NEW YORK — No disputing this: The Texas Rangers are routing the New York Yankees and are now just one win from their first trip to the World Series.
Bengie Molina hit a go-ahead, three-run homer off A.J. Burnett in the sixth inning, Josh Hamilton added a pair of solo drives to give him four in four games and the Rangers battered the Yankees 10-3 Tuesday night for a 3-1 lead in the AL championship series.
On a night of contested home runs, a serious injury to Mark Teixeira and more late walks by the Rangers, the AL West champions brought a little bit of the Wild West with them.
Texas, however, left no doubt with its long home runs.
“It’s not a bad job for a fat kid, that everybody makes fun when he runs,” Molina said.
Fans started streaming out of Yankee Stadium in the late innings, while Rangers president and part-owner Nolan Ryan smiled in his seat.
It was a costly loss for the defending World Series champion Yankees. Teixeira limped off in the fifth inning with a strained right hamstring and manager Joe Girardi said the team would likely will the All-Star first baseman on the roster with infielder Eduardo Nunez.
Game 5 Wednesday will have a rematch of starters from the opener, with the Yankees’ CC Sabathia against C.J. Wilson. Since the LCS went to a best-of-seven format, 24 of the 30 previous teams to take 3-1 series leads have won pennants.
“We have bounced back many times in this year,” Girardi said. “Win, and then you go from there.”
While the Yankees are seeking a record 41st pennant, Texas is trying to reach its first World Series since the franchise started play as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961.
Instead of trying to avoid Cliff Lee, the Yankees can only hope to force a Game 7 and face him again.
Aiming for a Series matchup against San Francisco or Philadelphia, Texas has outscored the Yankees 30-11, outhit them 43-26 and would have swept if not for wasting a five-run lead in the opener. Nelson Cruz hit the last of Texas’ four homers, a two-run drive that gave the Rangers seven homers in the series and 15 in the postseason.
Thus far, the ALCS has been a mismatch. While Texas is hitting .307, New York is limping at .198, including .154 (6 for 39) with runners in scoring position. Alex Rodriguez has been a bust against his former team, going 2 for 15 (.133) with two RBIs.
Molina’s two-out homer came after an intentional walk and put Texas ahead 5-3. Molina circled the bases and pounded a fist against his chest — and left Burnett clasping hands behind his head.
“He was throwing the ball good and we decided to leave him in,” Girardi said. “We liked the matchup and it didn’t work out.”
Robinson Cano hit a second-inning home run off the top of the right-field wall that left Cruz screaming and pointing after a fan appeared to block him from making a possible catch.
Two batters later, Lance Berkman hit a high drive down the right-field line that was clearly foul but initially was ruled fair by umpire Jim Reynolds. After a video review — just the third in postseason play since the process began two years ago — umpires reversed the call and ruled it foul. The Yankees didn’t even argue.
An inning after Molina homered, Hamilton added a solo shot off left-hander Boone Logan, who had just come in. Hamilton and Cruz homered off Sergio Mitre in the ninth.
Derek Holland pitched 3 2-3 innings of scoreless one-hit relief after he replaced Tommy Hunter, who was knocked out in the fourth inning.
“He settled things down a little bit until we could get into the flow of the game offensively,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Holland, Darren O’Day and Clay Rapada walked the bases loaded in the eighth with Texas leading 7-3. After Darren Oliver’s 0-1 pitch may have glanced off Nick Swisher’s back foot — there wasn’t a call or argument — Swisher flied to short center on the next pitch, dropping to 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position in the playoffs. Berkman followed with an inning-ending forceout, and Oliver finished for a save.
Burnett, who took the loss, was one out from making it through six innings, more than the Yankees could have expected.
The $82.5 million man had lost seven of his last eight regular-season decisions, was dropped from the rotation in the first round and hadn’t pitched since Oct. 2. Since 1952, pitchers starting postseason games with 16 or more days’ of rest are now 0-11 with a 7.43 ERA in 15 starts, according to STATS LLC, and Burnett joined a list of losers that includes Roger Clemens, Catfish Hunter and Kerry Wood.
Pitching to backup catcher Francisco Cervelli, starting because he catches Burnett more often than starter Jorge Posada, the erratic right-hander had a sharp curveball and explosive fastballs in the early innings and pitched well until allowing Molina’s homer.
After throwing 23 of his first 29 pitches for strikes, Burnett lost his rhythm in the third, when the Rangers scored two runs on one hit — a slow roller than didn’t leave the infield. Elvis Andrus had a run-scoring groundout, and Michael Young put the Rangers ahead 2-1 with an infield single on another soft bouncer.
Derek Jeter then tripled off the center-field wall in front of Monument Park with two outs in the bottom half — about 6 inches from the top — and Curtis Granderson hit a one-hop smash off the glove of diving second baseman Ian Kinsler. The ball trickled into right field for a single that tied it at 2.
New York chased Hunter in the 26-minute bottom of the fourth. Andrus made a big play, diving in the hole at shortstop to stab Brett Gardner’s one-out grounder and throw to third for a run-scoring forceout. Holland then froze Cervelli with a called third strike.
Texas put two on with two outs in the fifth. Hamilton hit a foul pop down the left-field line that a fan blocked Gardner from reaching in and grabbing in a Steve Bartman-like move, but Hamilton followed with a flyout to center, not a game-changing hit.
Teixeira was hurt legging out a grounder in the bottom half, avoiding a double play and leaving two on and one out. But Rodriguez followed with a 6-4-3 DP that ended the inning.
Vladimir Guerrero singled leading off the sixth and was on second with two outs. David Murphy was intentionally walked to bring up Molina, who hit three homers against the Yankees for the Los Angeles Angels in the 2005 AL division series. The only question about his drive down the left-field line was whether it would stay fair.
“I don’t see who I’m facing,” Molina said.
Hamilton’s homers gave him seven RBIs in the series. By the time Kinsler added a bloop RBI single off Joba Chamberlain in the seventh, angry Yankees fans were booing.
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