Molina’s Blast Pushes Yankees To Brink
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Updated: 10/20/10 7:45 a.m.
NEW YORK (AP) — They have wandered on baseball’s outskirts for a half-century, unwanted in Washington, trounced with regularity in Texas.
Now those Texas Rangers, in the 50th season of the team’s existence, are just one win from reaching the World Series for the very first time.
LISTEN: Suzyn Waldman with A.J. Burnett
“It’s been our goal for awhile now,” Michael Young said after another blowout of the defending champion New York Yankees, 10-3 Tuesday night, gave the Rangers a 3-1 AL championship series lead.
“I think one thing this club has done is stay focused and not get ahead of ourselves,” Young said. “We know what our ultimate goal is.”
Bengie Molina hit a go-ahead, three-run homer off A.J. Burnett in the sixth inning, Josh Hamilton added a pair of solo drives to give him four in four games and Nelson Cruz also went deep. The Rangers were a little giddy.
“It’s not bad for a fat kid that everyone makes fun of when he runs,” Molina said.
Instead of another pinstriped World Series, baseball’s showcase would move down deep into the heart of Texas with a win by the Rangers in Game 5 Wednesday.
“We came here, we are supposed to lose,” Molina said.
Fans started streaming out of Yankee Stadium in the late innings, while Rangers president and part-owner Nolan Ryan smiled in his seat. Texas is enjoying only its 18th winning season.
“They all talk about home-field advantage,” said Derek Holland, who got the win with 3 2-3 innings of scoreless one-hit relief. “We want to be able to show that there’s no such thing.”
The big ballpark was as quiet as a minor league field for the second straight ninth inning. Texas is 5-0 on the road in the playoffs, and the Yankees are on the verge of losing three straight postseason home games in a single series for the first time since 1942.
“It’s been a little unusual,” Young said. “I think we look at Yankee Stadium as just a fun place to play. This is the ultimate in baseball.”
Game 5 was slated to have a rematch of starters from the opener, with the Yankees’ CC Sabathia pitching against C.J. Wilson. Since the LCS went to a best-of-seven format, 24 of the 30 previous teams to take 3-1 series leads have won the pennant.
“We have bounced back many times this year,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Win, and then you go from there.”
It was a costly loss for the defending champions. All-Star first baseman Mark Teixeira limped off in the fifth inning with a strained right hamstring and said he was done for the year. Girardi said the team likely will replace Teixeira on the roster with infielder Eduardo Nunez.
“You battle all year to get a chance to help your team out in the World Series, hopefully,” Teixeira said. “It’s not going to happen this year.”
Aiming for a Series matchup against San Francisco or Philadelphia, Texas has outscored the Yankees 30-11, outhit them 43-26 and would have swept if not for wasting a five-run lead in the opener, when the Yankees turned late walks into runs.
While Texas is hitting .307, New York is limping at .198, including .154 (6 for 39) with runners in scoring position. Alex Rodriguez has been a bust against his former team, going 2 for 15 (.133) with two RBIs.
The Rangers’ bullpen has a 2.75 ERA in the series, while New York’s relievers are at 7.07.
Molina’s two-out homer came after an intentional walk to David Murphy and put Texas ahead 5-3. Molina circled the bases and pounded a fist against his chest — and left Burnett clasping hands behind his head.
“Believe it or not, it’s probably the best I’ve pitched in a long time,” Burnett said. “It’s one mistake. It was down and away. It just didn’t go where I wanted it to go. I knew he hit it out.”
Holland entered when starter Tommy Hunter was knocked out in the fourth.
“I was definitely a little nervous coming into Yankee Stadium,” Holland said, “especially in the playoffs, but at the same time you have to have fun with it.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)