2010 World Series: Time for Texas Rangers To Put Up or Shut Up
Texas Ranger fans want to believe there's one more battle left in their team. They want to believe that they'll watch the Rangers fight to continue this series, to push it back to San Francisco for at least Game 6.
I don't know a single Ranger fan that wants to watch the San Francisco Giants celebrate in Arlington.
On Sunday evening, the ballpark had gone silent, and the Ranger players walked off the field heads down, dejected and beaten.
When the regular season came to a close, the Texas Rangers were getting ready to take on the best the American League had to offer. They were ready for the Tampa Bay Rays and were ready to show the baseball world that they could compete with this kind of a team.
They made that clear a lot quicker than even I thought they would. They went to Tampa and they took the first two games of the five-game set, needing just one win to sweep the series and get ready for the American League Championship Series.
The Rangers got ahead of themselves and dropped the next two games at home, sending the series back to Tampa for a deciding Game 5. But the Rangers had one thing in their corner, Cliff Lee.
The left-hander had been automatic in Game 1, and he was back to show he could do it again in Game 5. He did just that, shutting down the Rays' offense and sending the Rangers to the ALCS to take on the defending World Series champion New York Yankees.
No one gave them a shot in this series. Yankee fans, and media alike, were already sending them into the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, who were taking on the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS.
What happened in that series sent Rangers fans into a new sort of belief, a new high and set of expectations. Could their team possibly win the World Series?
They dominated the Yankees for six games and one of those losses came thanks to a breakdown from their bullpen and allowed the Yankees to come back from a 5-1 deficit.
Game 6 came and the Rangers once again put on an offensive performance against the Yankees, putting the final nail in the coffin and sending the Ballpark in Arlington in a frenzy. The team celebrated the franchise's first ALCS Championship, but they knew their job wasn't done.
They traveled north to San Francisco for Game 1 of the World Series. The Rangers were the perennial favorites after knocking off the defending champions, some not even giving the Giants any chance to get to a sixth game.
Four games later, the Rangers and their fans are wondering how things went so wrong, so quickly.
They had Cliff Lee going in Game 1. It was supposed to be automatic, but it was anything but. The Rangers have been dominated from start to finish, their only win coming in Game 3 when their offense seemed to finally find their groove.
Enter Game 5 and people wondered if the Rangers were starting to gain a little bit of momentum back. They wondered if a 21-year-old left-hander, Madison Bumgarner, would buckle under the pressure of pitching in a World Series.
Those questions were answered as Bumgarner dominated from the first pitch to his last, shutting out the Rangers for eight innings, giving up just three hits, walking two and striking out six.
Brian Wilson came in to the game in the ninth inning, closed things out and gave the Giants a commanding 3-1 lead heading into Game 5 on Monday night. If Game 4 was a must-win for Texas, this is an absolutely needed win for this team.
They have their ace on the hill, but they also will be dealing with San Francisco's ace, as well. Will Cliff Lee be able to keep this series going, or will Lincecum shut down the Ranger offense one more time, allowing his team to celebrate on the Rangers' home field?
There are those who might tell you that you don't want this series shifting back to San Francisco if you're the Giants. However, I would say that's exactly what the Giants want because they want to celebrate with their fans. Winning this game isn't as important to the Giants as it is to the Rangers.
But let me put it this way. Do you really want to give the Rangers new life with C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis set to go in Games 6 and 7? Do you really want to take the chance of having to face either of these guys again?
If you're the Giants, you want to wrap this series up regardless of where the series is at this moment. You want to end this series and not give a beaten team new life and new reasons to believe.
For Texas, it's been a long road to this point. They should be proud of how far they've come and the kind of future they have in front of them with a guy like Nolan Ryan running things behind the scenes.
Their biggest issue in the offseason will be attempting to re-sign lefty, Cliff Lee to a new contract. They will have no shortage of challengers for his services, including the New York Yankees. The Rangers are hoping that they've shown Lee enough about themselves and their future that he'll want to stay and sign a long-term deal.
For now, their focus needs to be on Game 5 and picking up one win to send the series to a sixth game. One game at a time; one win at a time.
Find a way to win on Monday night, and then you can worry about how you'll take care of business in Game 6.
Is this series over, or do the Texas Rangers have a little bit of magic left in them? They've been knocked to the mat and the 10 count has gotten to six. This team needs to pick themselves up and continue to fight.
If they don't, they'll watch from their home stadium as the San Francisco Giants celebrate their first World Series Championship since the team moved to the Bay Area.
That is not a moment the team, or their fans, want to witness.
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