Commentary

Rangers choke, but aren't dead yet

Texas suffers collapse of epic proportions, but this club can't be counted out

Updated: October 28, 2011, 4:39 AM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

ST. LOUIS -- Clear plastic sheeting hung across the top of every locker in the visitors clubhouse at Busch Stadium.

It just needed to be unrolled.

A pair of flat-screen televisions had been covered, too, and at least four cases of Korbel champagne were being chilled.

[+] EnlargeMark Lowe
AP Photo/Jeff RobersonMark Lowe allowed a leadoff home run to David Freese in the bottom of the 11th of a wild Game 6.

What a waste.

The Texas Rangers should have been celebrating and partying until the sun came up Friday morning. Instead, they're trying to wrap their minds around the most disappointing loss in the history of Dallas-Fort Worth sports.

Yeah, it was.

There is gagging. There is choking. And then there is what the Rangers did against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 of the World Series on Thursday night.

Not once, but twice, the Rangers needed one strike -- one stinking pitch -- to win the first championship in franchise history and erase their largely irrelevant history.

But Neftali Feliz failed miserably in the ninth, and Darren Oliver and Scott Feldman couldn't do the job in the 10th.

David Freese led off the bottom of the 11th with a massive blast to center field off Mark Lowe.

St. Louis 10, Texas 9.

Unbelievable.

As long as you live, you'll never see another championship game as zany and absurd as Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.

Never. Ever.

Seriously.

The Rangers don't have time to dwell on what might have been because Game 7 is coming whether they're ready or not.

They will show up.

Ron Washington guaranteed it. So did Josh Hamilton. And Michael Young.

Ordinarily, this is a pretty good time to say, "Yeah, right."

This club, though, has shown us time after time that it is a resilient group. Remember, the Rangers blew a 5-1 eighth-inning lead to the mighty Yankees at home in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series last season.

The Rangers won in six games.

This year, Tampa Bay thumped the Rangers 9-0 in Game 1 of the AL Division Series, yet Texas won that series in four games. The Rangers also lost Game 1 of the World Series before winning three of the next four, putting them on the brink of a title.

This club takes its cue from Young, the face of the franchise. He played as poor a defensive game as you'll ever see him play with two costly errors Thursday, but Young is the same player emotionally every day.

And it doesn't matter whether the Rangers have won by five runs or lost by five runs. Or whether he had five hits or no hits.

Young's teammates must lean on his leadership Friday and use their disappointment to fuel their focus as they attempt to become the first team since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates to win a World Series Game 7 on the road.

Did I mention the Rangers might have to do it without Nelson Cruz, who strained a groin on his final at-bat and left the game? Mike Napoli severely twisted his ankle running the bases, but X-rays after the game were negative. He'll be hobbled, but he'll play.

No doubt this was a mentally draining loss.

All you had to do was look at the long faces of the players' friends and family members lined along the walls just outside the Rangers' clubhouse.

The Rangers made a season's worth of mental and physical mistakes in the game, but Washington still handed the ball to his closer with a two-run lead in the ninth inning.

Every manager in the game would take that situation; Feliz simply blew it.

The Rangers' demise will be chronicled from sea to shining sea on "SportsCenter" and every network with a baseball show. Their obituary will be written by columnists near and far, as it should be.

Remember, though, this team has played 46 games without consecutive losses. You don't do that without talent and character.

The Rangers already have beaten one team of destiny (Tampa Bay), and now they must figure out how to vanquish the Cardinals, who refuse to lose.

Literally.

The Cardinals are the first team to come back from deficits in the ninth inning and extra innings to win in a World Series game.

"Wow," Hamilton said. "I've never been in a game like that. Both teams have a never-say-die [attitude]. It makes for a good series."

Well, that's one way to look at it.

Another way to view it is the Rangers have one more opportunity to earn that coveted championship and make folks erase the biggest choke job in World Series history.

Most folks don't think they'll do it.

So what?

Most folks didn't think they'd be in the World Series in consecutive years.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

ALSO SEE