Texas Rangers pitcher Cliff Lee celebrates his team's victory Tuesday over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Baseball's last division series wrapped up Tuesday night, as the Texas Rangers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in the deciding game, 5-1, and advanced to the American League Championship Series for the first time in franchise history.
Cliff Lee did his best Cliff Lee impression, turning in another masterpiece. Lee pitched a complete game while allowing just one run and striking out 11. It was his second dominant performance of the series and the second win he picked up for the Rangers. Last night, the Texas ace downed the Rays in 120 pitches - 90 of which were strikes.
As the Phillies' Roy Halladay and the Giants' Tim Lincecum did for their teams, Lee put the Rangers on his back Tuesday night. His 11 strikeouts were the most in a winner-take-all game in history. And, as SI.com's Tom Verducci points out, Lee is on track to join the likes of Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling among the pitching legends of October. In seven career playoff starts, Lee's team has won every game. In those appearances, the lefthander has gone a mind-boggling 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA.
The Rangers now face unenviable task of facing the New York Yankees in the ALCS and likely will be without Lee's services until Game 3 at Yankee Stadium.
With baseball off until Friday, football's the main dish on tonight's menu (all times Eastern):
Central Florida (3-2) at Marshall (1-4) - 8 p.m. ESPN. Marshall looks for its first Conference USA victory of the season as it takes on rival Central Florida, which has beaten Marshall in five straight meetings.
Miami Heat vs. New Orleans Hornets - 8 p.m. NBA Channel. The banged-up Heat could be without LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Can Chris Bosh and the team's myriad role players tame the Hornets?
By the Numbers
22 - Points scored by LeBron James in 26 minutes as the Miami Heat rallied to beat CSKA Moscow in an exhibition Tuesday, 96-85. James left the game late in the third quarter with leg cramps but later said he was fine.
0 - Goals scored by the U.S. men's soccer team in its draw against Colombia on Tuesday, extending its three-year winless streak against South American opponents to nine matches.
30 - College football players named in a Sports Illustrated story who allegedly took money from former NFL agent Josh Luchs. Among the players named is former No. 1 overall draft pick Ryan Leaf.
As much fun as the playoffs have been this year, 5 games is too short to settle it. The series needs to be 7 games and the season should be reduced to a54 to accommodate the extended playoffs. If baseball wants to compete with football and then basketball and hockey, it needs more playoffs and less season. If they do it right, the tv folks will pay the difference.
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