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Rangers have been down before
Texas manager Ron Washington keeps things simple, even when the Rangers make things seem difficult.
So there he was, walking into the clubhouse in the aftermath of an 11-7 loss to San Francisco at AT&T Park in the Rangers' World Series debut Wednesday.
"He said, 'Let’s get them tomorrow. It’s been a while since we had an ass-whuppin' like that,'" Rangers third baseman Michael Young said.
The ace the Rangers added to their deck at midseason, Cliff Lee, failed to survive five innings and combined with four relievers to allow the Giants to score as many runs in one game as they had scored in the four games of the NL Division Series against Atlanta.
"He’s been so consistent with everything you tend to think every time he goes out, it’s going to be the same," club president and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan said. "But it’s not that easy."
Moreover, a defense that had been strong in the first two rounds of the postseason committed a season-high four errors.
"Jitters didn’t have anything to do with it," Washington said when asked about the Rangers being in the World Series for the first time.
The offense had added three ninth-inning runs that made a humbling Game 1 of the best-of-seven World Series seem closer than it was.
"They played well," Young said. "Give them credit."
This is a Texas team that was never seriously challenged in the AL West. A team that, in the AL Division Series, knocked off a Tampa Bay team that won more regular-season games (96) than anybody else in the AL. Then, they humbled the New York Yankees, their longtime postseason nemesis in the ALCS.
But on this night, the Rangers were so bad that there was no sense even trying to put earrings on the pig.
"We’ve had games that were forgettable before," Ryan said. "This was just Game 1 in a best-of-seven series. That’s how we have to look at it. Can’t get too caught up in one game. It’s over."
Truth be told, this game was over long before the announced three hours and 36 minutes time of game.
Unable to provide a knockout punch to Giants starter Tim Lincecum, who somehow escaped a 38-pitch, two-inning fiasco to open the game — which included Lee being the first AL pitcher since the DH came into existence in 1973 to have a World Series double.
And then, the Rangers' own ace, Lee, was knocked out in the midst of a six-run, Giants' fifth inning in which five of the runs were scored with two outs.
So much for perfection.
Lee had been 7-0 in his eight previous postseason endeavors. He had allowed one earned run or less seven of those eight games. But against the offensively challenged Giants he was charged with seven runs — six earned — while getting only 14 outs.
Seven runs? In 172 previous games this season — including 10 in the first two rounds of the postseason — the Giants had scored as many as seven runs only 10 times. Heck, they scored 11 or more only seven times.
But they got seven runs in 4 2/3 innings against Lee, and a total of 11 runs in the eight innings that they batted against the Rangers pitching in the game. The Rangers did bungle their way into trouble, but those four errors only led to one officially unearned run.
"It’s why critics and predictions don’t mean anything in this game," Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "I don’t know how many people said last spring the Giants and Rangers would be playing in the World Series, but we’re here."
Finally, the Rangers are here. Fifty years in existence — 11 as the expansion Washington Senators and the last 39 in Texas — and the franchise finally advanced past the opening round of the postseason.
And that’s what they had been waiting for, a drubbing by the Giants that only looked like it was close because the Rangers chipped away at what was a seven-run deficit.
"There has to be a winner, and there has to be a loser," said Kinsler, showing he has mastered Washington’s art of keeping things simple.
"(Wednesday) we were not the winner. We just have to come back and play again Thursday."
No sense reliving that ugliness that will be forever remembered as the bottom of the fifth. It was an inning that began with Lee inducing a ground out from Lincecum. After back-to-back doubles by Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez gave the Giants a 3-2 lead, Lee struck out Buster Posey.
And then …
Pat Burrell, who struck out against Lee in both the second and third innings, worked him for a seven-pitch walk, and Cody Ross, who had followed up Burrell’s strikeouts with strikeouts of his own in the second and third, bounced a 1-2 pitch up the middle for an RBI single.
After the left-handed-hitting Aubrey Huff followed with an RBI-single, Lee found himself on the bench as an observer when Juan Uribe capped off the rally by greeting reliever Darren O’Day with a three-run home run.
"I saw the Giants work him pretty good,’’ Washington said.
Emphasis on the past tense.
"We can’t worry about what happened," Young said. "We have another game (Thursday). We just have to move on."
So far, the Rangers have been pretty good at moving on, even in the ALCS when the Yankees rallied from a 5-1, eight-inning deficit to pull out a 6-5 victory that not only gave New York 10 consecutive postseason victories against the Rangers, but left the Rangers winless in their seven home games that make up their minimal postseason history.
The Rangers response?
Five games later, they had earned the first AL pennant in franchise history, rebounding with a 7-2 victory in Game 2 and back-to-back wins in Games 3 and 4 at Yankee Stadium, 2-0 and 10-3. The Yankees did win Game 5, 7-2, but all that did was allow the Rangers to return to their home park for a series-clinching Game 6 victory.
"Resiliency has been a characteristic of this team," Kinsler said. "You try to be perfect in this game, but it isn’t going to happen. The big thing for us is we always believe in ourselves. It’s allowed us to overcome a lot. No sense changing all that now."
But then, that’s how the Rangers win.
Washington has seen to that.