Texas returns to World Series with boom, purpose

The Texas Rangers are back in the World Series with a boom and a

purpose.

Just getting there isn’t enough this time.

”We’ve got that experience,” Ian Kinsler said. ”It wasn’t a

very good one, but we have the experience.”

Texas waited a half-century to finally play in their first World

Series before losing to San Francisco in five games last year. They

quickly have another chance to win their first championship.

The Rangers won their second consecutive American League pennant

after an unprecedented playoff power display by Nelson Cruz, who

had six home runs and 13 RBIs in the six-game AL championship

series. They beat Detroit 15-5 in the clincher after a nine-run

outburst in the third inning.

”It was a group commitment. We weren’t very happy with the

results (against the Giants), and we certainly knew that we were a

better team than we showed,” manager Ron Washington said before

relaying what Michael Young told teammates after last year’s World

Series.

The message from the team’s longest-tenured player: ”Enjoy your

winter, but don’t turn it off mentally. We’re capable of getting

back.”

And they were, even without Cliff Lee.

The franchise that began as the expansion Washington Senators in

1961, then moved to Texas in 1972 with Ted Williams as its manager,

opens another World Series on Wednesday night at St. Louis or

Milwaukee.

The World Series returns deep into the heart of Texas with Game

3 on Saturday night.

”It’s amazing but I have to say that I couldn’t be prouder for

this group of men,” team president and CEO Nolan Ryan said. ”They

came together this spring on a mission, with one thing in mind. And

this is the stepping stone of what they want to get it done, and

that’s to win a world championship.”

The Rangers had a day off Sunday. They will work out at home

Monday afternoon, then fly to the National League city the

following morning.

Hall of Fame pitcher Ryan got to only one World Series as a

player, as a 22-year-old reliever for the 1969 Amazin’ Mets. He’s

going to his second in a row as a team executive since the

ownership group he is part of finally acquired the Rangers in

August 2010.

Texas is the AL’s first consecutive pennant winner since the New

York Yankees won four in a row from 1998-01.

”We know what we’re capable of. Last year, we knew we had a

group of guys and knew we could go on a run like this. And here we

are again,” said Young, in his 11th season with Texas. ”Nothing’s

going to sneak up on us in the World Series. We know that the

environment is going to be like. … We’ll be ready for it.”

Before last year, the Rangers had won only one playoff game.

They had never won a playoff series, getting knocked out of the

postseason by the Yankees in 1996, 1998 and 1999 AL division

series.

Now they will try to be the first team since the Oakland

Athletics in 1989 to win the World Series a year after losing

it.

”That’s what we set out to do in spring training. We were three

games shy last season,” pitcher Colby Lewis said. ”That’s what

it’s all about. We put ourselves in that situation to go back and

do it.”

Lee spent the second half of last season in Texas after being

acquired in a trade. But the ace left-hander turned down a $138

million, six-year offer to stay and instead returned to

Philadelphia in free agency.

The Phillies won a franchise-record 102 games and their fifth

consecutive NL East title. They didn’t make it out of the first

round of the playoffs.

Texas set its own franchise record by winning 96 games, then won

an AL division series rematch with Tampa Bay before facing the

Tigers.

An ALCS that had been so tight – the Rangers won the opener 3-2,

then had two 11-inning victories before Detroit extended the series

with a rally sparked by a likely double-play grounder that

ricocheted off third base – ended with the highest-scoring playoff

game since 2004.

Cruz missed 29 games because of two stints on the disabled list

(strained right quadriceps, left hamstring strain). He returned in

mid-September and was still getting back in the swing of things

when the playoffs started.

After going 1 for 15 with a single in the ALDS against Tampa

Bay, Cruz hit a solo homer in the ALCS opener. And he was just

getting started against the Tigers.

There were two homers in Game 2, a tying blast leading off the

seventh before the first game-ending grand slam in postseason

history four innings later. Cruz homered in all four Texas

victories and became the first player with extra-inning homers in

two games in one playoff series.

”Coming down the stretch, he really didn’t have a whole lot of

at-bats, but he kept battling and he kept working, kept believing,

his teammates supported him,” Washington said. ”At the end, it

all came together.”