The Day After: Trying to Make Sense of What Happened Last Night

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Wow.

I don’t really know what else to say other than that one word: wow.

It’s past noon now on Friday, but still – all I can think about is what went down last night.

Even if you aren’t a fan of either of the two teams involved, it was amazing. Even if you aren’t even a fan of the great game of baseball you have to admit – last night was pretty special.

I think I can honestly say it was the best game I have ever seen, which is something considering the two Blue Jays World Series clinching game 6’s in ’92 and ’93 were pretty damn good games.

But when you think about it, last night had it all:

Offense – 19 runs were scored on 28 hits.

Drama – Texas came to within one strike of winning its first World Series title in franchise history. Twice!

Comebacks – The Cardinals came back from 1-0, 3-2, 4-3, 7-4, and 9-7 deficits.

Pitching and defense – Well…maybe it didn’t have everything.

But it did have plenty of:

Mistakes.

I mean, loads of mistakes. First of all there were the errors. Matt Hollidaydropped a fly ball. David Freese dropped an infield pop up. Fernando Salas threw a ball into centrefield. Michael Young booted the ball not once, but

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twice. Each error either directly or indirectly lead to a run.

But there was more than just the errors. Holliday was also picked off at third by catcher Mike Napoli – which is bad. In the sixth inning – which is worse. With the bases loaded and one out in a tie game – which is inexcusable. Alexei Ogando walked in a run with the bases loaded. And though it might have been a tough play, it sure looked like Nelson Cruz butchered the Freese triple in the bottom of the ninth. As soon as the ball was hit I thought the Series was over, only to see Cruz miss it badly.

The worst mistakes, though, might be reserved for Rangers manager Ron Washington. One game after Tony La Russa was the joke of the town for his distastrous encounter with the bullpen phone, Washington made three very questionable decisions of his own:

1. Top of the fifth, two out. Rangers have the bases loaded, clinging to a 4-3 lead. The pitchers spot is due up. In a regular season game, I can see letting ColbyLewis hit for himself – you want to save the bullpen. But this is game 6 of the World Series. If you win this game, you don’t need to use your bullpen for five months. Plus – Derek Holland, a starter, is warming up and can easily pitch three innings to bridge the gap to Adams and Feliz. With the bases loaded, a pinch hitter made all the sense in the world. Instead, Lewis hit for himself, struck out feebly, and the Rangers failed to tack on any insurance runs. Insurance runs which, by the way, might have come in handy later on.

2. Bottom of the 10th, runner on second, two out. Rangers ahead 9-8, one out away from the title. Albert Pujols comes to the plate. Washington has two options – pitch to Pujols and risk losing the game on a 2-run walkoff HR. Or walk Pujols and pitch to Lance Berkman. Yes Pujols is a machine who can go deep at any moment. But aside from his Game 3 heroics, Big Albert had only one base hit in the other five games combined. Berkman was hitting .409 in the Series to that point, and was 2 for 4 in Game 6. Plus he would be batting left-handed. In 2011 he hit .277 with a .804 OPS as a righty and .307 with a .998 OPS as a lefty. I might have pitched to Pujols. Washington elected to pitch to Berkman. Tie game.

3. Top of the 11th, two out, runner on 1st. Again, the pitchers spot is up for the Rangers. This time, Scott Feldman is the man on deck. Aside from Game 3 of the World Series (when every Rangers pitcher got hit hard), Feldman had probably been Texas’ most reliable reliever – 0 ER in 11.1 IP. With a runner on first and two outs, it isn’t exactly a prime scoring opportunity. In order to score that run, the pinch hitter will need an extra base hit. Washington’s choice was either let Feldman hit for himself, which would allow him to stay in the game and pitch the 11th, or lift him for pinch hitter Esteban German. German’s last extra base hit came on September 24th. Washington chose German. Shockingly, German did not reach base and Feldman was lost. That forced Mark Lowe into the game. The same Mark Lowe who had only pitched one inning in the entire 2011 postseason (allowing 2 hits and a run). The same Mark Lowe who had only thrown 3.2 IP since the beginning of September. And yes, the same Mark Lowe who surrendered a walkoff HR to the very first batter he faced, David Freese. Game over.

So where does this leave Texas now? How does a team that was a mere one strike away from ending a 50 year drought – twice! – recover?

More than that, how do they recover against a St. Louis team playing with huge confidence and momentum, in St. Louis, with their ace Chris Carpenter on the mound?

Can they?

I’m not sure. The last time that a team was within one single, solitary strike of winning the World Series but failed to wrap it up was 25 years ago. That team was also trying to erase a long history of futility. They lead by two runs in extra innings, on the road, with a 3-2 series lead. Then, they imploded.

That team was the 1986 Boston Red Sox, with a poor guy by the name of Bill Buckner playing first base.

They never recovered, blowing a 3-0 lead in game 7 to lose 8-5, and prolong their World Series drought.

Will Texas avoid that same fate?

I have no idea.

But I can’t wait to find out.

 

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