JOHN LEMBO column | Cherish the moment, baseball fans

jlembo@bradenton.comOctober 12, 2010 

The beauty of baseball is that it takes more than one game to crown a winner.

The season is too long and the grind is too grueling for everything to come down to a single afternoon or evening, for the postseason to be broken down into a series of one-and-done affairs.

That’s why the World Series champion has to win 11 games. On any day, anyone can win one.

So now Game 5 of the American League Division Series comes barrelling into Tropicana Field.

First pitch is scheduled for prime time — 8:07 p.m. — a slot usually reserved for the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox rather than the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers, who duke it out tonight for the right to head to the American League Championship Series.

Cherish it, because it should be a blast.

(Just ask anyone who was lucky enough to be inside a crackling Tropicana Field during Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS.)

Tampa Bay has its ace going in David Price. Texas has its ace going in Cliff Lee.

The Rays were dominated during Games 1 and 2 at the Trop last week, creating a scene so dire that fans began chanting Carl Crawford’s name, figuring they’d never again see the free-agent-to-be wearing a home Rays jersey.

Then the Rays went to Texas and dominated the Rangers, the only franchise in baseball history to have never won a postseason series.

(Heck, prior to last week, the Rangers hadn’t won two postseason games.)

Had they had their choice, the Rays or Rangers would be resting today, arranging their rotation and readying themselves for a ALCS date with the New York Yankees.

But here we are, preparing for a Game 5, the Rays refusing to die and the Rangers unable to keep them on the canvas.

This doesn’t happen too often — the last time an ALDS went to the limit was in 2005, when the Yankees lost Game 5 in Anaheim to the Angels.

In reality, this shouldn’t be happening at all — the Rays are the third team to force a decisive game in a best-of-five series after losing the first two at home and are trying to become the second team to win a division series under those same circumstances. The 2001 Yankees are the other.

In fact, in baseball’s tradition-soaked history, only four teams have ever dropped Games 1 and 2 at home and rallied to advance to the next round.

Yeah, this is pretty special.

“You’ve got two of the best pitchers in baseball going against each other,” said Rangers outfielder Jeff Francoeur. “What more could you ask for? It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Someone’s moving home. Someone’s coming home.

It all comes down to one game.

And it rarely gets this good.

John Lembo, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2097.

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