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ALDS 2010: Cliff Lee Leads the Texas Rangers To Their First Playoff Series Win

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ALDS 2010: Cliff Lee Leads the Texas Rangers To Their First Playoff Series Win
J. Meric/Getty Images
Cliff Lee is mobbed by his teammates after retiring the batter to win the series

Nearly 50 years of baseball. The last 39 of those years in Arlington. One of only three teams to have never been to the World Series. The Texas Rangers were not exactly a team with a rich tradition. However, when B.J. Upton popped out to left center to end the ninth inning, Texas fans finally had reason to celebrate.

If someone had said back in April that the Texas Rangers would be playing the New York Yankees for the American League pennant and a potential World Series berth, many would have laughed in their face. From Ron Washington's admission of cocaine use to the bankruptcy problems that have plagued the front office, the Rangers didn't look like a team bound for October baseball.

Luckily for the boys in red, white, and blue, things don't always turn out like predicted.

Nolan Ryan and Ron Washington managed to find a way to put the distractions aside and lead the team to a 90 win season. From the resurgence of Vladimir Guerrero to stealing former Mariner Cliff Lee away from the Yankees right before the trade deadline, the front office made all of the right moves to give this team a chance to win. Even without potential MVP Josh Hamilton down the stretch, destiny had a plan for these Rangers.

When the Rangers clinched the West division title for the first time since 1999 in late September, long-time Ranger Michael Young finally got his first taste of the postseason. It only took a little over 1,500 games. As great as it felt to finally have the chance to play baseball deep into October, this team wasn't simply willing to settle with a playoff berth; this team wanted playoff victories.

After the Tampa Bay Rays won the American League East, the Rangers knew that victory wasn't going to be easy. They would be going on the road to face the team with the league's best record at 96-66. Most experts weren't giving them much of a chance to make it past the divisional series.

Cliff Lee and company had other plans.

After Lee dominated the Tampa Bay Rays during game one on the road, the fans in Arlington had reason to hope. Then there was C.J. Wilson's two-hit gem in game two. The boys from Arlington were headed home with a 2-0 series lead and a chance to get that coveted series victory that had eluded them since their inception as the Washington Senators in 1961.

Unfortunately, after shutting down the Rays lineup in the first two games, things began to unravel in Texas. The Rangers' bullpen gave up five runs in the final two innings of game three and went on to lose 6-3. Things didn't go any better in game four as the Rays jumped ahead by five runs and went on to win 5-2 and even the series at two games apiece. 

With the momentum clearly on the Rays side going into game five in St. Petersburg, many teams would have let the pressure get to them. Not these Texas Rangers. Not with Cliff Lee on the mound for game five.

Lee continued the postseason brilliance he has been known for his entire career. After a complete game where he only allowed one run and struck out 11, the Texas Rangers are moving on to the ALCS to face the New York Yankees.

Don't count this team out. Ranger fans haven't forgotten the first round eliminations at the hands of the Yankees in 1996, 1998, and 1999. With Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson, and Colby Lewis anchoring the rotation, and Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, and Vlad Guerrero providing the offense, competing with the bloated payroll of the evil empire won't be a problem.

When the Yankees come to Arlington on Friday night, don't expect the Rangers to back down. These Rangers are out for blood.

After nearly a half century wait, these Texas Rangers are different. Not only do they want to win, but they expect to win. It's time to bring a pennant home. It's time to give the loyal Ranger fans what they've been waiting for since 1961. Bring on the Yankees!

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