Texas pain-saw massacre: NY in a 3-1 mess
Rangers one win away from reaching first World Series
NEW YORK -- Four hours after first pitch, with reliever Darren Oliver protecting a seven-run lead in the ninth inning, there was a full section of Texas fans in the second deck above the third-base dugout chanting, "Let's go, Rangers!"The rest of Yankee Stadium was almost empty. There was nobody to stop the chant, nobody to drown them out, no more Yankees fans to offer any resistance. The Rangers are one win away from going to the World Series for the first time in club history and the Yankees are going quietly in the cool October night. "One game away, you have to be happy about that," designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero said after the Rangers wrapped up Game 4 with a 10-3 victory over the Yankees on Tuesday night.
Bengie Molina hit a game-changing three-run home run in the sixth, Josh Hamilton hit two more homers and Nelson Cruz blasted one in the ninth for good measure and the Rangers now have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS. The Rangers have a chance to wrap up the series without having to play another game in Arlington against the Yankees or use Cliff Lee again."It's exciting," Oliver said. "What more can you say? Guys will be here tomorrow at eight in the morning. I'll be here at 8:30." Game time is 3 p.m. CT and the Rangers will send C.J. Wilson to the mound. If the Rangers win, they will be in the World Series for the first time in 50 years of existence. They wouldn't need Game 6 at the Ballpark in Arlington on Friday or Lee for Game 7 on Saturday. The Rangers started play as the Washington Senators in 1961 and no team has gone longer without ever having played in a World Series. The Mariners and Nationals are the only two other franchises that have never been in the World Series. "We know what our ultimate goal is," third baseman Michael Young said. "We know we're still facing a very good club. We're happy with our effort. We've got a great opportunity in front of us and we're confident, but we just want to continue our style of baseball. That's the main thing." The Rangers have won three straight over the Yankees after letting Game 1 slip away. Over the past three games, the Rangers have outscored the Yankees by a stunning margin of 25-5. "They've played better than us," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "They've pitched better, they've hit better. So when you have that combination, obviously, we've gotten ourselves behind." The Rangers have also won five straight playoff games on the road going back to the ALDS against the Rays. "It has been great, but we've got to stay focused and not get too excited," Cruz said. "We've still got one game to win." "Obviously, the World Series is a place we've never been before," outfielder Josh Hamilton said. "After the game was over, as we were going through the [celebration] line, you could see the intensity in everybody's faces. They were talking about tomorrow's game already." Hamilton had a big game on Tuesday with his two home runs. But Molina provided the biggest hit with his sixth-inning home run that erased the Yankees' 3-2 lead. Opposing starter A.J. Burnett was one out away from completing six innings and turning the game over to the better part of the New York bullpen. Molina crushed that hope. "Bengie's home run was huge," Young said. The Rangers trailed by one going into the sixth when Guerrero led off with a single and was forced at second on Cruz's grounder to third. Ian Kinsler then hit a fly ball to deep center that Curtis Granderson caught on the edge of the grass. Cruz tagged up, though, and beat the throw to second, leaving first base open. "That's the way we play," Cruz said. "Stay aggressive on the basepaths and take the extra base." That prompted Yankees manager Joe Girardi to intentionally walk David Murphy, a left-handed hitter, so that Burnett, a right-hander, could face Molina. "We liked the matchup," Girardi said. "A.J. against Molina, we did. Unfortunately, it didn't work out. But A.J. was still throwing the ball good. Murphy has swung the bat [well] in the past off him." Molina turned on the first pitch -- a 92-mph fastball that almost jammed him -- and muscled it down the left-field line for a three-run home run. Molina, who was 3-for-4 on the night, is 17-for-45 (.378) with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 13 career playoff games against the Yankees going back to his time with the Angels. "Today we needed someone to step up in a crucial situation there and he stepped up," manager Ron Washington said. Molina's home run gave the Rangers a 5-3 lead and Derek Holland took it from there. Rangers starter Tommy Hunter lasted just 3 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits. But Holland took over and pitched 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief in what might be his finest moment with the Rangers. "He did a great job," Washington said. "Derek came in and settled things down a little bit until we could get in the flow of the game offensively, and we ended up doing that." Hamilton hit his first home run in the seventh. The Rangers followed that with a double by Guerrero -- who had four hits -- and single by Kinsler to make it 7-3. But there was one anxious moment in the eighth when the Yankees loaded the bases with walks off three relievers: Holland, Darren O'Day and Clay Rapada. This had the feel of the eighth inning in Game 1, when the Yankees scored five runs off the same combination of relievers and went on to a 6-5 victory. This time, Oliver shut the door. Nick Swisher hit a popup to center for the second out and Lance Berkman grounded hard to Young at third to end the inning.
There was no repeat of Game 1 even though Berkman's grounder was eerily similar to a shot by Alex Rodriguez that got past Young in that five-run rally. Instead, the Rangers added three more in the ninth on home runs by Hamilton and Cruz."Every game is different," Oliver said. "You can't dwell on the past." For the past 50 years, the Rangers have been dreaming about going to the World Series. Now they are one game away from achieving that dream. "We're going to take the same approach tomorrow that we've always had," Young said. "We're going to bear down on the game at hand and empty our tanks."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.