They've flirted with destiny and history last year. They saw the glimmer in the trophy. They heard the roars and cheers of fans and players alike. They smelled the champagne as it glistened the world champion Giants. They felt disappointment in it's most appalling form.
They get their second chance.
There is no explanation needed for what happened this weekend. Baseball was played at it's finest, and the two best team coming from each league trounced their competitors. The Rangers raised their flag for a second year in a row, the Cardinals for the third time in the last eight years.
It's eerie how similar the two teams are. Both have strong starting pitching that was been weak in the postseason, both have the strongest line-ups in their league, and both have relied heavily on their bullpens throughout the postseason. It was expected of the Rangers bullpen, but not the Cardinals.
The Cardinals are the underdogs, however as recent history has told Ranger fans, that means nothing. They were heavily favored in 2010, but lost in 5 games to the San Francisco Giants.
The Cardinals bring to the table what the Tampa Bay Rays did—they're the hot team right now. They were 10.5 games out of the wild card race at one point. Every day from September, maybe even the last week of August, has been a playoff game for the Cardinals. They know pressure.
However, that was true for the Rays, and the Rangers handled them superbly, extinguishing their playoff run in only four games.
But, how hot are the Rangers?
Nelson Cruz has set a record for most home runs in a series at six. Two more in the World Series, and he will set the record for most home runs in a postseason. He is also the only player to hit a walk off grand slam in the postseason.* (Asterisk because Robin Ventura hit one but was mobbed by teammates before he reached second, so it was officially scored as a base hit.)
Michael Young is the only player in postseason history to hit two extra base hits—a two RBI double down the left field line and another two RBI double down the right field line in the Rangers nine run third inning—in the same inning. He had four RBI in that inning.
The Rangers have played 40 games, dating back to Aug. 26, without losing back-to-back.
These are two high octane offenses, with lackluster starting pitching in the postseason. Both teams can solely credit their bullpens for their current situations.
The Rangers won two games in the 11th inning, both 7-3, and that was because of an absolutely dominating performance by their bullpen.
The Rangers starting rotation has averaged less than five innings per start in the postseason.
Their bullpen has an ERA of 2.24 in 40.33 innings pitched, complementing their three wins and zero loses.
This lineup is almost the same as last year, but with two huge improvements—Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre. Their skills and determination, along with a few Cruz Missiles, have led the Rangers through times when Michael Young and Mitch Moreland were not their best, and while Josh Hamilton, although putting up the numbers, hasn't been the star of the offensive onslaught put on by Ranger hitters.
Without Beltre and Napoli, the Rangers wouldn't be where they are now: A chance to finish where they left off last year.
It means more to them now than it ever did.
They get the most beautiful gifts any professional athlete can get: A second chance.