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ALDS Game Five Review: Texas

I feel it superfluous to use this review to continue to praise Cliff Lee. At this point, playoff dominance is almost expected, and the American League FIP leader showed why he earned that distinction tonight: impeccable command, and three pitches good enough to keep hitters guessing wrong. He’s excellent, and it certainly appears at this juncture that the Yankees need to play the ALCS as if it were a six-game series.

The far more interesting discussion point from Game 5 were two plays of a scary resemblance:

J Hamilton grounded out to first, E Andrus scored.
I Kinsler grounded into fielder’s choice at first, V Guerrero scored, N Cruz out at second.

On both plays, David Price covered first base, and because he’s left-handed, had his back turned to the play. On the first play, Andrus’ quick decision-making and quicker feet made the play very difficult for Price. The second play should have been an out — both at first base with Kinsler a quarter-step behind Price to the bag — and at home if Price hadn’t complained. Credit due to Vladimir Guerrero for a heads-up play, the guts to take it, and a fantastic slide. It seems cliche to say the Texas baserunning won that game — those two plays were worth just 9.7 cumulative WE — but it helped.

The insurance runs came courtesy of Ian Kinsler, whose home run was just enough to put him over Nelson Cruz as the best hitter in terms of OPS in the series. Both were fantastic, helping to make up for the mediocre (if that) series had by Michael Young, Josh Hamilton and Guerrero.

But let us not confuse the narrative: like the vast majority of Round 1 of these playoffs, today’s game was won on the mound. Throwing out the better pitcher clearly has a bigger influence on a game than home field advantage, as this becomes the first playoff series in history in which a home team did not win a single game. As such it seems fatalistic that the Rangers enjoy home field advantage in their forthcoming series with the Yankees, but with Cliff Lee likely to pitch just one of the first six games, they’ll need home field advantage to make a comeback in Round 2.

More to come on what will be an exciting ALCS in the days to follow, but for now, Texas fans should merely be focused on enjoying their first series victory in franchise history. Congrats to Cliff Lee for the buckets of money he’s making himself, and congrats to Rangers fans for sticking around long enough to know the feeling. This Cubs fan can appreciate that.