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October 28, 2011

Rangers have resiliency, hope for Game 7

ST. LOUIS -- Game 6 of the World Series is history, and will find a place in Fall Classic lore. The final outcome was a stunner for both clubs, but especially for the Texas Rangers.

Twice they had two-run leads with three outs to go, and twice they were one strike away from winning their first world championship. Plastic sheets to protect the locker room from too much celebratory moisture had been put up.

But instead of hoisting the Commissioner's Trophy, the Rangers saw St. Louis tie the game in the ninth and 10th innings, and win it in the 11th on a David Freese leadoff homer.

Final score: Cardinals 10, Rangers 9.

Game 7: 7:05 tonight, Busch Stadium.

Afterward, manager Ron Washington lamented that Nelson Cruz couldn't catch Freese's other big hit, a two-run, game-tying triple off Neftali Feliz. Washington also said that the 10th inning, after Josh Hamilton's two-run homer, was set up perfectly for left-hander Darren Oliver.

All the Rangers needed was for Oliver to retire two left-handed hitters and a pitcher, because St. Louis had used up its bench.

But rather than throw Cruz and Oliver under the bus -- though he would say that Cruz made a mistake when he didn't immediately go toward the wall on Freese's liner -- Washington said that baseball is a beautiful game, and sometimes the fat lady never sings.

It would seem like she's warming up for Game 7, as it's completely fair to wonder how on earth the Rangers can recover from St. Louis twice picking itself off the canvas and delivering a knockout blow. But these Rangers are Team Resiliency, or at least that's what they've morphed into the past two seasons.

If the players follow their manager's lead, there won't be a Game 6 hangover.

Washington said that he had never seen a game like it, especially considering the stage and the personnel he had on the mound to close out the Cardinals. But he chalked it up to those baseball gods, hoping that they smile on the Rangers in Game 7, he didn't seem the least bit worried that the Rangers would still be staggered Friday night.

"We'll bounce back tomorrow," Washington said. "We always do."

The best sign that the players were no longer caught in the headlights was their evaluation of the game. They didn't pick apart plays the didn't make -- and there were several -- or the chances they missed. They agreed that they had just played in one of the most riveting games in World Series history.

"I feel a lot of different things," outfielder David Murphy said. "Part of me is frustrated. Part of me says, 'That's the best game I've ever been a part of.' It didn't end the way we wanted. This one's over. We don't have any time to dwell on it."

They were also comforted by the fact that they had a cushion to soften their fall.

"We're still in this, you know?" said Scott Feldman, who issued the game-tying hit to Lance Berkman in the 10th. "We were up in the series. We didn't go home after we lost. We've got to come back tomorrow and get it done."

Said Elvis Andrus: "We're disappointed about it. We were so close, but that's baseball. There's no way to go back and change it. You've got to let it go. It's a hard one, for sure, but we've still got another chance tomorrow."

Andrus was reminded of the plastic sheets, which had been rolled up and taped against the clubhouse ceiling. That didn't serve as a harsh reminder of what wasn't in Game 6 but what could be ahead in Game 7.

"That's something to look forward to," Andrus said. "We're still here."

-- Jeff Wilson



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