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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Texas Rangers mobbed Cliff Lee in front of the pitcher's mound before trotting off to the clubhouse for a celebration 50 seasons in the making.
Champagne was on ice, but first the AL West champions slipped on red t-shirts, fitted themselves with goggles and toasted the first playoff series victory in franchise history with plastic bottles of ginger ale.
The bubbly flowed only after Josh Hamilton left the room.
The major league batting champion, who overcame alcohol and drug problems to revive his career, appreciated the show of support.
"I'm speechless. This is so unbelievable," Hamilton said Tuesday night after the Rangers beat Tampa Bay 5-1 in the decisive Game 5 of the AL division series.
"For my teammates to understand why I can't be part of the celebration, for them to adapt it, it's amazing," he added. "It shows a lot about them."
Cliff Lee added another impressive line to his sparkling October resume, striking out 11 in a six-hitter that stopped the Rays from finishing an improbable comeback in a series in which the road team won every game — a first in major league history.
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