Cliff Lee fanned 11 batters in a complete game effort and the Texas Rangers won a postseason set for the first time in franchise history, beating Tampa Bay, 5-1, in the deciding Game 5 of their American League Division Series.
Ian Kinsler had three hits, including a two-run homer, and drove in three runs for the Rangers, who will host the defending World Series champion New York Yankees in Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday, one night before the Philadelphia Phillies welcome San Francisco in the opener of the NLCS.
Lee (2-0) allowed six hits, didn’t walk a batter and retired the final nine men he faced, the last of which was a pop-up off the bat of B.J. Upton to shortstop Elvis Andrus to set off a wild celebration.[photogallerylink id=16662 align=right]
The Game 1 winner, Lee tied a Division Series record with 21 strikeouts, helping the Rangers become the first team in history to win three road games in any best-of-five series. In fact, this was the first time in baseball postseason history in which the road team won every game.
It was another sparkling performance for Lee, who logged his third career playoff complete game, with two coming last year with the Phillies. The lefty has gone 6-0 in his first seven career postseason starts, with his teams winning all seven of those contests. He’s got a 1.44 ERA in the postseason.
In the playoffs for just the fourth time in their history, the Rangers will try to reverse their postseason curse against the Yankees. Texas’ previous three times in the playoffs ended with defeats to New York. Since winning the opener of the 1996 Division Series, the Rangers have lost nine straight playoff games to the Yankees.