ARLINGTON, Texas — Their Texas-sized wait is over. The Rangers are going to the World Series.
And they got there with a win over their old nemesis, the defending champion Yankees.
Vladimir Guerrero drove in three runs before Nelson Cruz hit a towering, two-run homer and the Rangers beat New York 6-1 Friday night in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series, the biggest victory in the franchise's 50 seasons.
Colby Lewis dominated over eight innings for his second win of the series, and Josh Hamilton earned the ALCS MVP award. And in a state where most sports fans gear up for fall weekends by watching high school football, the Rangers gave a new meaning to Friday Night Lights.
"The World Series is coming to Texas," said Michael Young, who in his 10th season is the longest-tenured Ranger. "These fans have waited longer than we have. I know how bad we wanted it, and they must have wanted it more."
"Totally worth the wait, totally," he said.
When Alex Rodriguez, who got his first megacontract from the Rangers, took a called third strike to end the game, fireworks exploded in the sky high above, confetti filled the air and the Rangers embraced each other near the mound.
Rangers icon Nolan Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher who is the team president and co-owner, embraced his wife in the front row before going on the field.
"Our fans have waited a long time, this organization has waited a long time," Ryan said. "This team coming out of spring training was on a mission."
Cliff Lee was waiting if needed by the Rangers for a deciding Game 7 against the Yankees. Now the ace left-hander can rest up for Game 1 of the World Series, on Wednesday night in either San Francisco or Philadelphia. The Giants lead the NLCS 3-2.
The Rangers, who had never won a postseason series or a home playoff game before this year, dispatched the $200 million-plus Yankees with little drama, especially after a four-run outburst in the fifth inning snapped a 1-all tie.
And that makes it even more satisfying for the Rangers and their fans since New York knocked Texas out of the playoffs in each of the club's three previous appearances. Derek Jeter is among several players remaining from those teams in the late 1990s, and Rodriguez is among several former Rangers now wearing pinstripes.
The Rangers outplayed the Yankees in every facet. Along with their slugging, they showed off something Ryan has brought them — a culture where starters expect to go deep into games.
Moments after closer Neftali Feliz struck out Rodriguez for the final out, a flag proclaiming the Texas as the AL champion flapped above the ballpark. The Rangers celebrated on the field with ginger ale in deference to Hamilton's well-documented substance abuse problems.
Players dumped the contents of a water cooler on fourth-year manager Ron Washington, who in the summer of the 2009 wasn't even sure he'd keep his job after admitting to using cocaine once. But Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels stuck by Washington then and again last spring when the story became public.
A championship is quite a feat for the franchise that began in 1961 as the expansion Washington Senators. They moved to Texas in 1972 with Ted Williams as their manager.
By reaching the World Series in the franchise's 50th season, the last 39 in Texas, it marks the longest it has taken a club to get there for the first time. Montreal/Washington (42 seasons) and Seattle (34) haven't yet made it.
The raucous crowd of 51,404 fans rarely sat in the final innings, cheering wildly with each strike and screaming for every out that got their beloved team — the one that had the fewest wins in the regular season among the eight playoff teams — closer to the World Series.
Chants of "Colby!" filled the air for Lewis, who spent the last two seasons in Japan. "I got a little too overamped when they were saying my name. It was really, really cool," Lewis said.