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Rangers make Yanks look like novices
Until the Texas Rangers’ charter touched down here on Saturday night, Mitch Moreland had never been to New York City. He is a rookie. He is from Mississippi. He is, like the team itself, an unexpected visitor.
And on the day Moreland set foot in Yankee Stadium for the first time, he visited Monument Park. He wanted to absorb the names and the championships and the history that live there. He saw all the plaques. One stuck with him.
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“Joe DiMaggio,” Moreland said. “He had a 13-year career with the Yankees. He won nine world championships.”
The Texas Rangers do not have a Monument Park, probably because they have never won the World Series. The Yankees have, 27 times over. The Rangers have never participated in the Fall Classic.
Until last week, the franchise hadn’t advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs.
Now, they are nine innings away from the World Series.
The Rangers thumped the Yankees, 10-3, Tuesday night. The American League Championship Series is in their grasp, three games to one. The Rangers aren’t intimidated by the history of their opponent. They are focused on making their own.
There was a reverence in Moreland’s voice as he spoke about DiMaggio.
The championships demanded that. The Yankees won their first World Series in 1923, more than a decade before DiMaggio’s debut. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played on that team.
In Texas, there is no grainy footage of glories past. We cannot check the Cooperstown archives for a photograph of the world champion Rangers. No such artifact exists. Yet.
Baseball is big on firsts, and these Rangers are five victories from taking a long, cool drink of immortality. And if they forget how real and attainable that is, reminders will be all around the palace where they hope to spray champagne on Wednesday evening.
“It makes you want one,” Moreland said. “This team has won 27. We haven’t won one. Let’s go out and do it. That’s our mindset right now. Everyone here wants it.”
“It’s special,” Rangers star Josh Hamilton said, when asked about the chance at history. “This is the group of guys that can do it. We realize that. But there’s not going to be any added pressure. We’re going to go out and play. We want to do it for the fans, more than anything.”
The Rangers have outscored their hosts, 18-3, in two games at Yankee Stadium. But the easy confidence of these postseason novices has been even more impressive than the lopsided final scores.
There is gravity to games in the Bronx at this time of year. The roars and the pageantry are too much for some visitors. The Minnesota Twins have shown us what happens when you try to play the ghosts.
But these Rangers are different. They weren’t psyched out by the Ron Guidry “Yankeeography” that played on the grand scoreboard during batting practice. They didn’t flinch when Bernie Williams, hero of postseasons past, received a thunderous ovation from the crowd.
The “Chase for 28” logo ... The highlights from last year’s World Series … Even the Jeffrey Maier-esque fan assistance on Robinson Cano’s home run in the second inning.
The Rangers respect the history. But they have devised a unique way to keep it from affecting the outcome: They batter the New York bullpen to the point that most seats in the ballpark are empty when the game is over.
It happened in Game 3. It happened in Game 4.
Both times, the silence was stunning.
“It’s been a little unusual,” said Texas captain Michael Young, ever diplomatic.
Is there anything about Yankee Stadium that scares this team?
“Does it look like it?”
If it hadn’t been for the Yankees’ eighth-inning rally in Game 1, the Rangers already would be fielding calls about World Series tickets. The defending champs have never led in this series at the seventh-inning stretch. Even now, their best-case scenario involves facing Cliff Lee in Game 7.
So, some disillusionment from their fans is to be expected. They can plainly see that Texas is the better, hungrier team right now.
Hitting? The Rangers walloped four home runs in Game 4. Hamilton, playing with broken ribs, had two. He was asked afterward about a comparison to Roy Hobbs. (Reply: “I’m not bleeding anywhere.”)
Baserunning? Nelson Cruz’s daring tag-up in the sixth inning set up Bengie Molina’s lead-changing home run.
Pitching? Derek Holland, with a 5.52 career ERA, earned the win with 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
Defense? Young stifled the Yankees’ last, best chance to rally with a brilliant backhanded pickup in the eighth.
All this, from a team that has never been here before.
All this, from a team that was in bankruptcy court until August.
All this, from a team that can claim a sliver of Yankee Stadium history as its own.
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