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.

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