Was the ending of the series between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers ever in doubt? Not as long as there was Cliff Lee standing on the mound at the end of it. Lee, who is turning into one of the best post-season pitchers in the history of baseball, pitched a complete game with (of course) no walks and eleven strikeouts. The 120 pitch masterpiece eliminated any problems that could have been caused by the bullpen and kept the lefty-hating line up of the Bay Rays on their heels.
Joe Maddon had no choice but to put his best power guys in the line up despite the lefty and the results were disastrous. Carlos Pena, likely playing his last game as a Bay Ray, went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. Dan Johnson couldn't do anything either. Carl Crawford took an ohfer in likely his last game in Florida too. Evan Longoria, whe despite batting right-handed, and despite being a superstar, has proven that a good lefty can shut him down (he can't hit Sabathia either). And so the Bay Rays only had three or four batters that had any chance at Lee and Lee made it all work to his advantage.
It was a good run by the Bay Rays. They almost parlayed their team speed and aggressiveness along with good pitching to post season glory despite a weak and poorly constructed line up. Maddon did a wonderful job of getting them as far as they went. It will be a miracle if this team can defend next year as they lower payroll. But if anyone can make it work, it will be Maddon.
As for the Rangers, they will have to start their series with the Yankees with their second and third best pitchers before they can get back to Lee. But that just may work out better for them. Lee is better on the road and away from the bandbox they play in Texas. Since the Rangers will have home field advantage, they play the first two in Arlington. Lee will start in Yankee Stadium.
This will be an excellent series. Though the Rangers haven't fared well against the Yankees in recent history, they have the weapons to win. The series keys will be if the Rangers 2-4 starters can keep the Yankees at bay long enough for their great offense to crank. Pettitte will have to be good and Hughes will have to be able to get his breaking stuff over. It appears to this observer that the odds are 50/50 on either team winning.
But for now, the Rangers, with the power and speed of Kinsler, great base running and Lee's masterful performance can savor a tough win over a gutsy team and its genius manager.