he has been an offensive threat against left handed pitchers. I have to think that, given the well-publicized struggles the Rangers have had against lefties, that was a factor in the Rangers seeing him as a desirable trade target.
The first Ranger playoff win in 14 years, the second playoff win in franchise history, felt pretty good. I'm looking forward to seeing playoff win #3 tomorrow afternoon.