Texas-sized bummer: Rangers near elimination
Must-win Game 5 awaits after bats collect just three hits
ARLINGTON -- History says the Rangers are in trouble, but they aren't interested in hearing about it. They have been getting history lessons all summer and defying them.The Rangers just understand that their season is officially on the brink and they better start winning immediately -- as in Game 5 -- or the ultimate dream is going to come to a sudden end. "We have to win tomorrow," third baseman Michael Young said. "There's nothing beyond that. [We need to] play tomorrow like we're going to win tomorrow, and then we'll go from there." That's the position the Rangers put themselves in after managing just three hits over eight innings against rookie left-hander Madison Bumgarner in a 4-0 loss to the Giants in Game 4 of the World Series. The loss before 51,920 fans at the Ballpark in Arlington on Sunday night left the Rangers down 1-3 in the Series.
One more loss and their season is over."Their guy threw the ball well and we hit some balls hard at people," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "They beat us. That's it. Right now, Game 5 is it. There is no need to be down. We lose, we go home. We win, we keep going. You take the emotion out of it and play the game hard." The Rangers now try to become the sixth team to come back from being down 1-3 and win a seven-game World Series. The Pirates did it in 1925, the Yankees in '58, the Tigers in '68 and the Pirates again in '79. The Royals were the last team to do it, winning the '85 World Series with three straight over the Cardinals. "One-game elimination," outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. "But we've won three games in a row quite a bit during the season. We're capable of swinging the bats, and we have the right guy on the mound tomorrow." That would be Cliff Lee. He starts for the Rangers against Tim Lincecum for the Giants in Arlington. If Texas can win that one, it will force a Game 6 on Wednesday in San Francisco. If the Giants win, they are the World Series champions and the Rangers' season is over. "For me and probably everybody in this locker room, we're going to come in with the attitude that it's a must-win game," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "I think you have to approach it that way and come out ready to go, because you've got one of the best on the other side throwing at us." Lee has been great for most of the playoffs but allowed seven runs in 4 2/3 innings in an 11-7 loss in Game 1. Since then, it has been the Giants' pitching that has dominated the series, beginning with Matt Cain in Game 2. San Francisco won that game, 9-0, with Cain throwing 7 2/3 scoreless innings. After the Rangers salvaged Game 3 behind Colby Lewis, Bumgarner turned in the best performance by any pitcher in this series. He allowed three hits and two walks over eight innings while striking out six. He struck out Vladimir Guerrero three times, and the Rangers had just one at-bat with runners in scoring position. "Our job is to score runs no matter what," Young said. "He threw the ball well, but anytime you're in the postseason, you're going to face good pitching. We still have to find a way to score runs."
IT CAN BE DONE
The Rangers, after scoring seven runs in the first game, have scored just four in the next three. In their last 27 innings, they have 15 hits and nine walks. They also have just one hit in 16 at-bats with runners in scoring position."The offense has got to get working," outfielder Nelson Cruz said. "They scored four runs, but we can score five or six runs a game. They've got great pitching, no doubt, but our offense -- it's been hard to get going. You don't expect to get shut down twice like that, especially at home. We need more hits and more people on base." The Rangers were playing in front of the second-largest crowd in the history of the Ballpark, and the fans roared with an extended standing ovation when former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush drove to the pitcher's mound for the ceremonial first pitch. The younger Bush threw the pitch to club president Nolan Ryan, and the crowd cheered wildly.
But that was the high point of the evening. The crowd was taken out of the game early and never really got back into it the rest of the night."It's a little bit frustrating, because we know how we're capable of playing," center fielder Josh Hamilton said. "We're not playing up to our capability. It seems like we've gone a little cold. They're getting hits with runners in scoring position and we're not. That's what's been happening." Rangers starter Tommy Hunter took the loss, giving up a two-run home run to Aubrey Huff in the third inning. Hunter lasted just four innings while throwing 83 pitches, his third straight postseason start of four innings or fewer. Hunter wasn't having trouble throwing strikes. He just couldn't throw the ball past the Giants' hitters. He threw 72 pitches in the first three innings, and 14 were foul balls on two-strike counts.
"It's about as frustrating as you can get," Hunter said. "You can't put into words how frustrating it is. They're fouling off your pitch, your pitch, your pitch, and then they hit your pitch. I was just begging them to put the ball in play somewhere."He also couldn't keep the leadoff hitter off base in the first three innings. Andres Torres singled in the first and Cody Ross walked in the second. Hunter kept them from scoring, but he couldn't in the third.
Torres, after fouling off three two-strike pitches, led off with a double into the right-field corner. Freddy Sanchez, who fouled off five straight 0-2 pitches, grounded out to third, but Huff smashed the first pitch he saw high and deep down the right-field line for a two-run home run."[It was] a cut fastball that just spun," Hunter said. The Rangers' best chance may have been the fourth. Young had an infield single to start the fourth, and then the Giants got a break. Hamilton hit a soft liner up the middle that deflected off Bumgarner's glove and right to Sanchez. The second baseman was able to tag Young as he ran past him to get a force. "[Bumgarner] made a good play," Hamilton said. "If he hadn't knocked it down, it goes through and we've got a chance to break the game open." Hamilton was safe at first, but after Guerrero struck out, Hamilton tried to steal second with Cruz at the plate and was thrown out by Posey to end the inning.
The Rangers, trailing, 3-0, didn't get a runner to second base until the bottom of the seventh. Hamilton reached on a one-out error by Juan Uribe at third, and after Guerrero struck out for a third time, Cruz singled to center. But Kinsler flied out to left to end the inning, and Posey's home run in the eighth made it 4-0.The Rangers are now on the brink. "It's not over," Young said."We'll have to do it the hard way. It all revolves around Game 5. We have to win Game 5."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.