MLB

After coming so close, Rangers fall short again

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The Canadian Press
10/29/2011 12:47:07 AM
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ST. LOUIS - They walked around the quiet clubhouse, exchanging blank looks, not quite ready to go home.

Clubhouse attendants took down their nameplates and packed their gear.

In a century-plus of World Series play, rarely has there been such an empty feeling.

"We were close. Two times. Game 6. That's it," Colby Lewis said.

Oh, so close.

And now it's 51 years and counting with no World Series titles for the Texas Rangers.

A day after twice coming within one strike of champagne, a glittering trophy and a championship parade in Game 6, the Rangers went as dry as an overcooked Texas T-bone in Friday night's finale.

Pitchers Matt Harrison and C.J. Wilson fizzled rather than sizzled, and the St. Louis Cardinals won 6-2 in Game 7 to send the Rangers home as World Series losers for the second straight season.

"I'm still kind of numb," general manager Jon Daniels said.

Last year, this was a new experience for Texas. The first American League pennant was satisfying, even if the five-game loss to the San Francisco Giants was a disappointment to a franchise searching for success as the expansion Washington Senators through 1971 and the Rangers since the move.

This loss left wounds that will never be forgotten for the oldest Major League Baseball team without a Series title. "2011" will be remembered by Rangers fans, much like "1986" weighed on the memory of the Boston Red Sox until they finally ended their long championship drought in 2004.

"Yeah, it's pretty obvious," Michael Young said when asked if this was worse than last year. "The last two nights obviously stink, but time will heal. We'll regroup, and we'll get ready to roll again next year."

Only once before in baseball history had a team come within an out of a Series title and not brought home a championship -- those '86 Red Sox, infamous for Bill Buckner's error.

These Rangers will be remembered for a triple failure, for Neftali Feliz allowing David Freese's tying triple in the ninth inning of Game 6, for Scott Feldman giving up Lance Berkman's tying single in the 10th and for Mark Lowe allowing Freese's game-ending home run in the 11th.

"Sometimes when opportunity is in your presence, you certainly can't let it get away because sometimes it takes a while before it comes back," manager Ron Washington said. "If there's one thing that happened in this World Series that I'll look back on is being so close, just having one pitch to be made and one out to be gotten, and it could have been a different story."

Texas became the first team to lose consecutive World Series since the 1991-92 Atlanta Braves, who rebounded to win the title in 1995.

"I want to celebrate and was thinking about it," Elvis Andrus said, "but that moment never came. We just didn't come through."

Even the collapses come bigger in Texas. After the game, the clubhouse remained closed for about 20 minutes while Washington spoke with his players.

"I felt like they are champions, although we didn't get the World Series trophy," Washington said. "Those guys committed themselves to get here this year and win this, and they did it. A lot of times it's nothing but talk, but it wasn't talk in that Texas Rangers clubhouse. We just didn't get it done. We got beat by a good club."

In the first Game 7 since 2002, the Rangers spurted to a 2-0 lead against Chris Carpenter, pitching on three days' rest for the second time in his career. Josh Hamilton and Young hit RBI doubles in the first inning, which could have been bigger had not Ian Kinsler stumbled and been picked off first after his leadoff single.

Instead of bringing back Wilson on short rest or starting Derek Holland, who pitched brilliantly in winning Game 4, Washington stayed in rotation and started Harrison.

He couldn't hold the lead, allowing three runs, five hits and two walks in four innings. Harrison had trouble with plate umpire Jerry Layne.

"He had his zone," Harrison said. "There were pitches that were close that didn't go our way."

Feldman and Wilson then fouled up the fifth, combining for three walks and two hit batters while allowing two runs without any hits.

Freese, the Game 6 star and World Series MVP, started the comeback with a tying, two-run double in the first. Allen Craig, starting because Matt Holliday injured his wrist on Thursday, homered for a 3-2 lead in the third, with Nelson Cruz vainly climbing the right-field wall trying to make the catch.

Facing Feldman, Yadier Molina walked with the bases loaded for the second time in two nights, and Wilson forced in another run when he relieved and hit Rafael Furcal on the hip with his first pitch.

That made it 5-2, and the record crowd of 47,399 at Busch Stadium got louder and louder with each Texas out as the Cardinals' 11th World Series title and first since 2006 neared.

Texas pitchers walked a World Series-record 41, one more than the 1997 Florida Marlins. Of the Cardinals' 34 runs, 11 reached base on walks and another two on hit batters. Not exactly what Nolan Ryan was looking for when he started to remake the team with strong pitching.

"You're going for careful locations. That sometimes leads to bad results," Wilson said. "And then sometimes there's the factor of trying to do too much. You get into a situation where the pressure is on, you try to make too perfect of a pitch. It's a little thing, like maybe you squeeze the ball or something. But something physically changes."

Carpenter, the second pitcher in two decades to make three Series starts, allowed two runs and six hits in six-plus innings with five strikeouts. He finished the Series 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in three starts and the post-season 4-0 with a 3.25 ERA in five starts. With nine post-season wins, he surpassed Mariano Rivera for the most among active pitchers.

With Wilson eligible for free agency, the Rangers likely will be seeking a new ace. In the ultimate game, Carpenter pitched like an ace and no one on the Rangers did.

When David Murphy flied to left for the final out, St. Louis became the ninth straight home team to win a World Series Game 7. Many of the Rangers leaned forward in the dugout, stunned.

"A lot of things to be proud of," Daniels said. "A disappointing end to a hell of a run. We'll have a staff meeting tomorrow and get back to it."

NOTES: A record 38 of a possible 43 post-season games were played this year. A record 13 were decided by one run, one more than 1995, 1997 and 2003.

Ron Washington (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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