Now that the Texas Rangers have finally won a postseason series for the first time, they get to play the team that has won more than any other.
Bring on the New York Yankees, who have 27 World Series titles and 40 pennants.
"We feel like we can play baseball with anyone," Rangers manager Ron Washington said yesterday. "We only can blaze our own trail right now, and every time we do something that's good, it adds to the history of the Texas Rangers."
Game 1 of the AL championship series is tomorrow night at Rangers Ballpark.
Things are much different for the Rangers than in the last half of the 1990s, when in their only three previous playoff appearances they were knocked out in the first round by the Yankees. New York went on to win the World Series each time, and has a nine-game postseason winning streak against Texas.
"This is a different group of guys, and they have a lot of confidence," Washington said. "We're not shocked by anything. We're here because we believe and belong here."
These Rangers can run. They can pitch. And they can still slug.
Texas clinched the AL division series against Tampa Bay with a 5-1 victory in Game 5 on Tuesday night. Twice, runners scored from second base on infield grounders. Nelson Cruz stole third with two outs in another inning and scored on a throwing error, and ace left-hander Cliff Lee finished a six-hitter after Ian Kinsler's two-run homer in the top of the ninth.
"We're confident. We don't care who we go up against," said Michael Young, the longest-tenured Rangers player in his 10th season. "We know we're good and we believe in ourselves."
New York and Texas split eight meetings during the regular season, but the Rangers won four of five at home with a three-game sweep last month. The AL West champions have homefield advantage over the wild-card Yankees in the series.
"The three games we played them here in September," Washington said, "proved that we could play with those guys."
New York worked out yesterday at Yankee Stadium, trying to stay sharp 4 days after wrapping up its division series with a three-game sweep of Minnesota. The Yankees tweaked their rotation for the series, tapping CC Sabathia for the opener in Texas, with Phil Hughes now set to pitch Game 2. Andy Pettitte moves back to Game 3 and A.J. Burnett will pitch Game 4 in New York on Tuesday - his first appearance since Oct. 2.
The Yankees went with Sabathia, Pettitte and Hughes in their sweep over Minnesota.