Senin, 02 Januari 2012

A Recap of Game 6 and how Texas may have Missed Their Opportunity

After Brian Wilson struck out Nelson Cruz to end the 2010 World Series, to give the Cinderella Giants their first West Coast Championship, Texas Rangers owner Nolan Ryan walked through the Rangers clubhouse. He noticed that his players were not just looking back at their 2010 season, but they were looking ahead as well. They were determined to return in 2011 with a vengeance. They wanted to get back to the Fall Classic and win it. As the offseason unfolded, and Cliff Lee went to Philadelphia, Vladimir Guerrero went to Baltimore, and the Boston Red Sox looked like a powerhouse, the Rangers flew under the radar. Some moves were made. Mike Napoli was brought in from Toronto, and Adrian Beltre was signed to play third base. The main focus by critics was that Texas lacked pitching depth. They play the games for a reson though.

The Rangers made some deadline moves in July. They acquired Mike Adams from San Diego and Koji Uehara from Baltimore to strengthen their bullpen. The Rangers clinched the AL West and were looked at by some as a sleeper team in the American League. They clobbered Tampa Bay, and out slugged Detroit to get back to the World Series. They got through the difficult part of getting back. Now, they were 4 wins away from bringing Texas a long awaited World Series Championship. They faced the St. Louis Cardinals, a team that stunned the baseball world by defeating the three best teams in the National League on their way to the franchise's 18th pennant.

In the Fall Classic, both teams split the first two games in St. Louis, while Texas took two out of three in Arlington. The series returned to St. Louis with Texas up 3 games to 2. A sloppy game 6 unfolded in the first six innings. Then in the seventh, the Rangers got 3 runs on back-to-back home runs by Nelson Cruz and Adrian Beltre. An Ian Kinsler RBI single gave Texas a 7-4 lead. They were 9 outs away. Allan Craig hit a 1 out home run to left in the 8th, but the Cardinals went down quietly the rest of the inning.

Neftali Feliz jogged in from the Texas bullpen for the biggest save of his life. The young closer had demonstrated control problems earlier in the postseason but he had not blown a save opportunity. Ryan Theriot struck out. Albert Pujols doubled to left-center. Feliz walked Berkman. Allan Craig came up again and struck out. The Rangers were one out away. Up stepped David Freese. The hometown hero from St. Louis, and the NLCS MVP would not go down without a fight. With two strikes on him, Feliz rocked back and fired a pitch on the outer part of the plate. Freese swung and lofted a fly ball to right field. The Rangers were playing a no-doubles defense. The ball had to be caught by Cruz. He drifted back and leaped, but the ball hit the wall and rocketed off. Pujols and Berkman scored. Freese slid to third with the biggest hit of his career at that moment. The Cardinals were still alive. The next batter Yadier Molina lined out to right field to end the inning. This game was going to extra innings.

The first extra inning game in the World Series since 2005 went to the 10th inning. With one out, Elvis Andrus singled and Josh Hamilton stepped to the plate. While standing on the on deck circle, Hamilton had a conversation with the LORD. Hamilton said the LORD told him he would hit a home run. He did. Hamilton blasted a 2-run home run to right field and Texas was back in front. Darren Oliver came in to try to finish it up. He allowed back to back lead off singles. Kyle Lohse pinch hit and had a sacrifice bunt. Scott Feldman came in with the tying runs in scoring postion. He got Ryan Theriot to ground out to third. A run scored but Texas still lead 9-8. Albert Pujols was intentionally walked and Lance Berkman came up. The Rangers got the scount to 2-2 and they were again one strike away. Berkman battled and lined a single to center field. The tying run crossed the plate and St. Louis battled back again. Texas got out of the inning but the damage was done. In the 11th, St. Louis walked off as the hometown hero, David Freese, homered to center field. The game was over, St. Louis had won.

The Rangers never got that final strike and St. Louis won game 7, 6-2. Flash-forward to December and CJ Wilson has gone home to Southern California. The Rangers lost their ace, and then moved Neftali Feliz to the rotation. The Rangers AL West rivals, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, aquired Wilson and Pujols and now some feel that the Angels could be the favorites in the West. Have the Rangers missed their opportunity? Can their rotation hold up with the Angels and can it stand the long, and hot Texas summers? They were one strike away from winning it all, and now they must wait to try and get back to the World Series for a third straight year. Their best opportunity may have passed them, but as I said before, they play the games for a reason. We'll have to wait and see if Texas can make it a three-peat and see if they can get over the hump and win the World Series, or if their window of opportunity has really closed.

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