Rangers win pennant; Yankees go home
For the first time in their 50-year franchise history (and the 39th year since moving to the Lone Star State), the Texas Rangers are going to the World Series. Somehow, the team with the lowest regular-season winning percentage (.559) vaulted past the defending world champion New York Yankees. Once again, the Rangers got the jump on their opponents by scoring in the first inning. They took maximum advantage of the fact that they were playing at home, before a packed house of 51,404 fans, a big psychological boost. Not until the fifth inning did the Yankees get their first hit, a double by Alex Rodriguez that tied the game. He soon scored on a wild pitch. Jorge Posada doubled later in the inning, and Lance Berkman tripled in the seventh, but neither of them ended up scoring. In other words, there were zero RBIs for the Yankees. The Rangers came right back in the bottom of the fifth inning with a four-run rally, puncturing the visiting team's hopes of a comeback win. Only one Yankee reached base in the final two innings, and five of the last seven Yankee batters struck out. The last man up, Alex Rodriguez, was called out on strikes. It was, truth be told, a less than inspiring performance from the team that is routinely expected to meet the very highest standards.
And so, the defending world champion New York Yankees will not get to defend their championship status in the Fall Classic. (Good thing I've got some videos from games they played in October 2009 to watch!) The Rangers were obviously hungry for a win, and their stars such as Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Vladimir Guerrero all played superbly throughout the ALCS. Their winning pitcher in Game 6, Colby Lewis, went eight full innings, making his mark on the national stage for the first time. And so, congratulations to the Texas Rangers for their commendable, hard-fought triumph. They fully deserve to represent the American League in the World Series.
Phillies battle back
In Philadelphia, this evening, the Phillies are using their big home field advantage, jumping to a 2-0 lead over the San Franicsco Giants in the first inning. Their usual clutch hitters, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, both got hits, finally, making up for their cold bats thus far in the NLCS. The Phillies fans are in a frenzy, hoping their team can extend the series to a full seven games. If so, and if they win tomorrow, they would be the first team to win three consecutive National League pennants since the St. Louis Cardinals did so in the 1940s. In the top of the third inning, the Giants staged a rally and tied the game, 2-2. Tension is mounting...
Bryce Harper debuts
Presumed future superstar slugger for the Nationals, Bryce Harper, is playing in the Arizona Fall League, and had his first hit in professional ball a couple nights ago. The bases were loaded, and some fans were disappointed that the ball fell short of the wall, evidently expecting a grand slam. See yahoo.com; hat tip to Bruce Orser. I look forward to a fine career as much as any Nats fan, but the kind of superhuman expectations such as Harper and Nats rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg are under may be forcing them to strain too hard to excel. Give the young guys time to mature, for Pete's sake!
Fenway Park renovations
The final phase of the renovations at Fenway Park will be completed during the coming winter. Among the enhancements are new high-definition video screens, concrete repair and new seats in the granstand around the right field corner, new high-price box seats, more concession stands, and improvements to the main concourse. The cost for this year's upgrades amounts to about $40 million, and for the entire ten-year phased renovation it was about $285 million. See MLB.com; hat tip to Mike Zurawski. Baseball fans should thank their lucky stars that the new ownership team led by John Henry had the sense to preserve one of the last original jewels of baseball. Too bad wiser heads didn't prevail in Detroit or New York...