ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Gratified to finally be in the playoffs, Michael Young and the Texas Rangers are making the most of their opportunity.
Young hit a three-run homer one pitch after keeping his at-bat alive with a disputed check-swing, helping C.J. Wilson and the American League West champions beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 6-0, Thursday for a 2-0 lead in their division series.
“I just think that we’ve had a great mentality these first two games,” Young said. “We’re not really thinking about some huge, grand picture here. We empty the bank for the game we’re playing that day.”
Game 3 is Saturday, with Matt Garza pitching for Tampa Bay against Colby Lewis.
“Being up 2-0 is huge, especially winning two on the road. But we still haven’t accomplished anything yet,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “Our goal is to get as far as we possibly can, and we’re just going to take it back to Texas and come out and try to play as hard as we can again.”
Ian Kinsler also homered for the Rangers, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 1999 and hadn’t won a postseason game in 14 years before Cliff Lee shut down the sputtering Rays in their home park on Wednesday.
Wilson was equally impressive, allowing two hits in 62/3 innings. He gave up a single to leadoff man Jason Bartlett to start the game, then limited the Rays to just three baserunners on an error, a walk and a hit batter over the next five innings.
Willy Aybar doubled in the seventh for the second hit off Wilson, who departed with runners at second and third. Darren O’Day struck out pinch-hitter Matt Joyce, and Darren Oliver got four outs to finish the two-hitter before a sellout crowd of 35,535.
Long known for fielding powerful lineups, the Rangers finally look as though they have the arms to match.
“The story today was our pitching,” said Young, who lauded the “total team effort” that has Texas on the verge of making franchise history.
Young’s first playoff hit was a massive homer. Before Wednesday, the six-time All-Star had played 1,508 career games without appearing in the postseason – the second-most among active players behind Randy Winn’s 1,717.
“Mike is our backbone,” Wilson said. “He’s our Derek Jeter or our Cal Ripken or whatever. That’s our guy. We rely on him for all sorts of stuff.”
Young said he’s only interested in winning.
“For me personally, this personal stuff goes out the window. It’s always nice to contribute and nice to play well,” the third baseman said. “We’re competitors, we want to do our jobs well. But at the end of the day, the ‘W’ is what every team is searching for.”
The Rays, whose .247 batting average was the lowest for an AL club that made the postseason since the 1981 Oakland Athletics, were held to eight hits in two games at Tropicana Field.