ARLINGTON, Texas -- For a team with little postseason experience, the Texas Rangers sure know how to celebrate.
They looked like playoff veterans, mobbing the mound after Neftali Feliz struck out New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (could there be a more fitting end for Rangers fans?) to end a 6-1 Game 6 victory that clinched the franchise's first World Series appearance.
Players quickly donned "American League champions" T-shirts and World Series caps as confetti swirled all over the park. They found their wives, kids and other family members and relished the sound of 51,404 fans standing and cheering, not wanting to leave. Many players and coaches grabbed plastic liters of ginger ale and sprayed everything in sight, a non-alcoholic shower inspired by Josh Hamilton.
Manager Ron Washington, clearly excited and proud, thanked everyone. And I mean everyone.
"The hot dog vendor and the parking attendant should feel like they're a part of it," Washington said.
The entire team touched the AL championship trophy after the official presentation, and then Michael Young made off with it as if he were trying to go from first to third on a single. He rushed to one end of the field and showed it to the fans.
"This is unbelievable," Young said. "I can't believe it."
During the Rangers' third celebration of this season, bench coach Jackie Moore smiled and summed up the World Series clincher.
"We did it the Ranger way," Moore said. "It's how we've done it all year, and all of those things that we preach showed up tonight. That was the way we should have clinched it. Just think about how we got it done tonight and in this series and you'll know how we did it this whole season."
A team built with versatility in mind showed off all of it in beating the big, bad, expensive Yankees in Game 6:
They scored early, a trait of this team during the postseason. On Friday, Elvis Andrus doubled, went to third on a single and scored on a groundout. Just like that, it was 1-0 Texas in the first inning.
The club ran the bases aggressively, putting runners on the move to avoid double plays and get them in scoring position.
Texas came up with key two-out hits. Vladimir Guerrero had a double in the fifth to drive in two runs and break up a 1-1 tie.
In that same inning, Nelson Cruz found a fastball to his liking and belted it into the seats in left-center. That blew the game open, making it 5-1. Memo to pitchers preparing to face Cruz in the World Series: Don't think you can blow a fastball by him after throwing five straight curveballs. David Robertson can tell you that's a flawed strategy.
The Rangers, never ones to ease up, added a run on a sacrifice fly in the seventh by Ian Kinsler, who knew he just needed to hit the ball hard. That nice piece of situational hitting -- a point of emphasis from hitting coach Clint Hurdle all season -- came after both Hamilton and Cruz were intentionally walked.
Defense played an important part in the outcome, too. Kinsler made a nifty backhand stab on Robinson Cano's hard grounder in the fourth, turning it into a 4-6-3 double play. Andrus leaped up and caught a line drive by Rodriguez to lead off the second.
The club got excellent starting pitching, as Colby Lewis did his best impersonation of the guy with his same initials -- Cliff Lee -- going eight innings and giving up just one run. It was a gritty performance by Lewis, who refused to let the Yankees feel comfortable at the plate.
Young flamethrower Feliz, touching 100 mph on the radar gun, recorded the final three outs. If he had any postseason nerves, he didn't show them this time. A five-run lead certainly helped calm the butterflies.
It was a complete effort by a complete team.
"To beat a team of that caliber, you can't be one-dimensional," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We were known in the industry as a one-dimensional, slug-'em-to-death club that would beat you 12-9, and whoever was up last had the best chance. We wanted to get away from that. We've become more athletic, we're deeper in the pitching staff, and you get enough of those types of guys that can impact with their bat, legs, defensively, and you see what happens."
It left Yankees manager Joe Girardi wondering how to limit the damage. Hamilton, the ALCS MVP and probable AL MVP, had tortured the Yankees all series. So in Game 6, Girardi decided not to let Hamilton beat him. He took the bat out of the slugger's hands, intentionally walking him the final three times he came to the plate.
That meant he took his chances with Guerrero, one of the top hitters in the AL for years, but a player that was struggling in this series.
"That second time, I took my pad off and I looked right at Vlad and I could see it in his eyes," Hamilton said. "It was like, 'I'm going to get these guys.' We may not communicate very well, but I saw it in his eyes."
Guerrero pounded a double to center to start the four-run fifth inning that blew the game open.
"Vlad Guerrero is no walk in the park, that's for sure," Girardi said. "And we know how good of a hitter he is and that's why you talk about, 'Well, why don't you just walk this guy'? Their lineup is complete, and that's what makes it so hard."
It was another example of players responding in the big moments. Four innings later, the team was celebrating for the third time in the past month. If they do it one more time, they'll be world champions.
"We've been playing against the odds and the tradition this whole time," starter C.J. Wilson said. "We took down the big empire, New York. Everybody always says you have to go through them. We've got one more team to beat."