Rangers’ ace Cliff Lee took the mound against Tampa Bay and absolutely shined, giving Texas what was, at the time, the franchise’s biggest win. It sent the Rangers to the ALCS for the first time and secured a date with the hated Yankees, who had easily dismissed the Twins a few days before.
I remember where I was and who I was watching with, and for me it represented a moment where I allowed myself to actually start believing in the Rangers for the first time. To that point Texas was 0-3 in postseason series (and 1-9 in postseason games prior to 2010) and they had squandered a 2-0 series lead to the Rays after winning the first two games of the series on the road. After losing two straight home games and being forced to return to Tampa for Game 5 against peak David Price, I think a lot of Ranger fans were feeling heavily bad juju even with Cliff Lee set to take the bump.
But the Rangers jumped out to an early 1-0 in the top of the first inning (due to the brilliant baserunning of 22-year-old shortstop Elvis Andrus), and Lee took the hell over from there.
Lee pitched a complete game, striking out 11 and allowing a run on six hits. The run came in a third inning where Lee gave up a few singles in a row before escaping the jam. He allowed only two baserunners for the rest of the night.
The Rangers took what was still an uncomfortably close 3-1 lead into the ninth inning, at which point Ian Kinsler gave us the greatest showing of #bodylanguage in his eight year career with Texas.
Lee came out for what was a quiet bottom of the ninth inning that ended with a BJ Upton popout to Elvis, and that was it. The Texas Rangers had won a postseason series.
This is the game that really established those early 2010s Rangers as contenders, and it firmly entrenched them in the local fanhood (perhaps aided by the fact that at this point the Cowboys were about halfway through an eventual 1-7 start to their season). For the first time ever they were advancing in the playoffs, and though they were set to face Daddy Yankee, I remember going into that series with a strong belief that the Rangers had a chance. As goET noted in the postgame thread, it was the Rangers’ first taste of sweet, sweet relevance.
And much of that was because, again for the first time ever, the Rangers had Ace. Ace of Ace. Cliff Lee had just pitched what was to that point the best postseason game in franchise history, and he would top himself in Yankee Stadium six days later.
It was a lovable and an electric Rangers team, and it was all new. DFW had never seen a deep postseason baseball run, and they were about to get a couple of fun ones in back to back Octobers.