Rangers out to shake some sticks at Yanks

Rangers out to shake some sticks at Yanks

ARLINGTON -- Josh Hamilton was 2-for-18 during the American League Division Series against the Rays. He missed most of September with two small fractures in his left rib cage and is still trying to recover from that absence.

He is still not 100 percent physically and not locked in at the plate.

"I get a day off [on Wednesday]," Hamilton said. "I can use that. The biggest thing this week was being with the team and help them anyway I can."

Michael Young was 3-for-20 during the ALDS. His only big moment was a three-run home run in Game 2.

"We had some guys who had a really big series, and we have some other guys who are due to break out in the next series," Young predicted.

Hamilton and Young are at the top of that list, and the next series starts on Friday. The Rangers will host the Yankees in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at 7 p.m. CT on TBS at the Ballpark in Arlington.

The Rangers will be playing in the ALCS for the first time in club history. They are the last of the 30 Major League franchises to have reached an LCS. Beating the Rays marked the first time in four tries that Texas has won a playoff series; now the next step is getting past the Yankees and into the World Series.

"The first Rangers team to get this far is a great thing," Young said after a 5-1 victory over the Rays on Tuesday night. "But we hope we aren't done. As much as we're going to celebrate this one, we want to do more."

The Rangers send left-hander C.J. Wilson to the mound in Game 1 to face Yankees 21-game winner CC Sabathia. Colby Lewis will pitch Game 2 on Sunday, and Cliff Lee, who beat the Rays twice in the ALDS and is 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA in seven career postseason starts, will wait until Game 3 when the series resumes Monday at Yankee Stadium.

The Rangers took Wednesday off and will work out on Thursday afternoon at the Ballpark in Arlington. Then comes the ALCS and the Yankees on Friday.

"We're a very confident group," manager Ron Washington said. "We're not overconfident. We have our flaws, but when it comes down to it, we can play baseball. Sometimes it's ugly and sometimes it's beautiful, but ... we're not shocked by anything. We're here because we belong here."

The Rangers and the Yankees met eight times during the regular season. The Yankees swept a three-game series in the Bronx in April. The two teams split a two-game series in Arlington in August, and then the Rangers swept a three-game series here in September.

"The only thing that we take from that is we proved we can play with them," Washington said. "People say they weren't at full strength at the time, but neither were we. All you can take from that is we can play with them, and all it takes is to play better than the other team on the day that you play them."

The Rangers aren't scared of the Yankees, but they do have respect for their tradition and what they stand for as a franchise.

"You want to see a team that's professional, it's the Yankees," Washington said. "Their goal when they show up is to beat you. They never taunt you, they just play. They are a class act. They're built to be what they are: a champion.

"If you ever want to model somebody, it's the Yankees. We've got a challenge ahead of us. We're not afraid. We'll go out and play nine innings and do the best we can. If we keep the game where we need to be, I'll take our chances."

There are plenty of subplots.

Two of the Yankees' most prominent players are third baseman Alex Rodriguez and first baseman Mark Teixeira. They were once prominent members of the Rangers and are hardly forgotten in Arlington.

The Rangers have lost nine straight playoff games to the Yankees. Texas beat New York in Game 1 back in 1996, and then lost three straight. The Yankees then swept the Rangers in both 1998 and '99. In each of those two series, Texas has scored exactly one run.

The Rangers hit .141 in the 1998 ALDS. That was the lowest ever by any team in a Division Series until the Reds hit .124 against the Phillies this year. The Rangers' .152 average against the Yankees in 1999 is now the fourth lowest in a DS.

"That doesn't matter, because we are a different team," Washington said. "We feel we can play baseball with anybody. We will show up and play our best against the very best, which is the Yankees. We can only blaze our own trail. Every time we do something good, it only adds to the history of the Texas Rangers."

The Rangers hit .253 against the Rays and scored 21 runs, but would still like to get Hamilton and Young going offensively. Hamilton has now played in just eight games since missing most of September because of the rib-cage injury.

The Rangers have the home-field advantage for this series. In each of the previous three meetings with the Yankees, the first two games were played in the Bronx. But the Rangers are 0-6 in playoff games at the Ballpark in Arlington. They need to change that or face being down 0-2 before Lee ever gets to the mound.

"It should be a lot of fun," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "They are a good team, but we are too. They are all good teams in the playoffs. We're looking forward to the challenge."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.