By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 31, 2010; 12:11 AM
ARLINGTON, TEX. - A franchise that was born as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961, moved to Texas at the tender age of 10 and lived a mostly quiet, unremarkable existence as it entered middle age threw itself a raucous party Saturday night on the occasion of the first home World Series game in its history. It was big and loud and gaudy. The giddy guests arrived early, stayed late and best of all, went home happy.
The successful soiree, which resulted in a 4-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants in Game 3 of the World Series, did more than just reveal the charms of Rangers Ballpark and its denizens to baseball's biggest audience. It also altered the course of this series, which the Giants now lead, two games to one.
On a night when the Rangers absolutely could not afford to lose, right-hander Colby Lewis, one of the biggest revelations of this postseason, delivered another gem of a performance, pitching into the eighth inning and allowing only a pair of solo homers. The Rangers gave him a 4-0 lead on the backs of first baseman Mitch Moreland, who hit a three-run homer in the second inning, and Josh Hamilton, who added a solo homer in the fifth - and Lewis, with some help, made it hold up.
Sidearming set-up man Darren O'Day finished off the eighth in relief of Lewis, getting Buster Posey, representing the tying run, to ground out to shortstop, and closer Neftali Feliz - the forgotten man of the Rangers' bullpen, having not pitched in a game since Game 6 of the ALCS, eight days earlier - pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.
"The momentum, obviously we're down one game - but it's shifted," Hamilton said. "We're at home, we've got the fans behind us. We're right where we want to be."
Game 4 will be here Sunday night, with Rangers right-hander Tommy Hunter facing Giants rookie left-hander Madison Bumgarner.
The atmosphere for Game 3 could not have differed more from that of Games 1 and 2 in San Francisco had the game been played on Mars. Instead of the cosmopolitan cool of baseball by the bay, this was baseball deep in the heart of suburbia, with everything from the music selection (heavy on country) to the headwear of choice (foam antlers) reminding you of where you were.
But the 52,419 fans on hand were no less enthusiastic than their West Coast counterparts. Tailgaters filled the parking lots three hours before first pitch and went nuts over the ceremonial first pitch, as the Rangers trotted out team President Nolan Ryan to throw to longtime Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez, currently a member of the Washington Nationals. Ryan went into a full windup and threw a fastball in the dirt that might have broken something had Rodriguez not scooped it up deftly.
"We wanted to get back home," Rangers Manager Ron Washington said. "We felt comfortable here. It feels great."
The king of the mound at Rangers Ballpark this postseason has not been ace left-hander Cliff Lee, who will make his first home start of these playoffs on Monday night. It has been the well-traveled, barrel-chested Lewis, who is now 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in this postseason - including the clinching win over the New York Yankees in Game 6 of the ALCS.
The well-traveled Lewis has found a home in Texas, where he is quickly becoming Don Drysdale to Lee's Sandy Koufax. Saturday night, he pounded the strike zone with quality pitches, shutting down an offense that had put up 20 runs in the first two games of the series. His night was marred only by the solo homers he allowed to Cody "Babe" Ross, on a belt-high, full-count fastball in the seventh, and to Andres Torres in the eighth.
"I think everybody knows who Colby Lewis is now," said Jeff Francoeur, the Rangers' right fielder. "We had to have this one. We had to have him pitch the way he did."
Lewis had breathing room, thanks largely to Moreland, an unlikely candidate to emerge as the Rangers' offensive star of the night. Moreland hadn't hit a homer off a lefty all season, and in fact rarely played at all against them.
But facing Giants lefty Jonathan Sanchez in the second, he delivered a classic, nine-pitch at-bat, in which he fouled off four straight 2-2 pitches, then unloaded on a lifeless, 89-mph fastball over the middle of the plate. The ballpark exploded in fireworks, loud music and frantic towel-waving, and the Rangers had a lead for the first time since the third inning of Game 1.
Said second baseman Ian Kinsler, "We played from ahead the whole game, and obviously, that's a little easier on the heart."
Three innings later, Hamilton crushed a hanging, 2-1 curveball into the second deck in right-center field, an estimated 426 feet away, making it 4-0. When Sanchez walked the next batter, his night was over. He left the mound looking for all the world like a young pitcher who had simply run out of gas at the end of his longest season.
For once, Giants Manager Bruce Bochy pulled some wrong levers. For his designated hitter, he chose long-lost third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who rewarded Bochy by going 0 for 3 with a strikeout and a double play. And suddenly, Bochy's faith in some of his veterans has the feel of desperation. Pat Burrell, his slumping left fielder, struck out four more times and is six for 38 with 19 strikeouts this postseason (0 for 9 with eight K's in this series).
"My night wasn't good," Burrell said. "Not exactly the way you draw it up in pregame preparations. I'm getting good pitches. I'm just not doing anything with them."
Will Burrell be benched for Game 4? Will the Giants try a new DH? Will the series head back to San Francisco a few days from now? Those are questions for another day. The Rangers' coming-out party is still going strong.