So much happened in Game 5 of the 2010 ALDS -- hell, so much happened in the whole series -- that, at first blush, it’s hard to figure out where to begin.
You’d probably have to start with 16 innings, 11 hits, 2 runs, 21 strikeouts, 0 walks, 224 pitches, 166 strikes. And two huge wins. Because whoever you figured were the leading candidates for the Rangers’ ALDS MVP – Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, maybe even a stray thought of Bengie Molina – Cliff Lee put an end to all debate with his complete-game masterpiece.
Lee absolutely dominated the Rays. He crushed their spirits with a breathtaking bit of pitching under pressure in the third inning. Somehow, he found another gear in the fourth. And then, all the more unbelievably, he kicked it a notch higher still in the seventh inning, after B.J. Upton’s single and steal of second base threatened to make it a more nerve-wracking game that any Rangers fans in their right minds could reasonably imagine.
But then you’d also have to mention Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz. The pair spent much of the regular season on the DL, and both struggled, at times. Kinsler, especially, bore the brunt of many fans’ unhappiness, just as he has in seasons past. And both players struggled defensively in key moments of the series.
At the plate, though, and when it really counted, both men came up golden. Cruz was amazing, posting a .400/.400/.950 line, and going 3-for-4 in Game 5 with a double and two runs scored. And Kinsler one-upped him, putting up an astonishing .444/.500/.944 overall, and going 3-for-4 in Game 5 himself, with three RBI – two of them on a key ninth-inning blast off Rays closer Rafael Soriano. (It was the second time in the series that Kinsler hit a huge home run; his solo shot in Game 3 would have been the series clincher, had it not been for an unexpected bullpen meltdown.)
Then there was Bengie Molina. The much-maligned mid-season acquisition, ostensibly brought in for his ability to handle pitchers and his “veteranosity,” had largely failed to impress the Rangers faithful over the last few months of the season. But nobody can complain about the catcher’s four-game line of .357/.357/.571 -- plus a stolen base.
And Elvis Andrus, who silenced (at least for a couple days) any calls for a new leadoff batter with a masterful night at the plate and on the base paths.
And C.J. Wilson, who, until Lee’s Game 5 gem, boasted the most impressive start of the series.
And Ron Washington, who weathered storms both on and off the field this season, and managed to keep his players confident in the midst of it all.
And Jon Daniels, who should be a slam-dunk winner of the AL Executive of the Year Award.
And Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan, who fought for and won ownership of a hell of a ballclub.
But at the end of the game and the series, one person, one phrase, one voice stood out more than any other.
For a long, lingering moment after Eric Nadel made the final call of Game 5, it was hard to find any words to describe anything at all. And as soon as that moment passed, it was perfectly clear where to begin:
“Hello, win column!”
As he made that call, in honor of his departed partner, Mark Holtz, the man who is arguably the finest baseball broadcaster on the planet was obviously choking back tears. It sounded as if those tears were starting to flow when Nadel reviewed the final highlight during his post-game wrap-up.
Some readers here may not remember Holtz, who died on September 7, 1997, of leukemia. Holtz broadcasted his last Rangers game on May 22 of that year; he and Nadel had partnered for 14 years before enjoying their first postseason together in 1996.
For many Rangers fans, Holtz was one of the last two voices they heard before falling asleep as kids: the fade-out on the soundtrack of almost every Texas summer night, year in and year out. BBTiA and its readers owe Holtz a special debt, though many may not know it; “It’s baseball time in Texas!” was his signature opening line for every home broadcast.
Holtz, as much as anyone, symbolizes the highs and lows of Rangers fans over the last 39 years. And the nostalgic joy (and joyful nostalgia) in Nadel’s voice as he made the final call of the 2010 ALDS was about as perfect a summation as you could want of the feelings of Rangers fans as Texas finally -- finally -- claimed a postseason series.
The Rangers aren’t done; not by a long shot. There are at least four games to be played, and Texas is fully capable of taking down New York in the ALCS, and any NL opponent in the World Series. Washington and his players can’t get too secure or sentimental as they move on to confront their next challenge.
But for the fans -- for us? It’s worth taking a moment to appreciate having been around for this -- for all the watching and listening and cursing and cheering and, yes, writing and reading. Just a moment.
“Hello, win column!”
Now let’s go watch the Rangers kick the Yankees’ rears.