The Texas Rangers had wandered through baseball purgatory for their first 49 years, regularly fielding mediocre teams. It came to an end last season with the franchise’s first World Series berth.
Well, that’s the new standard at 1000 Ballpark Way in Arlington, and the 2011 team didn’t disappoint.
The Rangers are headed back to the World Series in search of their first championship, cruising to a 15-5 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday night at Rangers Ballpark.
The Rangers won the best-of-seven series 4-2 in front of a packed house to defend the AL pennant, and now will wait to see if they’ll face St. Louis or Milwaukee in the World Series. Game 1 will be on Wednesday in the National League city.
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Trailing 2-0 after two innings, the Rangers rallied for the lead – and some more – knocking out Tigers starter Max Scherzer, along with two relievers, and putting the game out of reach with nine runs.
With one out, Elvis Andrus drew a walk, Josh Hamilton singled and Michael Young drove both of them in with a double down the left-field line. Texas then took a 3-2 lead with an RBI single by Adrian Beltre.
Scherzer then issued consecutive walks to Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz, who checked his swing on a 2-2 fastball, to load the bases. Scherzer was done after that, as the Tigers turned to lefty Daniel Schlereth to face David Murphy.
The lefty-lefty matchup didn’t matter, though, as Murphy had a two-run single to center. Rick Porcello then came in and didn’t fare much better. He gave up a fielder’s choice grounder to pinch-hitter Craig Gentry, and then a two-run single to Ian Kinsler.
The Rangers capped off the scoring spree with a two-run double to right by Young. Tigers right-hander Ryan Perry closed out the inning for the Tigers, but they trailed 9-2 after it.
The nine runs marked a playoff franchise high. And, to put it in perspective, the Rangers’ playoff teams in 1998 and 1999 combined to score two runs total in six ALDS games vs. the New York Yankees.
From that point on, the Tigers never threatened, as what had been a dramatic series ended in a blowout.
Rangers starter Derek Holland struggled from the start, giving up solo home run in the first and second. He worked scoreless third and fourth innings, but couldn’t get through the fifth.
Holland gave up a two-out, two-run opposite field home run to Austin Jackson in the fifth, which ended his night. He allowed four runs on seven hits with no walks and five strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings. No Rangers starter earned a victory in the series.
Scott Feldman relieved Holland, and benefitted from a great leaping catch by Hamilton off the left-field fence to end the inning on Ryan Raburn’s deep fly ball.
In the bottom of the fifth, Hamilton drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. The Rangers cushioned their lead to 12-4 with two runs in the sixth on RBI singles by Gentry and Kinsler. And Young belted a solo homer in the seventh, finishing his terrific night with five RBIs.
But Cruz shined one more time with a two-run blast in the seventh, his sixth of the series. He set postseason records with the six home runs, as well as 13 RBIs.
The Rangers closed out the final four innings with ease. Alexi Ogando worked two scoreless innings, Mike Adams allowed one run -- a solo homer by Miguel Cabrera -- in the eighth, and Neftali Feliz got the celebration started when he ended the game on a shallow popup by Brandon Inge.