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.