Rangers welcome ALCS challenge that awaits

Rangers welcome ALCS challenge that awaits

Rangers welcome ALCS challenge that awaits
ST. PETERSBURG -- Inches deep in bubbly, the Rangers on Tuesday were far too busy combating champagne showers to fully digest the challenge that next awaits them.

Fresh off their second straight American League Division Series against the Rays, capped by a 4-3 victory in Game 4 at Tropicana Field, Texas is bound for the AL Championship Series, which is set to begin Saturday either at home against Detroit or in New York.

"It really doesn't matter who we play," Rangers veteran Michael Young said. "We're always up for anybody, and I think if you ask anyone in here, they'll tell you that no matter our opponent, we're always going to have guys come through for us and step up.

"We have a great core in here. Our goal hasn't changed since the start of the season, and that's to win a World Series."

"All the way," catcher Mike Napoli said. "That's what we're here to do."

The Tigers lead the Yankees, 2-1, in their five-game series, with Game 4 scheduled for Tuesday night in Detroit and Game 5 -- if necessary -- slated for Thursday in the Bronx. A Tigers victory and subsequent trip to the ALCS gives the Rangers home-field advantage, as Texas ended the regular season with one more win than Detroit.

That edge could be plenty reason for the Rangers to be in support of a Yankees exit, despite the fact it would bring about a meeting or two -- at the least -- with Tigers ace Justin Verlander. Texas was 52-29 at Rangers Ballpark this year, compared with a 44-37 mark on the road. In the ALDS, the Rangers went 1-1 in Arlington.

Texas posted a 3-6 record against Detroit this season, including a 1-2 mark at home and a 2-4 ledger at Comerica Park. But in the nine games the Rangers were outscored by just eight combined runs, as five of the nine contests were decided by one or two runs.

For as much trouble as the Tigers gave the Rangers during the regular season, the Yankees presented an even more difficult task, claiming victory in seven of the nine meetings. The Rangers collected just 35 runs in the nine games, while the Yankees teed off Texas' pitching staff for 62 runs.

Moreover, New York tallied 22 home runs, the Rangers just four, and the Yankees were the only other Major League team to finish the season with more long balls (222) than Texas (210).

But Texas is no stranger to postseason play with the Yankees. The Rangers entered the 2010 ALCS against New York with a 1-9 record and nine-game losing streak vs. the Yankees in the playoffs before defeating them in six games to advance to the World Series.

Perhaps, then, New York's shortcomings against the Rangers last year provide the pinstripes with an extra dose of motivation. Texas, though, was stung shortly after in the Fall Classic by way of a Giants series victory, meaning plenty incentive exists.

"We all want to be back in the World Series," Young said, "and we all want to win. We're going to do whatever it takes to get there."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.