After winning their first playoff series in franchise history, the Rangers have their eyes on a bigger prize, advancing to their first ever World Series.
Standing in their way are the New York Yankees, a team chasing its 28th World Series title. While the Rangers have home field advantage, many have the Yankees favored to advance to the Series.
However, don't count Cliff Lee and the Rangers out yet. Here are Five keys to the Texas Rangers advancing to the World Series.
In game 3 of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays, The Ballpark in Arlington was absolutely bumping. The record crowd of 51,746 came out to be loud and proud to support their Rangers, something the team will need more than ever in this series.
The Yankees have fans everywhere they go, and Texas is no exception. Yankees fans are known for flooding into the Ballpark in Arlington unlike any other group of fans, but hopefully this postseason is the exception. Rangers fans need to be rowdy for Games 1 and 2 and possibly Games 6 and 7 where the Rangers feel like they have an actual home field advantage.
With Cliff Lee not starting until Game 3 it is highly likely that the Rangers will have to dig into their bullpen in Games 1 and 2. The Rangers bullpen performed well while in Tampa, but when they came back to Arlington it was a different story.
In 2 games in Texas the pen allowed 8 runs over just 8 innings which won't get the job done against the powerful Yankees. If the Rays series is any sign of what is to come in the future expect Ron Washington to bring arms out of the bullpen to face as little as 1 batter.
It was a tale of two Rangers ball clubs in the series against the Rays. The Rangers being aggressive on the base's and putting pressure on the Rays defense was the difference in the series.
In games 1 and 2, the Rangers stole a combined 3 bases on 3 attempts while getting in the heads of the Rays pitchers. Matt Treanor scored a run in Game 2 for the Rangers when James Shields was attempting to hold Elvis Andrus on first base and the pickoff throw slipped past Carlos Pena.
In Game 5, Nelson Cruz scored when Kelly Shoppach over threw his steal of 3rd base allowing him to go from 2nd to home on the steal. The Rangers also scored two runs when the Rays defense fell asleep and the Rangers base runner's made heads up plays.
Cliff Lee has been a playoff maestro throughout his career, not only this postseason but the last. In the 2009 World Series Cliff Lee went 2-0 against the Yankees, seemingly baffling their powerful line-up. Cliff Lee pitched a complete game, 6 Hit, 1 Run masterpiece to advance the Rangers past the Rays in the ALDS, something the Rangers will need to see more of.
After the Yankees deal to trade for Cliff Lee fell apart at mid-season, the Rangers swooped in and picked up their future playoff hero. Lee won't pitch until game 3 for the Rangers, however they will be fortunate enough to have him in Game 7 if the series makes it that long.
10-57. Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, and Vladimir Guerrero hit a combined 10-57 for a combined .175 batting average against the Rays. Thats a stat that Rangers fans can marvel at, and be happy with. The Rangers just won a 5 game series over the best team in the American League with three of their best hitters hitting below the Mendoza line.
If Josh Hamilton, who led the league in Batting Average and is a serious MVP contender will get his bat going there is likely to be a trickle down effect with the Rangers line-up. The better Hamilton hits, the better pitches Young and Guerrero are likely to see.
One thing is for sure, with three of the Rangers top hitters hitting under .200, they most likely will not be able to beat the Yankees.