Rangers win first ever postseason series, advance to ALCS vs. Yanks

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Roy Halladay made history last week, but Cliff Lee continues to rule the postseason.

Lee struck out 11 in a 5-1 victory over the Rays in Game 5 tonight, giving the Rangers their first ever postseason series victory and a date with the Yankees in the ALCS.

The Rangers held a 3-1 lead going into the top of the ninth inning, but Ian Kinsler provided some breathing room with a two-run shot off Rays closer Rafael Soriano. Lee got Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton in order as the Rays went down without much of a fight in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Lee tossed a season-high 120 pitches in the win. He allowed just two runs over 16 innings during the series (1.13 ERA), posting a ridiculous 21/0 K/BB ratio, improving to 6-0 with 1.43 ERA in seven career postseason starts. He’s a postseason cyborg.

Keep in mind that because Lee was needed in Game 5 tonight, C.J. Wilson will oppose CC Sabathia in Game 1 of the ALCS in Arlington on Friday night. Colby Lewis is likely to get the assignment in Game 2, allowing Cliff Lee to pitch on regular rest for Game 3 next Monday.

And what can you say about the Rays? They managed to win the American League East and secure home-field advantage, but lost all three games at the Trop and were held to just two runs along the way. That’s what out-of-this-world pitching will do to you. Now they are faced with an offseason where Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano are all likely to sign elsewhere.

Video: Phillies rookies dance to “Greased Lightning”

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As per tradition, towards the end of the regular season, veterans on baseball’s various clubs haze the rookies by making them dress up and do something a bit embarrassing. That used to include things like making rookies dress up like women and carry pink backpacks, but Major League Baseball banned that practice, so veterans had to get marginally more creative.

The Phillies had their rookies — including Rhys Hoskins, J.P. Crawford, and Nick Williams — dress up like characters in Grease and perform “Greased Lightning” at their hotel in Atlanta on Friday night. Not only did the Phils’ vets and other members of the crew get a free show, but so did employees of the hotel and nearby hotel patrons.

Video with sound is not currently allowed to be embedded, so click here for that.

As MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki explains, Hoskins was the inspiration for the gag as he has earned the nickname “Rhys Lightning.” (Rhys, for the uninitiated, rhymes with “Grease.”) Hoskins said, “You always hear about team chemistry. I think stuff like that let’s you get to know guys on a different level, when you’re not at the field. You just become more personable with people. The better relationships you have, there’s a different level of playing for each other. And I think that’s usually a sign of a good team.”

The Twins also had some fun at the rookies’ expense:

Video: Aaron Judge hits 47th, 48th homers, now one shy of tying Mark McGwire’s rookie record

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge went yard twice in Sunday afternoon’s 9-5 loss to the Blue Jays, bringing his season total up to 48. That leaves him just one home run shy of tying the single-season rookie record set by Mark McGwire with the Athletics in 1987.

After Sunday’s performance, Judge is hitting .281/.416/.610 with 48 home runs, 105 RBI, and 122 runs scored in 651 plate appearances. He has the AL Rookie of the Year Award on lock and is neck-and-neck with the Astros’ Jose Altuve, Chris Sale of the Red Sox, and the Indians’ Corey Kluber in the AL MVP Award race.