Wake up, everybody! It’s local sports Christmas! Santa has come early, and out of his fat red bag is a Rangers trip to the World Series. Like socks printed with our pet’s face on them, it’s a gift few of us expected but one that each and every one of us desperately needs. Hooray!
Let us bask in warmth of communal joy. The area is riding a glorious wave right now as all of North Texas has caught Rangers fever. Seems like everybody is climbing on the bandwagon. My socials are filled with endless Ranger love. My Facebook feed has not been this uniformly celebratory since November 2020.
That’s right. Impossible as it seems, your sweet and wholesome hometown Baseball Bois just defeated their loathsome division rival the Houston *Asterisks in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series by a score of 11-4. The victory seals the club’s third AL pennant since forming in 1972 and their first appearance in the Fall Classic since 2011.
It was a wildly entertaining ACLS. Playoff baseball stacks up with anything in professional sports. That the good guys won was made all the better by who exactly lost. (Much like November 2020, no?) I won’t pretend to be a Rangers diehard with years of emotional investment, but even this casual fan has a blood-boiling hatred for the Houston Trashcan Beaters. Images of a dejected José Altuve in the dugout from Tuesday’s game sustain me. I have been watching them on repeat for at least 12 straight hours. His defeated reaction to his own futile ninth-inning homer represented schadenfreude at its finest.
Though the final game was decidedly one-sided, the series up to that point was anything but. The up-and-down emotional swings over the course of the six preceding games would rival anything at Six Flags, and the Sign Stealers had as much or more of a chance to come out on top in the end than did the ’Gers. The controversial bench-clearing melee that transpired late in Game 5 Friday seemed at the time like it might be a pivotal moment in the series, and it certainly proved to be.
With the Rangers leading that game 4-2, Houston pitcher Bryan Abreu dinged slugger Adolis García in the shoulder, apparently admonishing El Bombi for admiring his go-ahead homerun earlier in the game a little too long. García took issue with the plunking and went after Disastros catcher Martín Maldonado for calling for the pitch. Dugouts and bullpens emptied, and Abreu, García, and H-town skipper Dusty Baker were tossed from the park. The following inning, perennial Ranger killer Altuve hit a three-run moonshot that buried the Rangers and, what seemed at the time, the series.
Altuve’s homer completely sucked the life out of Globe Life Field along with all the hope in the hearts of the red, white, and blue faithful. The all-too-familiar heartbreak of loss-conditioned North Texas sports fans came swooping back in immediately. Flashbacks of being one strike away (twice) in the 2011 World Series were relived in real time. It was the same ol’ Rangers.
If García had just taken first base instead of freaking the eff out, Texas likely would have won that game and regained the momentum in the series. Instead, the Cheaters of the Texas Coast (no, I absolutely will not stop) would take a 3-2 series lead back with them to The Armpit of the State™, stealing the Rangers’ World Series mojo like so many pitching signs.
But for Game 6 in Sewer City, the gods of sport strayed from the North Texas script. As Houstonians, who, to be honest, are just as grating and ridiculous as Aggies and Philadelphians, roundly booed García every time he stepped into the batter box, presumably to kick dirt onto the Rangers’ grave, El Bombi quietly shifted into beast mode. After striking out four times in a row, obviously pressing a bit to vengefully knock the ever-living shit out of every pitch, García broke Game 6 — and the series — wide open. He crushed three home runs and generated nine RBI over the final two tilts, earning him ALCS MVP honors.
García, and the rest of the good-guy lineup, heeded the words of the team’s social media campaign. They went and took it, outscoring the Asstros 20-6 at Minute Maid. The shot of that pair of sad Houston fans dressed as astronauts in the stands was Michelangelo-level beautiful. I want a full back-piece tattoo of it.
This season has been a wild one. Offseason positivity in the spring quickly became high expectations (well, higher than normal) as Texas led the AL West for basically the entire year — only to lose it on the last game of the regular season to their hated cross-state rival and then only to make a surprising run, bolstered by an offense that just might be historic in its potency, deep into the playoffs, all the way to the very last set of games on the baseball calendar. Incredible.
As of this writing, it is unknown who the Rangers will face in the World Series Friday. I’ve said basically every step of this postseason that whatever happens from here on out is gravy. If you’d told me during spring training that the Rangers would even make the playoffs, much less advance past the Wild Card round, I’d be as pleased as a trust-fund brat with Daddy’s Black AmEx card, a brick of blow, and a River Oaks McMansion all to himself for the weekend (River Oaks, Houston; definitely not Fort Worth). But screw that. Texas may have already exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations, but that bandwagon keeps on rollin’, babee. At this point, we must do it. No matter who we face, in the immortal words of Tom Berenger in Major League, “There’s only one thing left to do. Win the whole fuckin’ thing!”