In Game 3, World Series given new life by Rangers and their fans
ARLINGTON, TEX. -- This was the cheer-drenched night when the Texas Rangers found their way out of the baseball wilderness at last and marched into the center of the sport's universe, the World Series.
After 39 years without even one such a grand occasion, you might think they'd have arrived with sagebrush dragging from their cleats and the scraggly beards of dry-hole wildcatters. Instead, they wore crisp white uniforms, blue hats and grins.
From the moment, half-an-hour before the first pitch, that the record crowd of 52,419 was told, "It's time to get your antlers up," the bellows began. Toto, we're not in Yankee Stadium any more.
By the time rookie Mitch Moreland hit a three-run homer off the Giants' Jonathan Sanchez in the second inning, igniting a 4-2 win in Game 3 of this Series, Rangers Ballpark was up for grabs from the dugout box seats to the top bleacher row. For one night, Texas embraced every Ranger single as if it were a home run and erupted for actual homers as if they were . . . well . . . touchdowns.
Many a town understands this concept of the baseball "wilderness." It takes different forms. The Red Sox waited 86 years between world titles until '04; the next year, the White Sox ended an 88-year drought. The Cubs are at 983 years and counting. Even the Giants haven't won a Series since they moved to California in '58.
But the Rangers are in a different category entirely: the franchise that has never even gotten to a Series. Now, there are only two such entities left - the Seattle Mariners and Washington Nationals, ex-Montreal Expos.
This Series night, the same jubilant scene with its own unique rich wrinkles, will come to both those places. No one knows when. That's the torment. But, as North Texas can attest after this night, it's a big part of the crescendo of released pleasure, too.
Hereabouts, baseball may be something that fans follow during the 17.3 days a year when there's no regular season football or spring football or preseason football. But, for one night, all the years when the Rangers were a punch line - as well as those last 11 seasons in Washington when they were the expansion Senators - could be forgotten. This was real baseball at its apex.
However, Rangers fans, especially if there are considerably more of them in future years, will have to give extra credit to those who keyed this victory. Those 72/3 victorious innings by Colby Lewis, who allowed solo homers to Cody Ross and Andres Torres, weren't just delivered in any old Series game. Moreland's homer, as well as a monstrous solo shot by Ranger superstar Josh Hamilton, carried far more than normal weight.
This wasn't merely the first Series game ever played here. It would also, almost certainly, have been the last meaningful game in this 106th Series if the Rangers hadn't won it. Now, this Giants-Rangers affair has come to life. With Cliff Lee on tap for Texas in Game 5, it's now the Giants who'll feel roughly as much pressure in Game 4 as Texas, even though San Francisco is ahead.
Some postseason games are elimination games. However, in baseball, there is also such a thing as a de facto elimination game. If you fall behind by two games to none, then you must win Game 3 or you're dead. And everybody knows it.
Sure, there's one exception - the '04 Red Sox against the Yankees. But that legend was bred of a blood feud generations old.