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First playoff hit 'huge' shot for Young, Texas

First playoff hit 'huge' shot for Young, Texas

ST. PETERSBURG -- Whether Rangers third baseman Michael Young checked his swing in time to avoid being struck out in the fifth inning Thursday afternoon is sure to be debated whenever instant replay is discussed.

But there's no doubt about the impact Young's full swing on the next pitch had in Game 2 of the American League Division Series.

His three-run home run off Rays reliever Chad Qualls gave the Rangers a Texas-size, five-run lead and, for all intents and purposes, put the AL West champions closer than they have ever been to reaching the World Series.

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"That three-run homer kind of sealed the deal for us right there," pitcher Cliff Lee said after the 6-0 victory over the Rays that gives the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

It should not surprise anyone familiar with the Rangers that Young would be the one to step up and do something like that in his first playoff appearance.

"He can hit home runs and he has hit some big ones for us," Rangers president Nolan Ryan said, "but you don't look for him there to hit a home run. You look for him to maybe hit a double and get us a couple of runs."

Young was 0-for-6 before his fifth-inning at-bat with two strikeouts, three flyouts and one groundout.

He was, you might say, overdue because he is the heart and soul of the team.

"It's always nice to contribute and nice to play well," he said. "We're competitors and we want to do our jobs well. But at the end of the day, the 'W' is what every team is searching for, regardless of how it comes."

Despite everything Young has done for the Rangers -- hit home runs, drive in runs, hit for average and switch positions twice -- only Cardinals outfielder Randy Winn had played more games and not reached the playoffs.

Young's streak ended on Wednesday at 1,508 games.

More important was what he did in Game 2, and it was not lost in the visiting clubhouse at Tropicana Field.

"It was his first postseason hit and a huge hit for us," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "It kind of opened up the floodgates a little bit, gave us a big inning, and it was great to see him do that."

Young also contributed a single to the Rangers' victory, which puts them one win away from advancing to their first AL Championship Series.

"We came in here and emptied the tank in Game 2," Young said, "and that's how we're going to approach it. It actually is real easy. We're going to empty the tank for Game 3."

That would be on Saturday at 4 p.m. CT at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

"Nothing's over yet, nothing special has happened yet," Kinsler said. "We're definitely playing baseball the way we want to play baseball. We're pitching extremely well and our offense is giving our pitching some runs. So right now, everything is going smoothly."

And it's good for everyone to have the organization's longest-tenured player getting involved in the offense again.

"He's pretty clutch," reliever Darren O'Day said. "That was a huge home run right there, and I am sure there will be a few more before he's done."

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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