Final Gut Check: Rangers-Cardinals World Series Game 7 Preview and Open Thread

Categories: Sports

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St. Louis Cardinals
Trying to forget this happened won't be easy for Texas, but they have to find a way if they want to salvage the championship.
As I've written before, I fell in love with the game of baseball in 1986 -- the first year I watched every inning of the World Series.

Although I had no rooting interest in the match-up between Boston and New York, I couldn't help but feel absolutely heartbroken for Red Sox fans when a slow roller hit by Mookie Wilson skipped past first baseman Bill Buckner's glove into right field, scoring a dumbfounded Ray Knight as the winning run for the Mets in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6.

I didn't fully comprehend the ramifications of that historic game as a 9-year-old, but I knew I'd just seen something that couldn't possibly have happened before. And that's one of the reasons I grew to love baseball so much -- the chance to see the seemingly impossible become possible.

After last night's epic implosion by the Texas Rangers in Game 6 this year, a lot of folks are already making comparisons between the two games, and I'd be lying if I said that wasn't my first reaction as well, especially with its 25th anniversary having just passed by on Tuesday. But there's one key distinction between them: We already know Boston failed in its second attempt to win the championship in Game 7, while the Rangers' fate remains undetermined.

Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci has already proclaimed Nelson Cruz "the Bill Buckner of Texas" if the Rangers lose again tonight, but much like Game 6 in '86, the blame extends far beyond any individual's miscue.

Sure, Cruz made a critical mistake when he slowed down for no apparent reason instead of accelerating to a long fly ball off David Freese's bat that turned a potential series-ending out into a game-tying triple. But, c'mon, does anyone really want to crucify the guy who had just two innings earlier tied a record for postseason homers with his eighth?

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St. Louis Cardinals
Must forget. Must forget. Must forget.
What about Neftali Feliz? He gave up a double to Albert Pujols and then walked Lance Berkman on four pitches before Freese stepped to the plate.

Even though he had been 7-for-7 saving games in his postseason career before Freese's triple, it's expecting a lot from him to shut the door every time. As I mentioned before Feliz took the mound last night, it's important to remember that he's only 23 years old.

What about Michael Young? He struck out with no outs and runners on the corners in the first inning and added inexcusable errors in the fourth and sixth innings that directly resulted in two Cardinals' runs and his removal from the game.

The errors -- dropping the ball with his bare hand after it had already bounced off the heel of his glove and dropping it again two innings later while transferring the ball from his glove to his hand -- were particularly painful, but it's hard to argue Young was singularly at fault for last night's debacle.

What about Ron Washington? He allowed Colby Lewis to hit in the top of the fifth inning with the bases loaded and Derek Holland warming up in the bullpen. He brought in Alexi Ogando -- the team's least reliable reliever -- with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning, and Ogando subsequently walked in the tying run. He chose Darren Oliver -- Darren Oliver -- as the one to attempt to close out the game for the second time. And he pinch-hit Esteban German for Scott Feldman in the top of the 11th with Feldman having thrown just 16 pitches.

OK, we're getting warmer here with Wash, but as much as I've been critical of his moves lately, I can't manage to point the finger directly at him ... yet.

Because last night was undoubtedly the most heartbreaking loss in the history of North Texas sports, it's hard to compare it to anything else, but I have the same attitude about today's game as I did following the 16-7 embarrassment in Game 3. The Rangers can rebound, but only if they're able to forget about Game 6.

That's where Wash comes in. After that brutal ass-kicking in Game 3, the Rangers and starter Derek Holland acted like it hadn't happened with a 4-0 shutout the next night, securing what I and most others had dubbed a must-win game for Texas.

But even more than being able to erase last night from their thoughts, tonight's the final chance for Wash to prove his gut's worth listening to, as the ultimate test of his gut takes the mound tonight for Texas.

If this was the regular season, we'd see Derek Holland out there after a normal four days' rest. Yet, in the most significant game in franchise history, Wash instead announced Matt Harrison as the starter, even before Game 6 had begun, and pitched Holland last night.

Wash has no rational explanation for this, mind you. Just goin' with his gut, as he does.

Well, that gut's either gonna put up or blow up tonight.

Holland's Game 4 outing just so happened to be the best pitching performance in the team's half-century in existence, while Harrison allowed five runs (three earned) and six hits in 3 2/3 innings in Game 3.

If Harrison can't get the job done, Rangers fans will be left to wonder what could have been with Holland on the bump, just like Red Sox fans have suffered for 25 years wondering what could have been if Buckner's loose glove wouldn't have prematurely closed shut.

One more win. Just one more effin' win.

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Texas Rangers
Quick Hits

-- Gotta feel bad for Mike Napoli (2-for-3 with three walks and an RBI) and Josh Hamilton (3-for-6 with a homer and three RBI), whose impressive performances last night were overshadowed by the incompetence of others. Nappy, in particular, was The Man after shaking off that nasty ankle twist.

-- Ogando, Feliz and Feldman were all credited with blown saves in Game 6 after the Cardinals made five separate comebacks, marking the first time in World Series history that a team has had three blown saves in a single game.

-- Freese's walk-off homer was just the fifth in a Game 6 or 7 in World Series history, joining Bill Mazeroski (1960), Carlton Fisk (1975), Kirby Puckett (1991) and Joe Carter (1993).

And with that home run, Freese has 19 RBI in the playoffs this year, tying Sandy Alomar, Jr. (1997) and David Ortiz (2004) for the most in a single postseason.

-- Wash called his first team meeting in four months after last night's game and also spoke to the team this afternoon before batting practice. Whatever he said, let's hope it lights a fire under everyone's asses.

--David Murphy is in tonight for Gentry and playing left, with Hamilton moving back to center field. Nappy and Cruz are also in the lineup after suffering injuries last night. And, yes, Young is back at first.

-- Matt Holliday has been removed from the roster and replaced by backup outfielder Adron Chambers. Allen Craig replaces Holliday in left field.

-- Tonight's starter for St. Louis, Chris Carpenter, is pitching on three days' rest for just the second time in his 14-year career. The first time was Game 2 of the NLDS this season against Philadelphia, and he gave up four runs and five hits in three innings.

-- I expect to see Holland (only 23 pitches thrown yesterday) and Wilson as the initial relief options for Texas if Harrison struggles early, followed by Feldman, Adams and Feliz.

-- That's 46-consecutive games now for Texas without losing two in a row. Forty-seven sounds awful nice.

-- Former reliever and Arizona Diamondbacks senior VP of scouting and player development Jerry Dipoto has been named as the new general manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, which is good news because Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine had been among the potential candidates for the gig.

-- ESPN's Buster Olney speculates that the Rangers "are going to be major players for one of the big-time free agents" and named Pujols, and he also claims Texas is "considered to be the favorite" to win the potential offseason bidding war for young Japanese hurler Yu Darvish.

-- If the Rangers lose, it's gonna hurt. Bad. But keep one thing in mind if they do: This team is likely to get better next year. C.J. Wilson and Mike Gonzalez are the only free agents, and a lot of these young players (Feliz, Andrus, Holland, Harrison, Ogando, etc.) will improve with age.

I didn't sleep much last night and feel sick to my stomach as the tension from the late innings last night hasn't subsided. Join me in the comments, and we'll suffer and hopefully celebrate together.

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Fonebone Potrzebie
Fonebone Potrzebie

Cruz should have caught that ball, but Feliz shouldn't keep walking (or hitting) the batter representing the tying or winning run with a slim lead. I say it every game- its playing with fire. What a time to get burned!  Not sure I can count all the mistakes Wash made-- Oliver in the 10th, a batting order that ensured some of the strongest bats see the last amount of plate appearances, bizarre pinch hitting selections, unfathomable pitching changes (see Oliver above, not to mention Lowe). Its a great ball club but some of our key positions have some serious growing up to do (I'm looking at you, Neftali). I'm afraid Wash is who he is, and I'm not sure he's got the post-season smarts. You have to manage your streaks, you don't have the time to let slumps work themselves out like you do in the regular season. I don't know, I hope theyre back next year, but if its the same guys with the same skills it will likely be the same result. Frankly, I think as close as we were, we were also lucky to make it to game 7. If not for a fielding error by Pujols in game 2, we'd have been down 3-0 and it would likely have been a 5 game series like last year. If Feliz's inevitable leadoff walk drama had bitten him on the ass in an earlier game, we might have lost game 4 or 5. We have a very talented team, but we didn't look very mature out there. 

MushMouth1
MushMouth1

Interesting to read the comments the day after. I just couldn't muster the emotion (for lack of a better phrase) to join y'all last night.  To tell the truth while I intellectually knew they had a chance to win game 7 I knew in my heart that it was over. A team can't recover from so many opportunities to close out a series. One more strike - twice. One fly ball. One grounder to first base. When the final out was recorded last night I wasn't angry, I was numb. The long season just kind of petered out.

Thank you to Sam and Robert and all of the other posters for a fun ride.  Baseball fans are a different kind of sports fan. As the great Red Barber said "Baseball is only dull to dull minds".

I'll be in Surprise the third week of March recharged for another season.

Paul, Washington, MO
Paul, Washington, MO

I'm a Cards' fan, from the St. Louis area, so of course I was happy with the result of game 7,  I must say, however, that the media and the fans here have nothing but respect for the Rangers players.  It was a hard-faught series from start to finish, and it's just too bad someone had to lose it.  Hope to see both teams go at it again next year.

Djuan
Djuan

Now I understand what's wrong with you JS.  Your comprehension of the game shows the weakness between your ears.  Watching the impossible become possible?  You don't drive much do you?  I bet you don't cheer at the same time the rest of the fans do either!

Pecos_Drifter
Pecos_Drifter

After a night to think about it I've come up with who to blame for this Epic Failure.....you guessed it, Frank Stalone

ericfolkerth
ericfolkerth

Sam: the Buckner moment was what came to me when Cruz couldn't catch that ball. I think the feeling applies to the whole team, but I also think that's the moment people will remember most, in retrospect. It was a total team breakdown. As for the morning after the series, here's my own blog on how it feels right now: Hey Rangers Fans, a blog I wrote about my feelings, the morning after: http://wheneftalks2.blogspot.c...

FEFIFOFUM
FEFIFOFUM

.....the moment came when Washington, going against all he believes, caved in and told his pitchers to intentionally walk batters.........went against his gut, with devastating results.

Davy Crockett
Davy Crockett

Sorry I didn't play along more than I did. Much like many of you, I've been a fan of this team since I knew what baseball was. The stress, emotional ups and downs prevented me from coming here during the games for the most part. Sports aren't supposed to bum people out like this has me.

Big props to Sam and RW for putting this thing on. It was fun to read the day after games.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

The Rangers just didn't want this as much as the Cardinals.  Flat out....it's all about will and fortitude.  Lord knows the Rangers had many opportunities to win this thing.  I will never forget the crazy errors (Mike Young), the lax fielding (Elvis and Nellie), and the imploded pitching staff; they only have themselves to blame.  Good run.

FEFIFOFUM
FEFIFOFUM

.....If the Rangers had one, there would be plenty of faults/errors to list on the Cardinals team as well.

Truly it is the grit, fortitude, and dogged tenacity that sees that STL team all the way to the end, every time.  They do not let a prior game influence their mental state or their determination to forge ahead when everyone, including statisticians repeatedly predict otherwise.

They are a class organization that doesn't allow egos interfere with teamwork in textbook fashion.

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Dear Ranger fans, I love each and everyone of ya...it will be ok, spring training is probably going to start before Dirk starts his run for two. TWas a fantastic run, and first and foremost..I LOVE THE RANGERS!

DISGUSTED
DISGUSTED

thanks to cruz for not making that catch last night. thanks to the bullpen for being so godamn awful the past 2 nights. thanks to harrison for not showing up to play tonight. thanks to mark lowe for being his usual awful self. Theres just so many people to thank!

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Like I said earlier, I'll miss this. My thanks to all for coming along. Wish this could have ended better. Thought it was going to. But I, personally, could not have done it without you. Sam, I can't thank you enough for coming back to do this. I speak for all of us when I say: Good work, sir. The best.

hand-signed balls
hand-signed balls

yeah, yeah. sure, bob. sure.  so, is josh's broken boner gonna stfu now? anything else, douchebags?? o.k. great, now go dream up another award that bob can shove up jaffe's bloody snatch!!! here wash, stop cryin' bitch, i'll give you another line___________________________________________________ HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA...

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Aww, thanks, Robert. It was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed everyone's participation. Hopefully, something can be worked out for some offseason coverage. 

I gotta say, with the Cards being my No. 2 team, I thought this would feel better, but it doesn't. It sucks. It sucks big, fat donkey balls.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

Sam,excellent work. Robert, thanks for doing this for us.

smijca
smijca

Hats off to Cards with not only keeping but also building the lead and for knowing how to close it out. To everyone here: it's been great fun. Don't feel as horrible as I thought I would. I guess that's one of the perks of having survived Mavericks loss in 2006. Where there's a will there's Rangers will be back at some point, better than ever and ready and able to win it all. Thanks to Rob and Sam for taking their time to get this thing up and running and for being true fans of the sport and organization. Looking forward to next season already! Good night and try not to hurt a squirrel if it happens to cross your path!

hand-signed balls
hand-signed balls

nope. the rangers ain't gonna be back. just accept it. surrender...

smijca
smijca

Nope. They will. Enjoy the win if you're a Cards fan. If you're just a busta trying to kill the buzz...my Rangers already lost this WS so too little too late. Go on about your business buddy.

cactusflinthead
cactusflinthead

I want to think positively and all that good shit, but right now it just effing sucks. 

Albee Macaw
Albee Macaw

This is all on Cruz in the 6th game. They have the warning track for a reason and he stopped well before it and approached the wall; like he now will be known as. A soft player/coward.  Like John Kruk said he would have ran through that wall given the stakes.  Heck I played college ball and would have put a nice dent in the wall even at the college level. What was funny how he put up a lame effort on a HR to climb the wall when the ball cleared the fence by 30 feet. Guess he heard the people/press stating what a coward he was the night before. Soft.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Right there with you...THAT was the play!  Catch it and win.

GaryE
GaryE

Sam and Robert, this has been a really cool chat.  Our thanks. Albeit with a sad finish.   We can now hand our hearts back to the Cowboys for abuse. Goodnight to all.

smijca
smijca

Well, at least Rangers can take notes from the Cardinals about how to clinch a crucial win. Too soon?

cactusflinthead
cactusflinthead

However it turns out, the open threads on games have been a welcome addition.

Wf5e
Wf5e

Yes, big thanks to Sam and Big Bob for helping us (somewhat) cope with this heartache.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Had a ball. And that's it. The dream is dead.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Freese in this series: 8-for-23 with three doubles, a triple, a homer, five walks and seven RBI

FEFIFOFUM
FEFIFOFUM

.....when he did connect, it converted to major results

GaryE
GaryE

Not sure which is harder to believe.  Rangers will win the Series this year, or Rangers will lose in the most heartbreaking manner in Series history.   

Wf5e
Wf5e

Somewhere the 2006 Mavericks are breathing a sigh of relief

smijca
smijca

Ha! Hadn't thought of that! Can't wait to get through the heartache though to the year that they actually take it.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

They already did that this summer.

smijca
smijca

I go lose in the most heartbreaking manner in Series history. Silver lining: Mavs bounced back and made it back, albeit 5 years later but they did it. We'll just have to wait a little longer for our turn in baseball.

Wf5e
Wf5e

Isn't that what Cubs fans say every year?

smijca
smijca

Yeah, but I have a feeling that Rangers can actually get back in it by making the right moves and, for goodness' sakes, building a stellar bullpen!

Ben
Ben

THE ONLY RANGER WHO CAN BEAT THE CARDINALS IS CHUCK NORRIS

smijca
smijca

Thanks for the much needed laugh.

GaryE
GaryE

This will always hurt worse, even after Rangers break through and get first Series win.  It's not as if the Mavs had to just guard a halfcourt shot to win the title.

Wf5e
Wf5e

Woke up from my nap.  Score is as I expected it would be with my head.  My heart still hurts.

GaryE
GaryE

Here's your series MVP, Allan Craig.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Nah, gotta give the nod to Freese, with Craig a close second.

Wf5e
Wf5e

Which hurts worse: this or 2006 Mavericks?  I have to vote Rangers

GaryE
GaryE

I will not even stick around to see who is right.  It will be one of those two, though.

GaryE
GaryE

Damn you Atlanta.

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