Ten years ago tonight under a full moon in Arlington the Texas Rangers defeated the New York Yankees in Game 6 of the ALCS to advance to their first ever World Series.
In what’s probably the most iconic photo in Rangers history (Nolan Ryan bloody lip notwithstanding), Neftali Feliz struck out the hated Alex Rodriguez for the final out of the game before being embraced by catcher Bengie Molina and then dogpiled by so many others.
The Rangers had sent starter Colby Lewis to the bump for Game 6, and if it weren’t for the Cliff Lee ALDS Game 5 start that was commemorated a couple of weeks ago, this would probably be looked at as the most clutch start by a Rangers’ pitcher in their history.
Lewis was dominant, allowing one run and three hits across eight full innings, his only blip coming in the fifth inning when Alex Rodriguez scored off of a wild pitch to tie the game at one. The Yankees had only three batters reach base over the final four innings of the game.
The Rangers had taken a first inning lead when a ground out allowed Elvis Andrus to score from third. The aforementioned Lewis wild pitch tied it up in the fifth, and what followed is the most important offensive innings in the history of this franchise.
Yankees starter Phil Hughes allowed an Andrus single to lead off the inning before sitting down the next two batters and bringing soon-to-be AL MVP Josh Hamilton to the plate (with first base open). The Yankees opted to walk Hamilton, bringing to the plate the bat of Vladimir Guerrero, who according to Rangers legend had spent the last 60 seconds or so in the on-deck circle with Nelson Cruz in his ear talking about how the Yankees were disrespecting the future Hall of Famer with the intentional walk to the batter before him.
Guerrero would make them pay with a rope of a shot over the head of centerfielder Curtis Granderson, scoring two and giving the Rangers a lead they’d never lose.
And then, just for good measure, Nelly Cruz did this after:
I imagine that as that ball sailed into the left-centerfield stands, thousands, consequently millions of Rangers fans had to have had the exact same staggering realization as I was, at that exact same time: this thing is gonna go to the fuckin’ World Series.
The Rangers would add another run in the seventh, but despite their five-run lead into the later innings I don’t think I was alone in still feeling a little uncomfortable, as if the Yankees would remember who they were in the 8th or 9th inning and hit a six-run home run to take the little Rangers shiny toy away.
But the Rangers handed things straight from Lewis to Feliz, and peak, Rookie-of-the-Year season Neftali Feliz sat down all three batters he faced in the ninth inning.
The strikeout of A-Rod to end the game was picturesque and perfect, and it put an end to what had been a wild, emotional series for the Rangers. They, of course, were overmatched in the World Series, starting with an abrupt halt of Cliff Lee’s magical run in Game 1 versus the Giants. I think it’s rather comparable to the recent Stanley Cup Finals with the Stars, where an underdog team had scrapped and clawed and sold out to make the finals before getting barnstormed early in the series by what was ultimately a better team.
But October 22, 2010, was obviously the pinnacle of Rangers fandom. There’s really nothing like the first time. Even when the Rangers would clinch a World Series berth in the next season as well it was more about the finishing of business. 2010 was just… fun. Obviously the loss to the Giants was disappointing, but it was hard to be that disappointed after what was a month of big wins and big moments which had previously been completely and totally absent from this franchise’s ledger.
It was an incredible night, and one worth revisiting in full if you have the chance.