October 2011

Denied. Again. Cardinals 6, Rangers 2

Anger. Disappointment. Frustration.

I admit it. Mere minutes after watching my beloved Rangers drop Game 7 of the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, I can’t help but feel negative thoughts about this great group of 25 young men who came within an eyelash of being World Champions themselves. Anger at watching the offense once again fall victim to a finesse pitcher who looked very hittable in every one of the six plus innings he pitched. Disappointment in a pitching staff who looked more like they were trying to keep from losing than actually confidently going for a win. Frustration in knowing in my heart that my team was the better team but once again fell short of the prize they had worked all year for.

I’ve cited one Ron Washington before and I’ll cite him again. Wash always says it’s not about who has the best team but who plays the best baseball. In the case of this World Series, maybe that’s not even correct. The Cardinals didn’t play the best baseball, they played better baseball. Neither team played their best, really.

I hated seeing Chris Carpenter throw an assortment of junk and baffling the Rangers hitters, while at the same time thinking he probably deserves to be the Series MVP.

It’s hard watching a team celebrate their well-earned victory while knowing that, with the exception of the first baseman, I don’t know if they have any position players I’d rather have than their current Rangers counterpart (I really love Yadier Molina, though. Just wouldn’t swap him for Napoli considering the year he had this year.). I felt the same way about the Giants last year. Offensively, the Rangers have been the superior team going into the Series two years in a row. Two years in a row, the opposition’s offense found more ways to do the job, while their pitching staff figured out how to slow the Rangers down. Incredibly frustrating.

Nobody wants to believe this. I don’t want to believe it, but it’s time for American League folks to realize the National League has superior pitching. The Giants had it last year. The Cardinals had it this year. It sometimes seems baffling, because I see pitchers like Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson, who’ve been hit around when they were in the American League, resurrect their careers in the National League. In fact, four of the Cardinals pitchers were pitching in the American League earlier this season. One of them, Arthur Rhodes, pitched for the Rangers and did so poorly they had to release him. Naturally, he pitched well in the Series against Texas.

I had to watch a Game 6 in which both teams made really unnecessary and ugly errors, but it was the ones my team made that came at the most critical juncture of the game. I could live with the errors if they were honest ones. The ones Texas made late in the game came out of bad decisions, something I’ve rarely seen this team do: Elvis Andrus not throwing to second for a force-out, only to see Matt Holliday beat his throw to first; Michael Young thinking for a split second about throwing to second, then bobbling the ball and not even getting the out at first; Nelson Cruz apparently misjudging either how far away the wall was or where the ball was, resulting in David Freese’s game-tying triple in the 9th inning. I saw our starting pitchers, so good in the regular season, struggle night in and night out, with one glaring exception in Derek Holland. In Game 7, I could sense the fear in Matt Harrison’s eyes.

For two games, I got incredibly tired of the Cardinals scoring runs while hearing Joe Buck and Tim McCarver say “without a ball leaving the infield.” A World Series record number of walks. Not to mention the hit batters. Not pretty at all.

I’ve just heard David Freese announced as the MVP. Just as deserving as Carpenter, I suppose, but my goodness, that boy needs to work on his defense.

The good news for Texas is most of this team will be back in 2012. CJ Wilson may or may not be back, but he’s about the only critical piece. I just read today that pitching coach Mike Maddux may be considered for the Red Sox managing job. I hope that doesn’t happen. He’s been the best pitching coach in the history of the franchise.

One year ago, it was good to be there. Losing to the Giants in 5 games wasn’t fun, but for fans like me who’d never experienced it before, we were proud of our boys. This year, there were real expectations, and they almost came to fruition. One strike away. Twice. Like every other fan, and like every Rangers player, I’ll get over it soon enough. When late February comes around, I’ll have that same sense of optimism when the boys head to Surprise, Arizona for Spring Training. I also fully expect the Texas Rangers to be right back in the World Series hunt and maybe this time, they’ll get that final strike to put it away.

At this moment in time, though, this hurts. This hurts a lot. As much as it pains me to do so, in all sincerity I say congratulations St. Louis Cardinals. You deserved it. You really did.

Ginger Ale On Hold: Cardinals 10, Rangers 9

One strike away. Twice.

Disappointment reigns. All the signs pointed to the Rangers walking off the field as World Champions tonight yet, in the end, it was an exuberant Cardinals crowd cheering an extra innings victory on a David Freese home run.

Early on, it was a game nobody seemed to want to win. With fielding straight out of Little League, the unearned runs piled up as leads changed hands and ties were attained. The Rangers started out on top. The Cards would come back. The Rangers would retake the lead. The Cardinals would come back. First the runs scored on miscues by fielders. Then they started scoring on longballs. There was Adrian Beltre going yard. The Nelson Cruz made it back to back jacks. But here came the Cardinals, down to their last strike in the 9th, getting a 2-run triple when Cruz thought he was closer to the right field wall than he was and missed the catch, plating the tying runs.

An inning later, there was Josh Hamilton, going yard for the first time in the entire playoffs and putting the Rangers back up by two. But then there was Lance Berkman, tying the game with a single on a two-out, two-strike pitch, sending it to yet another extra frame and frustrating the Texas faithful.

Finally it was Freese, hitting a lead-off walk-off homer in the bottom of the 12th to tie the Series at 3 games apiece and sending a drained Rangers fandom to bed with dreams of “What If’ dancing in their heads.

There were victims on both sides as well. Matt Holliday left the game with a severely jammed finger. Nelson Cruz looks like he tweaked his ever-problematic hamstring in the last inning, which probably accounted for Ron Washington’s strange decision to pinch-hit for Scott Feldman, his only long reliever. Mike Napoli almost went down when he twisted his ankle badly early in the game.

All night long, I felt confident this was the night. It kept looking that way. 18-Year-Ranger-Fan chastised me for starting a countdown in the 7th inning of outs needed to win it all. I was not deterred. Fans have their own superstitions. The countdown has usually been one of mine, but I trusted it was going to happen and I know this loss had nothing to do with my tweeting a countdown. Hey, I was wearing the same Rangers shirt I’ve worn for every win this Series tonight (now THAT was a superstition) and it didn’t work like a charm the way it did in games 2, 4 and 5. So, in a further slap int he face of superstitions, I’ll wear a different Rangers shirt for the decisive game Friday night.

More power to the Cards. They refused to die, just as the Rangers refused to die. I drink the Wash Kool-Aid now. I know exactly what he’s going to say at the post-game press conference. “We didn’t do it tonight. We’ll put it behind us, get a good night’s sleep and go do it again tomorrow and see if it works out better for us.”

The Rangers to a man believe that. I still believe it will, too.

 

The Being At The World Series Experience

My son, affectionately known here as 18-Year-Ranger-Fan, had the great privilege to attend not one, but TWO World Series games in 2011. Here is his account:

 

Outside Rangers Ballpark in Arlington: Game 4

 

Howdy all, 18-Year-Ranger-Fan here.  I thought about writing a synopsis of games 4 and 5 of the World Series, but decided that 41-Year-Ranger-Fan had done a great job that I couldn’t top.  Instead I decided I would write more about the experience of being at two of the biggest wins in Rangers history.

            To start with Game 4 was without a doubt the single greatest performance by a Rangers pitcher I have seen in my life.  Derek Holland had perfect command all night and only allowed 4 baserunners…two of which were Lance Berkman (who seems to be all Rangers fans’ least favorite Cardinal.)  The atmosphere at the ballpark was electric.  The fans were into the game the entire time making noise and supporting the players.  At one point there was even a Der-ek Holl-and chant going to the typical Rangers chant cadence.  When Mike Napoli hit his 3 run shot to open up the lead the excitement in the ballpark was like nothing I had ever experienced.  By the time the game was over I didn’t think there was anything that would top that experience for me.  Little did I know the next night would be even greater.

            I want to take a moment to thank a gentleman named Alberto, who I met at game 4.  He ended up giving me a ticket to game 5.  Game 5 ended up being even better due to the drama that led up to the 8th inning and what the win signified.  For much of the game the Rangers trailed, tying it up in the 6th off a patented knee homer by Adrian Beltre.  Up to that point the fans kept trying to get the Rangers into the game.  If you want to talk about a crowd affecting the game, look no further than the Cardinals bullpen.  According to La Russa it was due to loud fans that they didn’t have the right pitchers when they wanted.  To say that is a testament to how great Rangers fans are.        

            As the top of the 9th started the level of excitement at the ballpark was on the breaking point.  Feliz was on the mound and after he hit the first batter it brought up the mighty Albert Pujols representing the tying run.  After Feliz ran the count full, it was obvious the hit and run was on as Craig kept running off first when Pujols fouled off 2 pitches.  When he finally struck out and Napoli caught Craig stealing 2nd the crowd erupted in a way that I have never experienced.  Random people were hugging me and we knew we were close.  Once we got the final out to win and take a 3-2 series win, there was a feeling of euphoria among everybody as we walked to our cars. 

            This year has been the greatest season for me as a fan.  I was able to go to the Rangers first road game while living in Baltimore and was able to attend the last home game of the year.  I made it to 9 games this year, which is more than I had attended in the past 18 years combined.  The Rangers lost the first one and won the next 8 that I went to.  Hopefully, the Rangers can pull of one more win this year and truly make this the best year of baseball for me.  All I can say now though is thanks for all the memories this year as a fan.

 

18-Year Ranger-Fan at Game 5

 

The Off Off Day Conspiracy Theory

This is a feeling I’ve had only once before. It was over thirty years ago. My first child was on its way. A trip to the hospital. Everything running smoothly. It looks to be just another hour or so and then…the labor stopped. Completely. No more contractions. No more nothing. About four hours later, the doctors decided it was time to medically re-induce labor. Finally, the child known to you through this blog as 18-Year-Ranger-Fan said hello to the world.

Over thirty years later, the same feeling has hit me. The first event carried more importance, certainly, and does to this very day. This latest event, though, has been 42 years in the making for this fan. With just a single victory to go for my favorite team to claim their first World Series title (and yes, I know it still isn’t assured), the baseball Gods stopped labor. Game 6 called due to rain. Like 30 years ago, I’ll probably start pacing by mid-afternoon tomorrow before labor is re-induced Thursday night at 7:05 CDT. So close, so anticipated, then nothing. And there’s nothing I can do to change things.

I was certainly glad to hear it was misting heavily at Busch Stadium just two hours before Game 6 would have started. When the postponement was announced, it was not raining at the stadium. The tarp wasn’t even down on the infield. Still, the possibility remains the hard rain will never fall. If that were to occur, the Rangers would hold the newest record in the books: Most Post-Season Games Postponed Due To Rain That Never Fell. It happened once already in the ALCS. Why not the World Series too?

I have no doubt the postponement was strictly because the Commissioner’s Office was afraid Game 6 would have multiple rain delays were they to decide to play on. Not good for ratings, especially if this becomes the clinching game. Again, before I go further, let me reiterate: I DON’T BELIEVE IN CONSPIRACY THEORIES SURROUNDING THIS POSTPONEMENT!!!

Now that I’ve been unequivocal about this, let me tell you what I heard on MLB Radio on the way home from work today. They played an interview done by Jim Bowden, a former MLB General Manager, in which he asked Allen Craig of the Cardinals, “Do you think this is about Carpenter pitching Game 7?”

Why in the blue blazes would anyone even allow that question to hit the airwaves? There’s not a bit of evidence out there indicating the Cardinals were pushing for the postponement to allow for Chris Carpenter to pitch on three days rest in a Game 7 scenario. This was creating a conspiracy theory out of thin air and is totally irresponsible.

To be sure, if something like that should be the case, an investigation should be held immediately because that would be messing with the integrity of the game. But again, I do not believe this to be the case. I also don’t believe Bowden asked the question with any kind of evidence to back it up. The question was just totally uncalled for.

I want the Rangers to win. I have a strong feeling they’ll win it in Game 6 and, if not, they’ll take Game 7 no matter who the Cards throw at them. But I don’t want the Cardinals taking flak for something they didn’t do, either. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say they don’t deserve to have their own integrity questioned like this, even if it was just a throwaway question directed at a player.

Let’s just play some baseball.

Off Day: Food For Thought

Trevor Cahill. Gio Gonzalez. John Danks. Ervin Santana. Jered Weaver. James Shields. Felix Hernandez.

These are among the pitchers I can point to when I state my firm belief that the World Series will end in Game 6 with the Texas Rangers hoisting their first World Championship trophy.

They are among the select few pitchers the Texas Rangers have had to face twice in a span of two weeks over the course of the season.

Sixteen times in 2011 Texas faced the same pitcher twice within a two week span of time. Three times they faced the same pitcher 5 days apart, three times six days apart, twice seven days apart, the other eight times between 10 and 12 days apart.

The opposing starting pitchers’ composite line the first time they faced the Rangers:
Wins: 5 Losses: 6 Earned Run Average: 3.88

The opposing starting pitchers’ composie line the second time they faced the Rangers:
Wins: 4 Losses: 8 Earned Run Average: 5.24

This line would look even worse, except Gio Gonzalez lucked out and had his second line washed out due to rain on May 11th. In that game, Gonzalez was tagged for a grand slam by Mitch Moreland. Texas was romping, but the weather wiped out the win and all the stats for the game.

What struck me looking at these stats were the walks and strikeouts. The composite line the first time around showed 41 walks and 73 strikeouts in just under 100 innings. The second time around, with only seven less innings pitched, the Rangers only walked 24 times, but they also only struck out 49 times. Meanwhile, their hits went up from 101 in 99 2/3 innings to 108 hits in 92 2/3 innings.

Conclusion: The Rangers are a much more patient team the second time around for a pitcher. Jaime Garcia is going to be very hard pressed to duplicate his Game 2 pitching line in Game 6.

I’m not going to say take a win to the bank. I believe it will happen but I don’t guarantee it. I will say Garcia doesn’t throw goose-eggs again. My team is too good to let that happen twice.

1 Win Away: Rangers 4, Cardinals 2

Electric moments. 24 hours ago it was Derek Holland for 8 1/3 magnificent shutout innings. And it was Mike Napoli hitting a 3-run shot into the left field seats, tying the Series at two wins apiece.

24 hours later, two more electric moments. First it was Napoli again, this time becoming the first Ranger to stamp his claim on World Series MVP, sending a rocket to the wall between center and right for a bases loaded double, breaking a 2-2 deadlock in the 8th. Even more electric was Neftali Feliz in the 9th, facing Albert Pujols as the tying run at the plate, starting him out with an 0-2 count before falling behind 3-2. In one of those moments that will be forever etched in Texas Rangers history, Feliz got baseball’s most feared hitter to strike out on an outside fastball, followed by Napoli gunning down a running Allen Craig at second for a strike ‘em out-throw ‘em out twin killing. Only an event like this could make the last out that came two batters later seem anti-climactic in comparison.

Rangers manager Ron Washington often says it isn’t about who the best team is, it’s about who plays the best baseball. Game 5, in many respects, proved Washington wrong. It was the Cardinals who threatened inning after inning. It was the Cardinals who had the scoring opportunities and it was the Rangers who weren’t pitching well and early on were not fielding well either. In the end, though, it was the Rangers who ended up with the W. They made the most of the few scoring opportunities they had and buckled down when they had to to stifle Cardinals rallies.

CJ Wilson had something to prove in starting Game 5. The Rangers #1 starter had been ineffective throughout the playoffs. Many said the reason for his lack of success was his inability to throw his slider for strikes. Wilson reportedly said he’d discovered a mechanical flaw to explain it and he was ready for game 5. True to his word, Wilson’s command of his off-speed pitches was quite a bit better. Too bad he now had little command over his fastball. Wilson labored through 5+ innings. He walked five, only struck out three and was a victim of shoddy fielding by David Murphy, Mitch Moreland and himself. Yet all the Cardinals could do was plate two runs in the second inning off him. In the 6th, after laboring for over 110 pitches, Wilson was finally lifted, perhaps for the final time in a Rangers uniform, as his free agency looms. I hope Texas re-signs him, despite his poor post-season numbers this year, but if he leaves, I’m ready to accept that as well.

Back to the game. Texas got one back on a solo homer by Mitch Moreland, his first hit of the World Series. Another came home on an Adrian Beltre “Down On One Knee Special” over the left field wall.

Scott Feldman came on in the 6th for Texas and squirmed out of a two on predicament. Alexi Ogando had a strange 7th, escaping a bases loaded jam brought about by two intentional walks and a single. Ogando and Oliver tag teamed the 8th inning, with the Cards threatening once again, but not able to get the key hit.

Michael Young led off the critical Texas 8th with a double. Following a terrible Beltre at bat, a 3-pitch strikeout, Nelson Cruz was walked intentionally. David Murphy followed with a hard infield grounder that bounced off the pitcher and loaded the bases. Napoli became the hero with his game deciding double plating Young and Cruz. No matter the final outcome of the Series, you can bet Napoli is getting a hefty raise this off-season, much of which will be paid for by the increased sales of Mike Napoli jerseys at the Rangers Gift Shop!

All this was pre-ordained, by the way. After mentioning this in the previous post, it came to be. 18-Year-Ranger-Fan procured a ticket to Game 5 after being at game 4 the night before. The win now gives 18 an incredible 8-game winning streak on 2011 Rangers games attended! Now I’m trying to figure out how to get him to St. Louis for Wednesday’s game!

One game to go. One win away from seeing this fan’s 41-year quest for a World Series Championship for his team come to fruition at last.

Wednesday can’t come too soon, because I truly think it happens in Game 6.

Worst To First: Rangers 4, Cardinals 0

Saturday night, the Rangers had their worst pitching performance in their brief World Series history. Sunday night, they had their best.

Derek Holland came within two outs of becoming the first AL pitcher in 20 years to pitch a World Series shutout, tossing 8 1/3 innings of 2-hit ball in totally shutting down the same Cardinals attack that scored 16 runs just the night before, tying the Series up at two games apiece.

For awhile, I was afraid this was going to be a game in which the Rangers missed opportunities were going to haunt them. Texas had baserunners against Edwin Jackson every inning of the game, but through six innings, they had just a single first inning run to show for it on an Elvis Andrus single and Josh Hamilton double. Jackson wasn’t fooling many hitters. The Rangers sent countless balls deep into the outfield, but none of them had quite enough carry to make any difference. Jackson was even working his way around five walks through the first six innings.

The dam finally broke in the 7th, when Jackson walked his sixth and seventh batters of the night, finally forcing a pitching change. Mike Napoli proceeded to deposit Mitchell Boggs’ first pitch over the left field wall, in what looked like a home run that was a few feet higher than Albert Pujols’ second home run of the night Saturday night, making it 4-0.

Holland and Neftali Feliz did the rest.

It was easily the best pitching performance in the Rangers brief nine games worth of World Series history. Dutch allowed only two hits to Lance Berkman, walked two, struck out seven and was throwing harder in the 8th and 9th innings than he was in the first and second.

There were omens for me before the game even started. One year ago, on Halloween night, I attended Game 4 of the Series against the Giants. The Cowboys lost earlier in the day and so did the Rangers. In fact, they were shut out 4-0. A year later, the Cowboys won their home game in the afternoon (against St. Louis, no less). Good omen #1.

Good omen #2 was my first-born, 18-year-Ranger-Fan, who was in the stands for this one. The term stands is literal. He had a standing room only ticket. He plans to write a post for this space tomorrow. 18-Year has been to more Rangers games than I this year and he entered tonight’s game having witnessed six consecutive Rangers wins in his trips to the ballpark, the most recent with me at the next to last home game of the regular season. He now has a seven game winning streak. Could someone please get him a ticket for Monday night’s game???

This has been one outstanding World Series. The narrative changes after every game. Everything I heard from the time Saturday night’s game ended to the start of Sunday’s game was about the Cardinals outstanding offense and how it would be very tough for Texas to get back into the Series now that the Cards’ offense had been let out of the bottle.

Derek Holland shut the bottle back up tonight. It’s now a best of three series. Fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride!

Shell Shocked: Cardinals 16, Rangers7

Matt Harrison deserved so much better. In another edition of proving Ron Washington’s axiom “That’s the way baseball go”, Harrison actually didn’t pitch all that badly but ended up on the hook for the loss as the Cardinals pummeled the Rangers to take a 2-1 lead in the World Series.

Cardinals fans and sports viewers in general will take Albert Pujols’ three majestic homers as the story of the game. Majestic as they were, all three came after the Cardinals were ahead, so I wouldn’t say they were key to the victory. Impressive, yes. Key, no.

What opened the floodgates was a bad call by an umpire. On a double play grounder, Ian Kinsler’s throw to Mike Napoli was wide of the bag at first. Still, Napoli caught the ball and slapped the tag on Matt Holliday’s back a full stride before he stepped on the bag. Unfortunately for Texas, this was totally missed by the first base umpire. To be fair, pitchers have to learn to shake off bad calls like this and Harrison didn’t. He got rattled and the next thing you know, a 1-0 Cardinals lead had turned into a 5-0 lead and Harrison was out of the game.

Not a single Rangers reliever came out of the rest of the game unscathed. Scott Feldman, Alexi Ogando, Mike Gonzalez, Mark Lowe and Darren Oliver all had at least one run charged to them as St. Louis, and Pujols in particular, kept the punishment going to the end. I was a little surprised the Rangers didn’t intentionally walk Pujols on the at bat where he got his second dinger, but I guess Washington felt the Cards were already up by a substantial margin so they might as well try to pitch to him.

The Rangers tried to make a game of it after falling behind by five. They scored three in the fourth, chasing Kyle Lohse and making it 5-3. The Cardinals added three in the top of the 5th to make it 8-3. Texas closed to within 8-6 in the bottom of the 5th, but the Redbirds added four more in the top of the sixth to make it 12-6. The game was effectively over at that point.

I can handle a defeat. What really chapped me as a Rangers fan is this was a loss that featured atypical Rangers baseball. Ian Kinsler, who had the best defensive season of his career in 2011 had his second error of the series on an easy grounder, plus the wide throw at first that resulted in the blown call. Elvis Andrus, whose errors are mostly of the throwing variety, had a boot on another easy grounder.

Meanwhile, Harrison looked like the regular season Matt Harrison from the start, the first inning home run off him notwithstanding. Harry was under control, fluid in his motion, had good stuff, everything that portended an extended inning start until the disaster of the fourth inning hit.

The Texas offense finally came alive, but it was always in a come from behind effort. Worse, they let the Cardinals bullpen off the hook by not making them burn through more of their bullpen tonight. Now it’s the Texas bullpen in trouble for the next two games, as only Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz sat out the game.

Once again the Rangers find themselves on the ropes. It’s up to Derek Holland to turn the tide on Sunday.

I do not want the Texas Rangers to become known as the Buffalo Bills of Major League Baseball. Time to turn it around.

Gut Check: Rangers 2, Cardinals 1

It took 17 2/3 innings for the Texas Rangers to take their first lead in the World Series. With an offense even more tepid in Game 2 than it had been in Game 1, Texas entered the ninth inning of play three puts away from going down 0-2 in their second consecutive World Series.

Those who follow my musings in the Twitter-verse and a good friend of mine sure knew where my mind-set was after eight innings of play. Plain and simple, I probably wouldn’t qualify to be part of a Ron Washington team. They never give up, they believe they can come back and just keep working, having confidence everything will work out in the end.

I, on the other hand, mentioned I had no fingernails left, that I was feeling like the e-Trade Baby (“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…”) and how much I hate being so pessimistic about my team.

The Rangers, though, kept working. Waiting for their chance. They finally got it in the ninth inning.

Trailing 1-0, with only three outs to work with, Ian Kinsler opened the inning with a little flair off Cardinals closer Jason Motte that just managed to find the right place in the outfield to drop in for a single. Elvis Andrus, who had an incredible night defensively tonight but has not been very good offensively in the post-season, came to the plate. I was just asking myself, “Will Wash give up an out in the 9th to get Ian to 2nd?” when it appeared that’s exactly what Wash was planning on doing. Elvis squared, but took ball one.

What followed was a prime example of both guts and how inches and split seconds can determine a ball game. Kinsler took off with the pitch, Andrus waved at it. Yadier Molina gunned it to second. And Kinsler got in just ahead of the throw. I’m willing to bet the difference was less than half a second between the time Kinsler’s hand hit the bag and the tag hit him. Safe he was, though. All of a sudden, there was no need for Andrus to bunt.

Fox analyst Tim McCarver then became prescient, predicting Andrus would go to right to try to move Kinsler over. Five seconds later, Elvis was smacking a pitch into right for a single, sending Kinsler to third. Third base coach Dave Anderson threw the stop sign up. The throw from right glanced off Albert Pujols’ glove on its way to Molina. That gave Andrus the split second he needed to take off for second. Molina’s throw to second once again came a hair too late. Runners on 2nd and 3rd, nobody out, bringing up the incredible hurting groin, aka Josh Hamilton.

Tony La Russa aka “The Infallible Genius” decided it was time to bring in Arthur Rhodes to face Hamilton. Rhodes succeeded in that role in Game 1. I just prayed that Hamilton, whose groin injury has sapped him of much of his power, would be able to get just enough oomph on the ball to send a medium depth fly ball to the outfield. On Rhodes’ first pitch (not surprising for Hamilton), Josh complied with my wish, sending one out deep enough to right to score Kinsler with the tying run. More importantly, it was just deep enough for Elvis to tag at second and make it to 3rd base with one out.

Goodbye, Arthur Rhodes. Hello Lance Lynn. At that point, I almost didn’t care if the top of the 9th ended in a 1-1 tie. The odds now solidly favored the Rangers. Texas had burned through most of the Cardinals bullpen while only using two bullpen pieces themselves. Michael Young, however, decided it was time to complete the comeback, lofting another medium depth fly to score Andrus with the go-ahead run. 2-1 Rangers going into the bottom of the 9th.

Neftali Feliz didn’t make it easy, walking Yadier Molina on five pitches to start the inning. Feliz’ fastball got Nick Punto to foul off two bunt attempts before striking him out for the first out. Feliz got a second strikeout before Rafael Furcal flied to right to end the game.

What an incredible finish and what a disappoint for both Colby Lewis and Jaime Garcia, both of whom pitched well enough to win. I was discouraged from the start when the Rangers went down in order each of the first three innings. I mentioned in a post a couple days ago that Garcia is just the type of pitcher the Rangers have a hard time with if they’ve never faced him before. Sure enough, Garcia was poison to the Rangers bats all night. On the other hand, Colby Lewis was nails for the Rangers and finally gave Texas a quality start, their first since Lewis did it in the ALDS against Tampa Bay. It was a start the Rangers very badly needed and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Here we are, tied at one game apiece after two games. Tied at four runs apiece after two games. It’s now a best of five series with three of the five games in Texas.

Texas was staring at the abyss and found their way out of it. Game 2 was drama at its best.

No Offense: Cards 3, Rangers 2

What a shame. A very winnable game turns into a loss and, once again, the Rangers are looking at a must win on the road to avoid starting the World Series in an 0-2 rut.

CJ Wilson: Not great but good enough to win on most nights. Bullpen: Exceptional again. Unfortunately, the first batter for St. Louis to face the Rangers bullpen got a hit and that was the difference in the game.

I could rail about the patently absurd second out call on Adrian Beltre in the 9th inning, but it probably wouldn’t have made a difference in the game anyway. I just don’t understand how an experienced umpire can’t tell a ball has hit a player before entering the field of play. If nothing else, a player can’t fake being hit as quickly as Beltre reacted. For all I know, Beltre would have been out on the next pitch. Nonetheless, for an umpire that was an inexcusable error.

My total amount of time spent watching the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011 before tonight probably comprised a total of an hour and a half of time and most of that was in the playoffs. After one game, here are my impressions: 1) David Freese may be a good hitter, but as a third baseman he makes Michael Young look like Adrian Beltre in comparison. 2) Albert Pujols deserves every ounce of respect he’s given. 3) I was very surprised by Chris Carpenter’s body language. After reading Zach Greinke’s comments about how Carpenter’s mean look being an act, I never saw a mean look out of Carpenter tonight. If anything, his facial language looked negative most of the evening. 4) Yadier Molina’s arm is as good as advertised.

The Cards were good tonight. Credit to them. The Rangers pitching was good tonight. The Rangers defense was good tonight. The Rangers offense was not good tonight.

I know Carpenter is a good pitcher, but Texas really blew it against him tonight. I place this loss firmly on the Rangers offensive line-up. The Carpenter that pitched tonight was a pitcher Texas usually handles well and they didn’t, except for Mike Napoli and his no doubt shot over the right field fence.

Curious move of the night: Why did Ron Washington choose to send Esteban German to the plate as a pinch hitter for Ogando? The man hadn’t stepped to the plate since September 25th. Why not Yorvit Torrealba? I’d rather see Matt Treanor in that spot than German. I read a tweet that said statistically it wasn’t such a bad move, but I just can’t go along with it. I understood Gentry pinch-hitting the at bat before that. With one out, he was a speedy guy who’d be less apt to ground into a double play. German, though…Just don’t get it.

Longtime Rangers fan Pessimism Onset: Fans like me who have rooted for this team through over 40 years of mostly mediocrity get fits of positivity periodically: the positivity that we’re about to go down to defeat. Tonight’s point of positivity? When Arthur Rhodes came in to face Josh Hamilton in the 8th. Rhodes began 2011 with the Rangers. He failed miserably as a Ranger. He was released when Koji Uehara and Mike Adams were acquired. So naturally, the guy who was such a poor fit in Texas, took care of last year’s MVP with an easy fly out. I could blame it on Hamilton’s strained groin, which will likely affect his hitting throughout the Series, but it’s easier to chalk it up to another example of what being a long-time Rangers fan is like. The other shoe always seems to drop.

The onus is now on Colby Lewis to right the ship. Actually the onus is on the Rangers offense to perform like they should be performing. I’ll be the first to admit Game 2 has worried me since before the Series began. Jaime Garcia is the type of pitcher that has given the Rangers fits the last couple of years: a guy they’ll be seeing for the first time who may be more of a finesse pitcher than power pitcher. If that happens, Game 3 will find Texas in an 0-2 hole at the outset.

I still have confidence in my team. I just know that right now, as I write this, the Rangers team has more confidence in themselves than I have.

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