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Rangers have to like their chances as ALCS shifts to New York

ARLINGTON, Texas -- He took the mound under a blazing autumn sun, the Debacle in Arlington still fresh in everyone's mind. No, Colby Lewis' start in Game 2 on a scorching Saturday afternoon at Rangers Ballpark was not Cliff Lee-esque -- the right-hander gave up six hits and two runs in 5 2/3 innings -- but it was good enough to give the long-suffering Texas faithful something they've never seen at their retro, red-brick ballyard: a win, at last, in the postseason.

"After a loss like last night's, to get a start like that from Colby was huge," Rangers shortstop Michael Young said. "He shut them down early and kept us in the ballgame."

Said manager Ron Washington, "Colby gave us exactly what we needed. I always said that if he can command his ball, keep them out of too many offensive counts, he would do well. And he certainly did."

As the ALCS shifts to the Bronx for Game 3 on Monday night, only this is clear: the series is far from over. It didn't look that way less than 24 hours earlier, after the Rangers' spectacular Game 1 implosion, a seemingly devastating loss for a snake-bitten franchise that had never won a postseason home game. But in front of a raucous crowd of 50,362 white-towel waving fans, the Rangers' continued aggressiveness on the bases paid off (Elvis Andrus' steal of home in the first inning was the first postseason swipe of home since 2002), and for the second straight game, the Yankees failed to get a quality start. In the second postseason start of his strange career -- only a year ago he was in Japan pitching for the Hiroshima Carp -- Lewis held the best lineup in baseball in check and outpitched Phil Hughes.

"He was up in the zone today," Joe Girardi said of the Yankees' young starter, who was rocked for seven runs and 10 hits in just four innings. "Didn't have much of a curveball. You leave the ball up in the zone, and they'll hurt you."

The ALCS now becomes a five-game series, and with Lee taking the mound for the Rangers against Andy Pettitte in Game 3, Texas has to like its chances, even after gifting Game 1 away. Lee can now make two starts over the next five games, and after C.J. Wilson and Lewis' strong performances over the weekend, the Rangers look like they have the starting pitching edge in this series. After the game Girardi was noncommittal on whether he would start C.C. Sabathia on three days rest in Game 4 on Tuesday -- "If we worry about Game 4 before Game 3, we are going to be in trouble," the Yankees manager said --- but as Game 1 showed, even Sabathia, the Yankees' ace, is no sure thing.

But neither, of course, is the Rangers bullpen, which despite holding the Yankees scoreless on Saturday still looks as leaky as a sieve. The Rangers have quickly found out just how much they miss Frank Francisco, their injured setup man. There was no implosion in Game 2, but still too many nervous moments. A day after issuing two eighth-inning walks, Darren Oliver was back in the game in the eighth and walked Nick Swisher on a 3-2 count, as he did Friday, but he escaped the inning after a Jorge Posada strikeout and a Lance Berkman ground out. In the ninth, closer Neftali Feliz walked two before shutting the door when he got Robinson Cano to fly out to left.

After the game, Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux shook hands with each of his relievers, now redeemed, at their lockers. The resilient Rangers had put the debacle behind them, and it was now off to the Bronx.

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