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Rangers' running game gets Yankees' attention

Nelson Cruz #17 of the Texas Rangers slides

Nelson Cruz #17 of the Texas Rangers slides into third forcing a throwing error on catcher Kelly Shoppach during Game 5 of the ALDS. (Oct. 12, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

Among the Texas sights the Yankees want to avoid this weekend is the bizarre spectacle of Rangers players pretending to act like deer.

Yes, deer.

This season the Rangers celebrate hustle plays in an odd way. They raise their open hands to their ears to mimic a deer's antlers, because they are among the fastest animals.

The Rangers don't have baseball's fastest players but they consistently put pressure on opponents to make mistakes, a big reason why they won a postseason series for the first time in franchise history. They scored their first three runs in their 5-1 victory over Tampa Bay Tuesday night by way of heads-up baseunning, all of which were antler-worthy.

As the Yankees went through their final Stadium workout Wednesday before flying southwest for Friday night's ALCS opener, they made it clear they know the type of run-and-gun team awaits them. In other words, they've seen the antlers.

"They're more aggressive on the basepaths," said manager Joe Girardi, comparing the Rangers to the Twins, whom the Yankees swept in the ALDS. "It is a big part of their game."

That baserunning style figures to impact Jorge Posada the most, and the Yankees catcher said he made a point of watching the Rangers-Rays Game 5 on TV for scouting purposes.

Twice the Rangers scored from second on grounders, aggressively taking advantage when first baseman Carlos Peña and pitcher David Price didn't pay attention after outs. On another occasion, Nelson Cruz stole third and scored when the throw went into leftfield.

"They're going to try to do a lot of the things they did last night," Posada said. "We need to limit our mistakes and keep playing our game."

Girardi stressed how important it will be to "pay attention to the details," saying his players have to go into each play expecting the Rangers to try to take the extra base.

"Defense could play a very important role," Girardi said. "We preach it all year long, because when you start making errors and giving extra baserunners, a lot of times it leads to runs.

"It leads to longer pitch counts for your pitcher. Maybe you go to your bullpen sooner than you want. There's a lot of ways it can affect the game."

The Rangers also are expected to test Posada's arm, considering his caught-stealing percentage of 15 (13 in 85 attempts) was a career low.

That's not all Posada's fault. A scout who works for an American League team, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Posada is "unfairly criticized" because the Yankees' pitchers on average take a long time to get the ball to the plate.

"For the most part,'' the scout said, "he gets rid of the ball as well as he ever has."

Posada said holding on runners is "part of something we've addressed" in meetings with coaches and pitchers, and he noted the Twins didn't attempt a steal during the ALDS. "Hopefully," he said, "it continues like we did against the Twins."

But that might be asking too much. The Yankees realize that comparing the Twins to the Rangers is akin to likening a snail to - well, why not? - a deer.

With Ken Davidoff

New York Sports