ARLINGTON, Texas (Reuters) - The Texas Rangers reached the World Series for the first time in their 50 years as a franchise by beating the New York Yankees 6-1 on Friday to win the American League Championship Series.
The win gave them a 4-2 triumph in the best-of-seven series and put them into the Fall Classic against the winner of the National League Championship Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants, who lead it 3-2.
Rookie closer Neftali Feliz struck out former Ranger Alex Rodriguez for the final out, igniting wild celebrations on the diamond and among the crowd of more than 51,000 at Rangers Ballpark.
Starting pitcher Colby Lewis won his second game of the series by throwing eight sterling innings and giving up three hits, and designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero drove in the first three runs to lead the Rangers to victory.
The Rangers rejoiced in the middle of the diamond after winning the American League pennant for a first time and eliminating last year’s World Series winners, hugging each other and falling into a massive pileup near the mound.
After more hugs, they sprayed ginger ale in glee and poured the soda over each other’s heads in deference to slugger Josh Hamilton, who has overcome drug and alcohol abuse.
Hamilton, who batted .350 with four home runs and seven runs batted in, was named Most Valuable Player of the series.
“This group is here because they don’t know how to fail,” said Hamilton, choked with emotion. “The chemistry of this team is like something I’ve never known anywhere.”
Guerrero, who had been ice cold at the bat without a single RBI, made up for lost time on Friday as the Yankees walked Hamilton intentionally three times to take their chances with the designated hitter.
His groundball out in the first brought home the first run, but it was his ringing two-out, two-run double to dead center that really set the Rangers on their way.
The blast off Yankees starter Phil Hughes snapped a 1-1 tie and was followed by a two-run homer by Nelson Cruz off reliever David Robertson that gave Texas a four-run lead and broke the game open.
Lewis, meanwhile, mowed down the vaunted New York attack, which had led the league in runs scored. The right-hander did not give up his first hit until a fifth-inning double by Rodriguez, who scored on a wild pitch to tie the game 1-1.
The Texas pitcher kept the pressure on even after getting some breathing room thanks to the Rangers rally, striking out the side in the eighth inning before giving way to Feliz.
“I’m speechless,” Lewis, a former Texas top draft pick who played the previous two seasons in Japan for the Hiroshima Carp, told a TV interviewer. “I never thought I’d be in this position.
“To get an opportunity to go to Japan, I’m very grateful for that. And for the Texas Rangers organization to bring me back, I’m very grateful.”
The defeat ended the Yankees’ quest for a 28th World Series title. “They beat us. They out-hit us, they out-pitched us, out-played us,” said New York skipper Joe Girardi.
Rangers manager Ron Washington was bursting with pride in his players.
“They show up every single day and they leave their hearts on the field,” he said. “Tonight you’ve seen exactly what they’ve worked hard for since February.”
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Frank Pingue and John O'Brien