Rangers first baseman Michael Young is congratulated by teammates after… (Richard Carson / Reuters…)
Reporting from Arlington, Texas — Texas Rangers infielder Ian Kinsler was standing on the grass near second base Saturday night, his jersey soaked with sweat beneath a red T-shirt drenched with celebratory ginger ale, the latter a nod to teetotaler teammate Josh Hamilton.
His team had just thumped the Detroit Tigers, 15-5, to earn its second consecutive World Series berth. And while Kinsler looked every bit a winner, he wasn't sure the Rangers had done anything worth celebrating just yet.
"This is unbelievable. This is incredible. To be able to defend a title like we did, it doesn't happen very often," he said. "[But] we don't feel successful unless we win the World Series. That's the ultimate goal in this profession."
American League champions? The Rangers have been there, done that. What they haven't done in their 51-year history is win the final game of the season. And that's the goal now.
"There's still something left to do," Kinsler said. "We have one more series left. There's still a World Series to be played and a World Series to be won."
They'll get a chance to do that thanks in large part to a record AL Championship Series from MVP Nelson Cruz and a record Game 6 from Michael Young.
With a two-run home run in the seventh inning Saturday, Cruz became the first player in history with six homers and 13 runs batted in in a single postseason series. And with two two-run doubles in the Rangers' nine-run third, Young became the first person in LCS history with two extra-base hits in the same inning.
Young added a solo homer in the seventh to finish with five RBIs on the night, matching Cruz's single-game record from earlier in the series.
Two innings later Young also caught Brandon Inge's popup for the game's final out before turning the spotlight back on his teammates.
"It's the best group of teammates I've ever played with," he said. "It really is."
The Rangers do not know if they will play Milwaukee or St. Louis in the World Series, which begins Wednesday. But they left no doubt that they deserve to be there, overcoming solo home runs by Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta in the first two innings by sending 14 men to the plate against four Tigers pitchers in the third, scoring nine times.
And they didn't stop there, adding a run in the fifth on Hamilton's scoring fly ball, two more in the sixth on RBI singles from Adrian Beltre and Kinsler and three more in the seventh on the homers from Young and Cruz.
As dominant as the Rangers were, though, the methodical win was just a snapshot of the way they have played all season. And that too is a holdover from last season, when the Rangers were surprised, maybe even satisfied, simply to reach the World Series.
"I think we were a little bit shocked last year," Hamilton said. "We wanted to win. But this year I think we expect to win more than anything."
Added Texas Manager Ron Washington: "Everyone stepped up and everyone contributed. We saved our best for last because we, certainly as a group, are capable of busting out the way we bust out tonight."
Then Washington, like Kinsler and Hamilton before him, turned his attention to the next task at hand.
"We wanted to get to the World Series. But the bottom line is getting to the World Series and winning it," he said. "We feel pretty confident about ourselves. It's not easy to get back here.
"They brought the proper attitude every single day, and it was never a time where they didn't give the effort that it took to be where we are right now and have this opportunity to play for the World Series [title] again."