That Sinking Feeling

This about sums it up.Joey Matschulat over at Baseball Time in Arlington has this to say, in part, following the Rangers’ 4-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Sunday evening:

Game 4 itself was a story of seeming hopelessness, reminiscent in some ways of the fourth game of the ALDS. On that particular Sunday afternoon, Tampa Bay claimed an early advantage, and you could almost feel the crowd deflating through the television, as though it was trying to muster the requisite energy to vocalize the support this team deserved, but simply proving incapable of doing so. I won’t say that the crowd outright sucked last night, because it didn’t — but at the same time, the crowd never seemed quite the same after Aubrey Huff jacked a terrible Tommy Hunter cutter high and deep into the night. The crowd wasn’t ready for that adversity, I don’t think, and — to me, at least — it was palpable even through the over-the-air television broadcast.

I’ve read other reports criticizing the fans’ response (or lack thereof) last night to Aubrey Huff’s home run. Some blame the lack of fire on fans that could afford to go to the World Series that don’t really care about the game itself. I’m not sure I agree with that. Scanning the crowd last night, I saw very few people who weren’t in Rangers Red or Blue. I don’t think it was that the crowd didn’t care, I think it was that the crowd had same reaction to Huff’s homer that I did. “Oh boy, here we go again.”

It was a sinking feeling, watching that ball soar over the right field wall and into the darkness. The Rangers’ bats haven’t been what they were even ten days ago. I exhaled, thought about how the hitters had fared thus far in the game, and I thought, “This game is over.” (Yeah, Granddad’s phrase rears its ugly head.) The Rangers’ bats haven’t been producing much at all, and a two run deficit feels insurmountable. Though the Giants added two more, those first two runs were all that were necessary. The mighty Rangers lineup went down with a three-hit whimper. No extra base hits. One runner in scoring position all night long. I can’t fault the crowd for having the life sucked out of them. I was in the same position last night, just on my own couch; and the Rangers certainly didn’t give us anything about which we could get excited.

I realize that good pitching usually beats good hitting. Not to take anything away from the Giants’ pitchers, but I think the Rangers problems are mental. The Rangers have three multi-run innings this entire series, with two of the three coming when Game 1 was already out of hand. The third was the difference maker in Game 3. I think the Rangers are in their own heads. You can see frustration at the plate. You see it in their faces when a strike is called. You can see it in the mighty Vladimir Guerrero’s whimper of a swing. They’ve stopped having fun. They’re in the World Series and I think that’s gotten to them. That, and the Giants’ pitching.

I think they win Game 5 tonight. I think Cliff Lee comes back and throws a gem, and the Rangers send the series back to the Bay for Game 6. But I think for the Rangers to really be back in this series, they need to win tonight BIG. They can’t win the game off of a single inning of scoring. They need to get their bats going, get loosened up, and start having fun again. They need a game that isn’t a sigh of relief; they need a game that’s a deep exhale, “we’re back” sort of game. They’ve hit good pitching before. They need the kind of game that reminds them that while good pitching usually usually beats good hitting, sometimes good hitting rocks good pitching. Pitchers, after all, are human. If they have that kind of game, a game that gets them believing in themselves and having fun, then they just may have a chance in Game 6.

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