I know many times that I joke and hash-tag, #CardiacBaseball, when referring to the way the Texas Rangers play baseball. But after that night...seriously guys...SERIOUSLY!!! If the remaining games of the 2011 Fall Classic are going to be like the first two, I might have to go out and buy myself a defibrillator! And I'm only half joking, I really though I was going to go into cardiac arrest in the ninth inning last night.
During the first eight innings of Game Two, my emotions ranged back-n-forth from intrigue to calm to annoyance to frustration to fear to depression. The depression hit hard during the eighth inning, when I was ready to go onto a rant. A rant that would have included stats like: the Rangers scored seven runs in their first World Series game in 2010, since then, over the next five games and eight innings, they have scored a combined seven runs...BWFESAIFAF!
Then I would have reiterated the frustration from Game 1 that the Rangers would have scored 2 or less runs in 5 of the 7 World Series games and would have been 0-5 in those games...BWFESAIFAF!
Next, how anemic the offense has been the past two Fall Classics...the third time being shutout...the missed scoring opportunities...the inability to hit NL pitching...BWFESAIFAF!
BWFESAIFAF...But winning fixes everything, so all is forgiving and forgotten!
This is the absolute beauty of baseball! In baseball, a team...a player can go from goat to hero in one inning...in one at-bat...in ONE PITCH! And this is October baseball, so that logic is multiplied. In October baseball, the little things win games. Changes, adjustments, events NOT in a box score, that's the difference between winning and losing.
Ian Kinsler's leadoff single: Ian did what he can do so well, and that is work a count. In his at-bat against Cardinals "closer" Jason Motte (opponent's hitting 1-28 in the postseason off him) it was vital. Kinsler worked the count to 2-2 and then lifted "a lawn dart" (Michael Young) between LF, CF, and SS. Not in the box score: The Cardinals were playing no-doubles defense, so LF Matt Holliday and CF Jon Jay were playing deeper than usual. If Holliday is in his normal position, this is more than likely a fly-out to left.
Kinsler steal of second: It will always be seen as simply, SB. Not in the box score: The accuracy of St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina's throw, the quick tag, the slide, the width of a hair on Scott Feldman's beard between the tag and Kinsler body when his hand first touches second base. Not to mention the ensuing Ranger players, coaches, front office execs, and fans who in the immediate aftermath had to re-teach themselves how to breathe.
Elvis Andrus's single: Mired in a terrible postseason slump (8-45, .177) and hitless in the World Series at this moment, Andrus drove a 2-2 breaking ball into centerfield. Not in the box score: We all know it right now, but in the very near future, every single one of us will forget that Andrus, at first, was attempting to bunt and was unsuccessful at it. Had he been successful, it is very arguable that the Rangers only tie the game or eventually lose it, as Hamilton would have been walked to setup the double play.
Kinsler's being held at thrid and Andrus taking second base: As Kinsler rounded third base on the Andrus single, third base coach Dave Anderson threw up the STOP sign and Ian reacted almost a tad too late. But he stopped and safely returned to third. Andrus, stopping at first base after the hit, used "superhero" instincts and his pure, aggressive base-running ability to immediately accelerate to second base on the wild throw into the infield. Tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position with still 0 outs. Not in the box score: Albert Pujols makes a clean catch of Jay's throw from center and he could have easily gotten Ian out at third. Or even if he didn't make the throw, stopping the ball would have kept Andrus at first base and completely changes the situation.
Josh Hamilton's RBI SacFly scores Kinsler, Andrus moves up to third base: Tony La Russa pulls his "closer" Motte for the 41-year-old left-hander Arthur Rhodes, to pitch to Josh Hamilton. First pitch, Hamilton launches a hanging slider to "deep-enough" RF that not only allows Kinsler to score easily, but Andrus is able to take third base. Not in the box score: Anyone watching Rangers baseball the past month, this season, the last 4 years can tell you that Hamilton loves first pitch strikes. He swings at them more than anyone in the league. And Rhodes first pitch was grooved right for him, in a situation in which he had 2 primary plans: 1) Score Kinsler and 2) Move Andrus to third. Mission Accomplished! Thanks Arthur, and thanks Tony.
Michael Young's RBI SacFly scores Andrus: After the one unsuccessful pitch from Rhodes, La Russa pulled him and brought in RHP Lance Lynn to face Young. Young, just like Hamilton had a simple goal, get the ball deep enough to score Andrus from third. He watched as the first three pitches missed the zone, then on a 3-2 pitch he lifted a deep, fly ball to right-center, allowing Andrus to basically jog home and take the lead. Not in the box score: The go-ahead run at third...first base open...the Rangers' all-time Mr. Clutch hitter at the plate...the hero of Game 6 of the ALCS...ONE OUT!!! Am I the only one here?!?!?! You walk Young, setup the INNING-ENDING DOUBLE PLAY, face Beltre (1-3, 2 Ks) and maybe Cruz (0-3, 1 K). I understand that Beltre or Cruz in that situation could hit a 2-run double or 3-run Home Run, but they could just as easily strikeout or worse...the double play ball.
Those six consecutive moments last night are the perfect example of what Wash preaches to his players,"do what baseball asks you to do."
It was only the third time in the 618 World Series games ever played that a team down 1-0 going to the ninth came back to win. The 1911 Philadelphia A's, led by Home Run Baker defeated the legendary Christy Mathewson and the 1985 Kansas City Royals capitalized on first base umpire Don Denkinger's missed call.
Baseball is a funny sport, where that one inning...that one at-bat...that one pitch can completely change the tide of a series. In a near blink of an eye, the Rangers have gone from down 0-2 to splitting the two games in St. Louis. The team has proved to itself 1) they can hit the Cards bullpen, 2) they can beat "closer" Jason Motte, 3) with the hitters they have the game is NEVER over till it's over. Finally the Rangers 2-3-4 hitters (Andrus-Hamilton-Young) have all been struggling this postseason, and in one inning that could have changed.
I didn't go into detail on the negative, so I'll do the same with the positive. It is just ONE game, and you have to win the other three for it really to matter. If you don't win the series, then Game Two is only remembered as a fun night when things went right, but if you can win the whole series, then it's franchise-altering.
The Rangers made some mistakes, some mental miscues, but when you win they are viewed back as comical, laughable, and talked about as near moments of disaster. When you lose games and have those same mental miscues and don't do the little things to win games, then they are moments that will forever haunt you. Had the 1986 Red Sox won Game 7, Bill Buckner's error is a comical moment. Had the 2003 Cubs stopped bleeding runs or won Game 7, then Steve Bartman is just another guy in a ball cap.
History won't remember Colby Lewis' 6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 4 Ks, and ending a postseason record of 11 straight Ranger starters not completing six innings. History won't remember Jaime Garcia's masterful performance over 7 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts. History won't remember that PH Allen Craig became the first player to ever have two pinch-hit RBI to take the lead in World Series history. True, that right now we all remember it, in the offseason we will remember it, but weeks, months, years from now all that will be remembered is the 9th inning.