Rangers heading home in 0-2 hole against Giants

Posted Oct. 28, 2010, at 11:40 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 29, 2010, at 6:31 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO — Now the Texas Rangers can put Vladimir Guerrero back in the lineup without worrying about his glove. They sure can use his bat.

When the Rangers play the first World Series home game in the franchise’s 50 seasons, with Game 3 on Saturday night, they’ll be able to use the designated hitter — and they’ll be trying to dig out of a huge hole.

With the big bats a big bust so far, Texas is down 0-2 in the best-of-seven series after losing 9-0 to Matt Cain and the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night.

“Well, the challenge is we have to go home and we have to get a win,” manager Ron Washington said. “We’re certainly confident when we get back to Texas we can turn this thing around. Just as they won two games here in San Francisco we can get back to Texas and do the same thing. We expect to do that.”

The Rangers better find some offense fast, especially from the middle of the lineup.

Michael Young, Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz are a combined 3 for 25 (.120) in the World Series, and the Rangers are hitting .227 as a team. They have scored only seven runs, what San Francisco got Thursday night in one inning after they had two outs and nobody on base before breaking loose.

“I expected more out of us,” Hamilton said. “The Giants are hitting on all cylinders right now. We obviously aren’t.”

Texas played Game 2 without Guerrero, their usual DH who has to play in the field in the NL park. He had two errors in right field in the 11-7 loss in series opener, though Washington insisted before Game 2 that the fielding miscues had nothing to do with Guerrero not starting again.

Back at Rangers Ballpark playing by AL rules, Guerrero will be hitting fourth again as the DH.

Guerrero committed both of his fielding errors in the eighth inning after Game 1 had already gotten out of hand. He at least contributed offensively, driving in a pair of runs with an RBI single in the first and later a sacrifice fly.

Washington said Guerrero would be in the outfield again if the series gets back to the West Coast.

That seems like a big if right now.

Talk about Texas toast — teams from the Lone Star State are 0-6 in World Series games. The Houston Astros were swept in four games by the Chicago White Sox five years ago in their only appearance.

The Rangers managed only four hits and went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position in Game 2. Even when Young and Hamilton had consecutive singles in the sixth inning, the Rangers couldn’t score.

With Young at third and Hamilton on second after their hits and a wild pitch by Cain, Cruz fouled out to the first baseman. Ian Kinsler, who nearly homered earlier, flied out to end the inning and slammed his helmet in frustration.

“The way we’re playing, it’s just not us,” Cruz said.

Hamilton, the majors’ leading hitter in the regular season at .359, is 1 for 8 and hasn’t driven in a run in the World Series. Same for Young, the longest-tenured Rangers player in his 10th season and the team’s career hits leader. Cruz is 1 for 9 with two RBIs and three strikeouts.

Leadoff hitter Elvis Andrus drew a one-out walk and stole second base in the eighth, when the Rangers still trailed only 2-0. He was stranded there when Young and Hamilton flied out.

“We had some opportunities early in the ballgame to put some runs on the board, and we had the right people up there, and (Cain) made his pitches. That’s what he does well,” Washington said. “We just couldn’t get it done.”

San Francisco scored seven runs in the bottom half of the eighth off four relievers.

The game was scoreless when Kinsler led off the fifth with a drive that hit the top of the center-field wall and ricocheted back into play for a double. Kinsler got no farther after the Rangers failed to get another ball out of the infield that inning.

Edgar Renteria, the No. 8 hitter in the San Francisco order, hit a solo homer in the bottom of the fifth. That was enough for the Giants, though they piled on plenty more later.

The Rangers, who have never won in 11 games at AT&T Park, have to take at least two of three at home to force the series back to the ballpark by the bay next week.

“Honestly, now more than ever, just relax,” Hamilton said when asked what the Rangers have to do. “Everybody says the pressure’s on us. You can’t feel that way. … We’ve got to go have fun.”

And get some hits.

World Series notebook

With the home team struggling, the crowd began to chant, “Let’s go Rangers! Let’s go Rangers!”

Down on the field, the Dallas Cowboys weren’t inspired. But that rallying cry heard during their game Monday night sent a clear message: the Dallas-Fort Worth area is no longer dominated by football.

Not this fall, at least.

And certainly not this week.

The Texas Rangers may not be “America’s Team,” but they are American League champions, and right now that’s more important.

They’ve brought the World Series to Arlington this weekend, a first in the franchise’s 39 years here. Fans are so giddy that not even opening the series with a pair of crushing losses in San Francisco can dampen the mood.

“I think it’s fantastic,” former Cowboys great Roger Staubach said. “It would be phenomenal if they won it.”

How’s this for a sign of the times: At a luncheon Thursday marking the 100-day countdown to the upcoming Super Bowl being played in Arlington, former Cowboys greats Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Daryl Johnston and Drew Pearson, plus team owner Jerry Jones, all slapped on red Rangers hats.

“When you’ve got the World Series in town, this should be a baseball town,” Jones said.

It’s pretty wild to think the World Series is beating the Super Bowl to town, especially considering the pedigree of both teams and the popularity of both sports in the Lone Star State.

The Rangers moseyed into Arlington in 1972, just a few months after the Cowboys won their first Super Bowl title. While the Cowboys have won four more Super Bowls, the Rangers never even won a postseason series until this month.

They’ve been so bad for so long that it seemed like there was a secret clause when they moved from Washington — the Rangers were allowed to borrow the sports spotlight from April to August, then had to get out of the way for pro, college and high school football. After all, the joke in Texas is that there are only two seasons: football and spring football.

Now the Rangers are messing with Texas traditions in a big way. They’re playing meaningful games later in the calendar than the Cowboys, Longhorns and Aggies.

“If you would have looked at the season and said the Rangers are going to be in the World Series and the Cowboys are 1-5, you would think somebody was smoking something,” Staubach said.

Aikman said the Rangers being up while the Cowboys are down has helped the baseball team’s rise in prominence.

“And, good for them,” Aikman said. “They’ve embodied, really, what team is all about. It’s been a good story. I’ve certainly been proud to watch them and the way that they’ve played. I hope they can pull it around and win a World Series.”

Aikman has lived in the area for 21 years, so he’s not too surprised by the shift in loyalty among local fans.

“I’ve always said Dallas is a winner’s town,” he said. “It might be a Mavs town next week.”

Give it two weeks, at least.

Rangers merchandise is selling so quickly that stores are replenishing their inventory daily. Interest was rising throughout the playoffs, then became overwhelming the minute the Rangers beat the Yankees for the AL pennant.

“The line was wrapped around the store — in fact, behind the parking lot,” said Robert Desimone, promotions coordinator for Academy Sports & Outdoors, who was at his chain’s store about 25 miles from the stadium in the Mesquite suburb. “We had fans just going nuts, screaming, doing the wave. People were driving by honking horns. You can tell everybody has Rangers Fever.”

Jamey Newberg has been a Rangers fan since 1976, when he went to his first game at age 7. He was one of those kids who sneaked a radio under the covers to follow games that ran past his bedtime. Now he’s a lawyer who finds time to maintain a website devoted to the hard-core Rangers fan. His newbergreport.com is no rah-rah chat room, either. It’s aimed at the connoisseur fan, crammed with respected analysis and detailed reports on minor leaguers.

“I was going at a rate of 500-800 subscribers every year; this year, I have 3,000 new subscribers,” Newberg said. “The site is now getting 1 million hits per week. Those are pretty good indications the casual sports fan in town is jumping on the Rangers’ bandwagon.”

Another indicator is all the claw and antler displays.

For the uninitiated, that is the team’s shtick for celebrating key plays. A powerful hit or throw is acknowledged with a hand held up like a claw. Hustling plays are recognized with fingers splayed alongside the head like antlers, an homage to running like a deer.

Folks are gluing sticks to batting helmets for homemade antlers and holding up mannequin arms (even prosthetics) with the fingers bent into claws. T-shirts featuring claws on front, antlers on back are among the top sellers. That’s what the people who started the Rangers chant at the Cowboys game were wearing.

Expect even more Rangers gear at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday.

Dallas plays at noon, then a few hours later the Rangers play Game 4 at their ballpark right next door. Staubach is among those planning to make it a doubleheader and he can’t wait. He was a baseball player years before becoming a quarterback and this will be his first World Series game.

As popular as he is, Staubach isn’t throwing out the first pitch.

For game 4, it’ll be a pair of former U.S. presidents: George W. Bush, whose last job before politics was as managing partner of the Rangers, and his dad, George H.W. Bush.

Nolan Ryan has the honor for Game 3 and hopefully the radar gun will be on. He sure cranked up the ol’ Ryan Express before Game 1 of the ALCS.

Ryan has been the club’s president since 2008 and a part-owner since the summer. His role in the club’s turnaround can’t be understated, which also is part of the charm of it all. (Oh, if you hear a roar before the game starts, check the video board. They’ll probably be showing his pummeling of Robin Ventura, which remains a wildly popular clip.)

A few nights ago, Ryan was surprised to hear Jay Leno mention the Rangers. Then he realized how often he sees people wearing team merchandise, even in a New York airport or on the streets of San Francisco.

“Our fans didn’t even wear it to the ballpark when I came in 2008,” he said.

They sure didn’t wear it to a football game back then. Probably not even last season.

What a difference a World Series makes.

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