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DET@TEX Gm1: Verlander, Wilson ready to roll

The Texas Rangers routed a personal demon in last year's American League Championship Series, avenging historic postseason mistreatment by the Yankees by getting past them into the World Series.

Now the Rangers get to confront another: The road to a rare second consecutive Fall Classic appearance goes through the Detroit Tigers, and neither the city nor the team has been kind to Texas.

The Rangers continue their quest for the 51-year-old franchise's first World Series championship and the venerable Tigers seek a shot at their first since 1984, when the ALCS kicks off Saturday at Rangers Ballpark.

Perhaps this isn't the matchup fans thought they would get, but matchmaker Jose Valverde had a different idea and icily closed out the Tigers' AL Division Series-clinching 3-2 victory over the Yankees on Thursday night in the Bronx.

"I think we have a good club, we'll represent ourselves well," Tigers president, CEO and general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "Texas has got a good club, but it's time to celebrate tonight and go get them on Saturday."

Texas qualified with a four-game knockout of Tampa Bay in the ALDS, keeping alive its hopes of becoming the first AL team without the interlocking NY on its uniforms to make successive World Series appearances since the 1992-93 Toronto Blue Jays.

Valverde's game-ending punchout of Alex Rodriguez touched off a spirited celebration in the middle of the Yankee Stadium infield -- and in Middle America, with Detroit fans shaking a wavelength that rippled all the way to New York.

Just like Detroit spent the summer rooting for the Tigers, the Tigers spent the summer rooting for Detroit.

"We're pulling for one another," Tigers manager Jim Leyland noted in the middle of the ALDS. "Good atmosphere for the city. Makes people forget about their troubles with good times with sports. If you can make somebody happy -- that's what the song says -- make somebody happy. We're trying to make somebody happy."

Texas sat around for a couple of days to learn whom it would play in the ALCS and, frankly, neither option was terribly appealing to Ron Washington's club. The Rangers dropped six of nine regular-season games with Detroit; the only team giving them a harder time was the Yankees -- 7-2 against the AL West champs.

But the Rangers aren't awfully concerned.

"It really doesn't matter who we play," Rangers veteran Michael Young said the day his club clinched. "We're always up for anybody, and I think if you ask anyone in here, they'll tell you that no matter our opponent, we're always going to have guys come through for us and step up."

Getting the best-of-seven show on the road will be the teams' respective aces, left-hander C.J. Wilson for Texas and Justin Verlander, the Tigers' Triple Crown right-hander.

Leyland had drawn some funny looks when declaring prior to Game 5 of the ALDS that Verlander would not be asked to help out of the bullpen -- unlike New York counterpart CC Sabathia, who indeed did work in relief in that game.

But having Leyland stick to his judgment now unleashes Verlander on the Rangers on the typical four days' rest. The righty last pitched on Monday, in Game 3 of the ALDS.

Wilson will be going on seven days' rest since he last pitched, although "rest" may not properly describe the left-hander's state. "Restless" is probably more fitting, considering Wilson is eager to rebound from being spanked for eight runs in five innings by the Rays in Game 1 of the ALDS. The eight runs -- six earned -- were the most he allowed since Aug. 5, 2005, when the Orioles got to the then-rookie for eight in his fifth Major League start.

Washington was delaying a decision on how his rotation would set up behind Wilson to see who Texas was playing.

Texas steps up as the next team to try to prove that, sometimes, good hitting can stop good pitching. It didn't work for the Yankees, who ranked second in AL scoring with 867 runs (only Boston had more, at 875) but managed to total only nine in the three losses to the Tigers.

The Rangers scored only 12 fewer runs than the Yankees during the regular season, and will now try to solve Detroit's clutch, ice-blooded arms.

Good luck, Yankees manager Joe Girardi appeared to be saying.

"These guys have pitched all year long," Girardi said, referring to the Detroit staff. "You look at what they've done. They made some huge pitches when they had to. Whether it was [Game 5 starter Doug] Fister or any of their guys, they made big pitches when they had to."

The only injury watch prior to the start of the series involved Delmon Young, Detroit's newest import-hero. A few innings after jacking his third ALDS home run against the Yankees, Young had to depart Game 5 with a tweak of his left oblique muscle.

Leyland will monitor trainers' reports on the outfielder. His biggest immediate concern was that Young might have aggravated the injury when joining the Tigers' raucous clinching celebration in Yankee Stadium's visiting clubhouse.

"The only thing I'm worried about Delmon right now," Leyland said, "is that he strains it more because he looks very happy jumping up and down in that clubhouse."

The Tigers are happy to be heading to Arlington. The Rangers will be happy to welcome them, and to welcome a broadcast newcomer whose presence will highlight just how wacky, unpredictable and confounding the postseason can be.

Girardi, and his Yankees, are not in the ALCS. But Terry Francona, lately of the Boston Red Sox, is. Francona will be an analyst for FOX's game broadcasts.

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