Wednesday afternoon’s fifth game of American League Championship Series seemed destined to be the day in which the Texas Rangers, that anemic franchise which started in D.C. and moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, only to offend both the capital and cowboys with their consistent losing, finally made it to the World Series. The Rangers, who became the second incarnation of the Washington Senators in 1961 before coming to Texas a decade later, had a commanding 3-1 series lead over the New York Yankees. Even though the Yanks had their rotund ace, C.C. Sabathia, on the mound for Game 5, Yankee Stadium felt like a morgue in the opening inning. “They were really dead,” said Ranger right fielder Jeff Francoeur. Yankee fans, despite their team’s $200 million-plus payroll, seemed resigned to a loss. Give the Rangers their due, we’ll buy another title next year. It’s not worth getting drunk and obnoxious for this game. (See pictures of the last game in the old Yankee Stadium.)
No fans rushed the field, like some guy with a crush on Cameron Diaz did in Game 3 (he was peeved at Alex Rodriguez for dating her); or interfered with a potential home-run saving catch, like another Yankee goon did in Game 4. While the stadium might not have been amped at the start of Game 5, however, the Yankee bats were electric. The team shook of three straight games of anemic offense and pounced on Ranger pitching, smacking three home runs during a convincing 7-2 over Texas.
The gazillionaires aren’t gone yet. Texas helped the Yanks by fielding the ball like Little Leaguers. In the bottom of the second, a Francoeur throw from right cut away from Texas third baseman Michael Young, who was trying to tag Yankee catcher Jorge Posada. Posada headed home, but pitcher C.J. Wilson, who was backing up the play and had plenty of time to nab the lead-footed Yankee, must have assumed his catcher, Matt Treanor, was 20-feet tall. The ball sailed way over Treanor’s head, letting Posada score and giving Yankees had a 3-0 lead. The Bad News Bears act aroused the crowd. “I don’t know what that was,” Francoeur said of Wilson’s throw. “Some kind of oopsedy-oops.”
When playing against the Yankees, you can’t afford an oops. Oopsedy-oops are fatal. Still, after the game, the Texas locker room wasn’t regretting a missed opportunity to clinch the series. When asked if the team was still confident, the eyes of Colby Lewis, who will pitch Game 6 on Friday in Arlington, Texas, bulged out of their sockets. “We’re feeling great,” Lewis said. The Rangers should be riding high. Even if Lewis throws a stinker, Yankee-killer Cliff Lee, who is dominating the post-season, will take the mound in the deciding game. Watching Lee, who won Game 3, screw with the psyche of the Yankees is one of the more entertaining events in sports. After each futile at-bat, Lee makes Yankee players yell at the umpires, at themselves, at the bay-boys, at the peanut vendors. (See pictures of George Steinbrenner.)
“I’m proud of what we did up here, winning two out of three,” said Francoeur, referring to the Ranger road wins in games 3 and 4. He was particularly bubbly after the loss, and can blame him? Earlier this year, Francoeur toiled for the losers across town, otherwise known as the Mets, before being traded in August to Texas. “I like our odds coming home.”
And after all, when you’re trying to break a 49-year World Series drought, what’s waiting another day or two, right?