ARLINGTON, Texas -- So much for mystique and aura, huh?
The tradition-rich Yankees meeting the historically irrelevant Rangers was billed as a mismatch of epic proportions in the Big Apple. And indeed it was.
The Bronx Bombers barely belonged in the same ballpark as the Rangers during the American League Championship Series. The Rangers pretty much beat the pinstriped pants off the Yankees, with a one-inning bullpen meltdown the only reason this series wasn’t a sweep.
Of course, folks in Texas who waited 39 years for so much as a postseason series victory didn’t mind taking six games to beat the franchise with 27 world championships and exorcise the ghosts of playoffs past.
Mystique and aura? Man, please.
“We’re really going to talk about that?” Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler snapped during the postgame celebration on the infield. “I don’t really care about the Yankees right now honestly. We just defeated them. It’s over. We’re better than them.”
The recently bankrupt Rangers made that clear by kicking the payroll bullies’ butts in every aspect of the game.
The Rangers hit .304 with nine homers and 36 RBIs in the series. The Yankees’ numbers in those categories: .201, six and 17. And Texas had a 9-1 advantage in stolen bases during the series, busting out antlers on a regular basis while shutting down the Yankees on the bases.
The pitching comparison is even more lopsided in the Rangers’ favor. The Yankees had a 6.58 ERA and got only one quality start from their rotation. The Rangers had a 3.04 ERA, thanks in large part to a two-hit shutout by Cliff Lee that was arguably the best playoff pitching performance ever against the Yankees and Colby Lewis’ two outstanding starts (three earned runs in 13 2/3 innings).
Texas manager Ron Washington made all the right moves. Yankees manager Joe Girardi gave the critical New York media all kinds of ammunition.
“Our game spoke out there,” Washington said. “It wasn’t the aura of the New York Yankees.”
Who cares about history? Definitely not the Rangers, who strongly believed they were the better team in this series and proceeded to eliminate any doubt.
“We didn’t have the skins on the wall,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “We still don’t, but give Wash a lot of credit for instilling that sense of confidence. If it’s possible for a manager to somewhat even the playing field – from 27 championships to none – he did it.
“He came out at the beginning in the pre-series advance meeting and he kind of laid it on the line. He said, ‘Boys, forget about the pinstripes. Forget about the ghosts. We’re playing baseball, and I’ll take you guys playing baseball against anybody. Forget about anything else. If you go out and play your game, we’re going to be fine.’”
That swagger, which starts in the manager’s office and is contagious throughout the clubhouse, didn’t waver after one awful half-inning cost them Game 1.
The Rangers were expected to roll over at that point. How could they possibly recover after being on the wrong end of such a demoralizing comeback by baseball’s best franchise? Instead, the Rangers rolled their eyes at such questions and routed the Yankees the next afternoon.
The Rangers don’t know how to say, “Uh-oh, here we go again.” All they know is, “That’s how baseball go.”
Now, baseball keeps going for the Rangers. The Yankees just go home.