Friday, October 28, 2011

It Was Theirs To Lose, And They Did

I am reeling from the dramatic sixth game of the World Series played last night. The Texas Rangers had a 3-2 lead in games over the St. Louis Cardinals and the opportunity to win the series and gain their first baseball World Championship.

Playing on the road, the Rangers struck first, and, with the exception of a first-inning two-run homer by Lance Berkman, Rangers' starting pitcher Colby Lewis did well and gave his team a chance to win. Rangers' hitters produced repeatedly with big longballs and timely hits when presented the chance by Cardinal miscues, giving the team leads of 1-0, 3-2, 4-3, 7-4, and then finally, in extra innings, 9-7.

Somehow, the Rangers bullpen managed to blow all five of those leads. The worst was Rangers closer Neftali Feliz allowing the Cardinals to score two runs in the bottom of the ninth with two out to tie the score at 7. The indelible memory I will keep of the game was of Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz drifting over, gloved arm outstretched for David Freese's long flyball, with the ball dropping a foot or two out of reach. Freese got a triple that scored the two tying runs, and the game went on.

When Josh Hamilton then hit a two-run homer in the tenth inning, it should have been over, but again the Rangers bullpen failed to seal the deal. This time it was less dramatic, with the balance of sloppy play now shifting to the Rangers' side, but once again the key hit came with two out and two strikes, this time a single from Berkman.

Finally, Freese put all of us out of our misery in the bottom of the 11th with a homer.

The word for the game is not "classic"--it was much too ugly for that--but something suggesting the manic excitement and sensation of risk of a roller coaster or a joyride in a stolen car. How about "cringeworthy"?

It is hard to imagine that the Rangers can put such a devastating loss behind them so quickly as to win the decisive Game 7 which will be played today. It would, however, fit with the improbable story line.

I should close by mentioning the most famous 10-9 baseball game prior to this one. It was Game 7 of the 1960 World Series between the Pirates and the Yankees, won by a walk-off homerun by Bill Mazeroski of the Pirates in the bottom of the ninth. I wasn't there, or barely cognizant, at the time, but the game appears to have had the same kind of topsy-turvy, back-and-forth dynamic (I don't know about the errors.) I'm not sure this will surpass it, because the truly decisive game is yet to be played, so in that regard it may be more like Game 6 of the Reds-Red Sox series won 7-6 by the BoSox by Carlton Fisk's homer, though I see that game as being more "classic" in terms of the quality of play.

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