Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays ALDS: Can Texas Pull It off Without Cliff Lee?

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Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays ALDS: Can Texas Pull It off Without Cliff Lee?
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
He never used to smile like this in the "Big A" when he played here. I guess he just wasn't wearing the right jersey. Way to go, Napoli! We might not be here if it weren't for you.

Texas Rangers fans the world over will be drunk off of the delicious double shot provided by Mike Napoli's home-field advantage-giving long-ball beatdown of the hapless Halos for quite sometime. 

The sight of that second bomb sent me straight through my roof, and in a good way. The story lines are already written on this one. Former Angel, Mike Napoli, traded for little more than a big pile of money that can't hit any more, ends up playing against his former team's biggest nemesis, the Texas Rangers.

And as if that wasn't enough, the "MAN" (Napoli's initials, appropriately enough) blows up their pitching all year long, then slams their season shut, while snapping their spine...in their own house. There it was. The premise for the only article I was going to write tonight. I'm sure I wasn't alone.  

And then the Red Sox blew a one-run lead in Baltimore with two outs, and two freaking strikes on some dude I've never heard of, and at almost exactly the same time Evan "Hey! That's my cap!" Longoria blew the lid off the postseason, and dealt Boston fans yet another hand in their very own "wicked pissuh" of a poker game, aka Red Sox choke sessions.    

And now, we sportswriters the world over, put down our collective beer cans and crank up the coffee pot, because there's suddenly a plethora of baseball news to cover. And yes, El Guapo from Three Amigos, I understand what "plethora" means.

What a fitting end to a great season. Not just for the Texas Rangers or the Tampa Bay Rays. But for Major League Baseball as a whole (well maybe excluding the Astros and Twins). Who would've ever thought that a Wild Card race—in both leagues—would go down to the last day and even had a chance for four teams to force a 163rd game?

Personally, as a Texas Rangers fan, I wanted to play the Red Sox. Really bad. Who wouldn't? They were an absolute train wreck in slow-mo, loaded with nuclear weapons and creeping ever slower (frame by frame) towards a giant brick wall known as the postseason.

And, as noted in previous articles, this isn't the matchup that I thought was going to happen. I thought it'd be Yankees versus Rangers, an ALDS mirror-match of last year's ALCS, but in a more compact, five-game series.  

Who'd of thought the Detroit Tigers wouldn't have won home field advantage? I mean, Verlander actually lost a game in that scenario? Honestly, I'm an optimistic Rangers fan, but c'mon, if you had told me they'd win six straight to close out the year—sweeping the Angels, in Anaheim for the final three—I would have carried on the conversation with you just long enough to call the staff from the insane asylum to come pick you up and get you back in the padded room where you belonged.

Well now that we're all free from the shackles of our metaphoric strait jackets, I guess I'd better hit you up with a look into the 2011 ALDS matchup between the Wild Card Champion Tampa Bay Rays and the AL West Champion Texas Rangers.

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