Rangers willing to sacrifice to win
Slumping Josh Hamilton and Michael Young do what they need to do to get the job done
"You guys aren't supposed to win a game with two sac flies," the fan said.
Washington's response: "There's nothing in the baseball bible that says we can't."
In fact, in the Book of Wash, it is written that a team must score runs however necessary. And in the ninth inning Thursday, it was two sacrifice flies from two players struggling this postseason that were needed. Josh Hamilton and Michael Young did what the game asked them to do. In the process, they turned what looked like a difficult 0-2 deficit into a 1-1 World Series that heads back to the Rangers' turf for three games, starting Saturday night.
That's when Dirk Nowitzki will throw out the much discussed ceremonial first pitch. That's fitting because Young and Hamilton, after some incredible table-setting by Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus, have made this World Series feel a lot like the NBA Finals. The Mavericks came back from 15 down to beat the Heat in Game 2 on the road and get a split. The Rangers, three outs from an 0-2 deficit, roared back to claim a split of their own. It gives them an opportunity to have a similar finish to the Fall Classic as the world champion Mavs did to the NBA Finals.
For Hamilton, this postseason has been about survival. He's spent more time in the training room than he has in a batting cage, and he put his health at around 75 to 80 percent. It's probably more like 60 percent.
Washington, though, insists a hobbled Hamilton is better than most alternatives at 100 percent.
"I definitely agree," outfielder David Murphy said. "This is the reigning MVP. This is an incredible player. With all due respect to the history of this game, I feel like there can't be 10 players in the history of baseball with the skill set and tools that Josh has. So I would definitely take Josh Hamilton at 75 percent against most players."
Hamilton came up in the ninth inning with runners at second and third, and no outs. Kinsler's gutsy stolen base, slipping in just ahead of the tag, and Andrus' two-strike single and heads-up baserunning to get to second allowed Hamilton to bat in a big spot. As soon as Andrus saw Albert Pujols miss the relay throw, he got himself to second and altered the rest of the inning.
That's when Hamilton and Young went to work.
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa went with lefty Arthur Rhodes and let him pitch to Hamilton. It was a rematch of Game 1, in which Rhodes got Hamilton to fly out. Then, though, there were two outs in the inning. In Game 2, a fly ball was all Hamilton needed to score the tying run.
"The biggest thing in that situation is not to try to do too much," said Hamilton, who is 0-for-7 in the series but has a big RBI. "Obviously, I faced him last night and he kept throwing heaters up, heaters in. I was actually sitting first-pitch slider and just reacted, and that's the good thing sometimes, just reacting, instead of trying to make it happen."
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Hamilton said before the game he can't swing much with his lower body and isn't trying to hit home runs. But he can still drive a ball deep if needed, and that's what he did, allowing Kinsler to score and Andrus to tag up to third.
That's when Young came to the plate knowing he could get the go-ahead run home. He said he wasn't thinking about whether he'd be walked to set up a double play. Lance Lynn came in to pitch to Young.
"I was focused on what I had to do," said Young, who is 1-for-7 in the World Series and now 10-for-50 (.200) this postseason. "The managers have their thoughts, and I have my thoughts. I know he's got a good curveball, and he threw me a couple of curveballs in there."
Young then got a pitch he could hit and went the other way with it, hitting it deep to right-center. As Andrus crossed the plate, the chilly Rangers dugout got a lot warmer. The television cameras caught a glimpse of Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan looking relieved as he clapped.
"I don't care how we do it; we just want to score runs," Young said. "In that situation, sac flies are what we needed. Josh's job was to get the guy home from third. My job was to get the next guy in. It's team baseball. It's something we've done well all season."
Two crucial at-bats by two guys struggling to swing the bat consistently this postseason made the difference. It puts the Rangers squarely in the World Series and feeling like they've got the momentum.
"To be able to come from behind against a guy like that on the mound was a big win for us," said Kinsler, who got it started off Jason Motte. "We're just happy that the series is tied up and we're going back to Texas and in front of our crowd."
Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.