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.''