Broadcasters, pundits, bloggers, and the rest of the sports-loving world can talk for a week leading up to a game about what to expect from a pitcher or a given player. And since Cliff Lee dominated the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 of the ALDS to send the Rangers to their first playoff series win in franchise history, it seemed that everyone was ready to declare the Rangers victors of Lee's planned start in Game 3. I hate that. It always seems that when something is a "lock" to happen, especially around North Texas sports, it doesn't.
Except Cliff Lee.
Are you freakin' kidding me?
Lee shut out the Yankees through eight innings and could have worked the ninth had the Rangers not erupted for a 6-run 9th inning. His 13 strikeouts gave him a MLB record of at least 10 strikeouts in three straight games in a single post-season. But what blows my mind is that after hearing about what he's capable of and what he would do for a week, he still went out and did exactly that.
Before Lee took the mound, Josh Hamilton swatted a two-run homerun that turned out to be all that Texas would need in an eventual 8-0 win to take a 2-1 lead over the Yankees in the ALCS. People like to throw around the term "hired gun" in referring to Lee, but that's exactly what he is. He is a ruthless mercenary that cannot be phased by the aura of pitching against the pinstripes. Instead, Lee pinpointed his fastball and paralyzed a lineup of All-Stars with his breaking ball.
And to think Lee could have nearly been a Yankee had Texas not swooped in with a train-robbery trade with Seattle, sneaking ahead of the Yankees.
Now looking back to what could have been in Game 1 of the ALCS has the Rangers bullpen not stepped on a rake and gotten smacked in the face, it's scary to think the Rangers could be up 3-0 over New York in this series.
It's hard to let myself think about what if Texas keeps winning, specifically if they can win two more games against New York this October. What does this mean? It would mean everything I have ever known, believed, knew to be true since childhood is wrong, or at least warped.
But there is no denying that a tremendous baseball fever has captured North Texas. It doesn't hurt that the Rangers next-door neighbors have fewer wins all season than the Rangers have against the Yankees in this ALCS. The Texas Rangers certainly picked a great year to peak, considering the Cowboys continue to fall on their faces week after week.
When the Dallas Cowboys entered this season, it looked like everyone had them penciled in for playing the Super Bowl at Jerry World in February. Thank goodness it was written in pencil because that has since been erased. Thoroughly. But when Cliff Lee takes the mound, it seems scribes can put it in ink that Texas will say hello to the win column again. And while it certainly takes more than one player, one pitcher, in baseball to win a series, Lee is as close as any single individual can come.