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Rangers 'all-in' with ace up their sleeve

ARLINGTON, Texas -- A change of scenery in the ALCS doesn't change the reality: The pressure remains on the New York Yankees.

Sure, the Texas Rangers wanted to clinch their first World Series trip at baseball's version of JerryWorld on Wednesday. It's always more fun to make a mess in the other guy's building, especially when it's the palace of Yankee Stadium.

Just ask clubhouse manager Richard "Hoggy" Price. His pristine clubhouse carpet has yet to get any champagne -- or ginger ale -- stains on it with the Rangers clinching the AL West in Oakland and the ALDS in Tampa. But if this crazy Rangers season is to culminate with a trip to the World Series, Price will have lots of clean-up duty ahead of him.

Of course, that requires one more Rangers win. And the Yankees won't be willing to simply hand over the mantle of AL champion, a title they still own, without a fight. No, these young Rangers will have to take it by force.

"Game 7 is completely off our radar," Michael Young said. "We're going all-in for Game 6. That's been our approach all season. You are never playing with house money in the playoffs."

The Yankees' win Wednesday forced the series back to Texas, where more than 50,000 fans are expected to pack Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Friday night for Game 6. And unlike previous regular-season and postseason series here, Rangers fans have vastly outnumbered those in pinstripes.

New York is in the unenviable position of having to win Game 6 just to get a chance to face Cliff Lee again. Doesn't sound very inviting, does it?

Lee seems to relish beating the Yankees when it counts the most. Of Lee's seven career postseason wins, three of them have come against the Yankees' vaunted lineup. He's 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA in those three starts, which include eight scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts and just two hits in Game 3 of this ALCS.

Lee is the ultimate insurance policy. The Rangers cashed it in against Tampa Bay in the ALDS and are prepared to do so again with the World Series on the line Saturday.

But don't misunderstand: The Rangers don't want it to come to that.

Before the Rangers' six-run barrage off three relievers in the ninth inning in Game 3, New York starter Andy Pettitte's only mistake was a cutter to Josh Hamilton in the first that gave Texas a 2-0 lead. The fact that Pettitte pitched well in that game was relatively unnoticed after Lee put up 13 strikeouts and baffled the Yankees' lineup, helping many fans get an early jump on the subway ride home.

But Pettitte, who has more postseason experience than all the Rangers players combined, would like nothing better than another shot at Lee.

"Cliff is unbelievable," Rangers right-hander Tommy Hunter said. "But it's still the New York Yankees. They can hurt you. He just threw well against them, and that's probably one of the hardest things to do and he just did it. You definitely don't want to put that on one person's shoulders. This is a team game. We're focused on Game 6."

The Rangers know that if they give the Yankees any wiggle room, that expensive team is capable of engineering a comeback -- even on Texas soil.

Despite a 1-3 record at home in the playoffs, the Rangers are confident. The last time the team ran out onto the field in front of a full house in Arlington, it won. Texas got seven runs on 10 hits off Phil Hughes, chasing him from the game in the fourth inning with a 5-1 lead. Lewis went 5 2/3 innings and gave up two runs to get the victory.

Now Lewis has an opportunity to send his team to the World Series. There were some who thought that might be possible in 1999, when he was drafted between the first and second rounds by Texas.

Later that year, the Rangers won their third AL West title in four years but were swept by the Yankees in the first round. Lewis was supposed to develop into a top-flight pitcher that could help the Rangers build on their success in the future.

Rushed to the majors a few years later, Lewis never lived up to the hype. After a few seasons in Texas, he ended up pitching some for Detroit and Oakland before reviving his career in Japan the past two seasons. There, Lewis found his missing command and collected oodles of strikeouts.

He's applied the same formula in Texas this season and was a consistent starter for the Rangers, winning 12 games while posting a 3.72 ERA.

And now, he has a chance to help the organization make history.

"I didn't think I'd be back here from Japan pitching for a chance to go to the World Series," Lewis said. "That's ridiculous for me to even think that might have happened. But here we are. It's a great opportunity for us as a team to show that we're meaningful. It's a chance to show that we mean business."

Lewis' plan isn't complicated: Throw early strikes and stay aggressive. That helps prevent too many walks, a problem for Lewis the last time he pitched in a clinching situation.

Lewis was on the mound for Game 3 of the ALDS nearly two weeks ago as the Rangers looked to sweep the Rays. But Lewis had five walks (four of them with two outs) and lasted just five innings. It was the first time he'd walked that many in a game since 2004.

Texas lost Game 4 the next day but went on to win the series with Lee on the mound in the winner-take-all Game 5.

Lee's ready to do it again Saturday. The Rangers want to make sure he doesn't have to.

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.