World Series 2011: Will Texas Rangers Bounce Back in Game 7?
Born in 1961 as the expansion Washington Senators—replacing the Washington Senators who had just packed their bags and headed to Minnesota—the franchise spent 11 forgettable seasons in D.C., just once finishing with a winning record.
Owner Bob Swift abandoned the nation's capital after the 1971 season and parked the team in a hastily converted minor-league park in Arlington, Texas. It was thought there would soon be a new ballpark in the Dallas metroplex for the Rangers to call home, and they could abandon the hot, dry, windswept Arlington Stadium.
If "soon" can be defined as 22 years, then yes, the Rangers were "soon" in the new Ballpark at Arlington, now known as Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
In 1994, their first season in their new digs, the Rangers "won" the American League West for the first time despite having a record 10 games under .500. But there was no playoff appearance for Texas because there were no playoffs period in 1994, not after the players went on strike in early August of that year.
Two years later, Texas finally made the postseason party. The Rangers won the opener of their American League Division Series with the New York Yankees, then lost three straight and were bounced. Texas was then swept by the Yankees in back-to-back postseason appearances in 1998-99.
It wasn't until 2010 that the Rangers returned to the postseason, and they nearly squandered a 2-0 series lead in the ALDS to the Tampa Bay Rays. They lost Games 3 and 4 at home before finally winning the decisive fifth game back at Tampa Bay for the franchise's first-ever playoff series victory.
The Rangers made it to the World Series last season, losing to the San Francisco Giants in five games.
For a half-century of baseball, that's a pretty paltry postseason history. Actually, that's a lot of misery for one team to endure. Since the Rangers' 1961 debut, no franchise in baseball has lost more games, so misery is not a new experience.
There was more to come on Thursday night.
Twice in the rain-postponed Game 6 of the World Series, the Rangers were one strike away from finally closing out the St. Louis Cardinals and winning their first title.
Twice the Cardinals got off the hook and stayed alive. David Freese erased a 7-5 deficit with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth with a two-run triple to right field that evaded Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz. Then Lance Berkman knocked in a run with a 10th-inning single to once again tie the game, coming through with two outs and two strikes.
Finally, Freese hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th inning off Mark Lowe—making his first appearance in the postseason for Texas—to give the Cardinals a wild 10-9 victory.
The stunning result begs the question: How do the Rangers bounce back from this?
There's no question it was a devastating defeat. Closer Neftali Feliz locked himself in a room in the clubhouse rather than face the media after blowing the two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth.
Manager Ron Washington, for the second time in this series, made a point to tell his team and the national media there is a big difference between winning and losing. Specifically, in Washington's mind, the Rangers didn't lose Game 6, the Cardinals won it.
His point was that his team put itself in the position it wanted to be in, but St. Louis executed when it had to. As Washington told his team and the press, "There's no shame in that."
The numbers facing the Rangers are daunting.
This was the sixth time the Cardinals had faced a 3-2 series deficit in a World Series. Four of the previous five times they were in that position, the Cardinals wound up winning the whole thing.
A visiting team hasn't won a Game 7 in the World Series since the We Are Fam-Uh-Lee Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Baltimore Orioles in 1979. Only 10 of the players on Texas' postseason roster were alive when that occurred.
But here's the thing about baseball: Momentum really doesn't exist. Momentum, so the conventional wisdom goes, is tomorrow's starting pitcher.
That means it's a new day and another chance for the Texas Rangers to finally write a happy ending in their half-century-old history of futility.
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