NEW YORK — This is a new situation for most of the Rangers and all of their fans, so it seems right to offer a little help in their quest to finish off the Yankees.
Take no comfort — repeat, no comfort — in the fact Mr. Clifton Phifer Lee is set to pitch Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, if one is necessary. This cannot be stressed too much. Take no comfort — repeat, absolutely zero comfort, and maybe less — that Cliff Lee is waiting for a seventh game.
Yes, Lee is on one of the greatest runs in postseason history. Yes, he has that 1.26 ERA and his teams have won all eight of his playoff starts, including the shutout of the Yankees in Game 3.
Even after Wednesday's 7-2 loss before an oddly placid 49,832 at Yankee Stadium, the picture looks bright for the Rangers. They lead the ALCS three games to two and have two chances to clinch a pennant at the horrifically named Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the last of those with their epic left-hander on the hill.
Can't miss, right?
There was a time when tech stocks were considered can't miss too.
Or if you prefer a baseball analogy, how could the Cubs miss when they returned to Chicago leading the 2003 NLCS 3-2, with Mark Prior and Kerry Wood lined up for Games 6 and 7?
Stuff happens, especially when it's October, the heat's on and you don't have a successful pedigree to draw upon.
This is the first time the 50-year-old Senators/Rangers have been this close to winning a pennant. It will make them and 28 other franchises happy if they can seal the deal, sending the 95-victory Yankees back to the bank to start marshalling resources for 2011, but don't be surprised if it only gets more difficult from here.
It just gets tougher and tougher when you don't win.
The Yankees found a spark Wednesday, thanks largely to CC Sabathia. The left-handed mountain got the big outs to earn his 23rd victory of the season, his biggest yet.
"There's a feeling of confidence," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I'm sure there's a feeling of confidence on the other side."
This has been a horrible series for the Yankees, who would have been swept in four games if C.J. Wilson and the Rangers bullpen had protected a 5-0 lead in Game 1. But as well as the Rangers have hit they weren't able to shorten the series, and now they face the possibility of becoming the fourth team in the last eight Octobers to lose after holding a 3-1 edge in a best-of-seven series.
They have the lead, technically, but it's not going to feel like it for long if the Yankees take an early lead in Game 6.
"It's not disappointing," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "It's a seven-game series. Those guys over there are champs. … It's a seven-game series, and you play baseball until you can't play anymore."
Yes, Lee is available for Game7. But the Rangers are in big trouble if they wait for him. Too much drama. Too much angst. Too many things that can go bump in the night.
Game 6 is a must-win game in this series, for both teams.