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RANGERS
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Texas will rebound and win title

Durrett By Richard Durrett
ESPNDallas.com
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ST. LOUIS -- For the past two seasons, this Rangers team has shown remarkable resiliency. And the club's championship mettle is about to be tested in Game 7. If any team can bounce back from losing a Game 6 in which it was one strike away from the championship twice, it's Texas.

The Rangers began this postseason with a 9-0 whipping at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays. In Game 2, they were down 3-0 in the fourth inning. Yet they came back and won the division series in four games. The Rangers lost Game 3 of the World Series 16-7 but won Games 4 and 5 as though nothing happened.

Last year, Texas blew a lead in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at home but won the series in six games over the New York Yankees to make it to their first World Series.

Manager Ron Washington walked into a disappointed clubhouse after Game 6 on Thursday and told his guys to keep their heads up and be ready to go in Game 7. Michael Young reiterated how they've bounced back all season.

"They're disappointed, and they should be disappointed," Washington said. "But that's the way it goes. It's never over until the last out, and we didn't get the last out. But every time that happened, my fighting shoes were back on. They just took care of it in their last at-bat."

Washington said he'll be wearing those fighting shoes for Game 7. He expects the same from his team.

"The series was seven games," Washington said. "We've got to play seven games."

The Rangers have played 46 consecutive games without losing two straight. That's the longest streak by any major league team since the 1995 Cleveland Indians.

Texas turns to Matt Harrison on regular rest for Game 7. Washington has stuck with Harrison as his Game 7 starter for days now. And although Harrison gave up three earned runs in 3 2/3 innings in Game 3, he came into the playoffs as one of the club's top pitchers this season. Harrison was 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA in 185 2/3 innings this season.

"I'll be ready to go," Harrison said. "I'm excited about the chance. We're ready to go as a team."

All year long, through rough losses and even big wins, the Rangers were able to focus on the task at hand. That's what they'll do in Game 7, and they will find a way to bring home the franchise's first title.

You just can't bet against Cardinals

Bryant By Howard Bryant
ESPN.com
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ST. LOUIS -- Maybe the Texas Rangers will turn out to be the toughest band of hombres since the '75 Reds, shake off the devastation of a classic Game 6 loss and win the World Series. Maybe Matt Harrison will give them in Game 7 what Derek Holland gave them in Game 4. Maybe the Rangers' two-month streak of having not lost consecutive games will stretch blissfully into the winter.

Maybe, but don't count on it.

More likely is the confirmation of what has been apparent for weeks, that the Cardinals have the special blend of determination, luck, skill, talent and heart that defined a playoff run that began in the hinterlands of the wild-card chase.

They were 10½ games back of the wild-card lead in late August, but they have the look that somewhere during the course of a title year defines all championship teams, a look that so often can be summed up by the number of times they should be dead and yet are still alive, still breathing healthier than ever, more dangerously than before.

The Cardinals are soaring emotionally after Lance Berkman and David Freese saved their season. They are healthier, both psychologically and physically, than the Rangers, who may or may not have Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli in the lineup for the last, winner-take-all game of the baseball season in Game 7. They have three starting pitchers -- Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook -- to back up their ace, Chris Carpenter, who already took out Roy Halladay and the Phillies in an elimination game in the National League Division Series, on the road no less.

History doesn't win games, but it can be instructive.

The Cardinals have won 80 percent of their World Series when trailing 3-2 with the final two games at home; no road team has won a Game 7 in 32 years, since the 1979 Pirates. And the past four teams that lost a heartbreaking Game 6 inches from a championship -- the 2002 Giants, the 1991 Braves and, of course, the 1986 Red Sox and 1985 Cardinals -- all lost Game 7.

The Cardinals have all the ingredients for a historic coronation, well-earned with flair and élan. That doesn't mean they will automatically win the World Series on Friday, but after what we've seen, after what they've done, who would feel comfortable betting against them?