Arlington, Texas Back in Texas. Back in the World Series.
The Rangers, behind emerging October ace Colby Lewis, came home and threw themselves the biggest tailgate party of them all, beating San Francisco, 4-2, on Saturday night and cutting the Giants’ Series edge to 2-1.
Longhorns, Aggies, Horned Frogs — sorry. This was a night to celebrate baseball.
“We wanted to get back home. We felt comfortable here,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “We knew we could finally put a good game together, and we did.”
Psyched by pep talks from former President George W. Bush and spurred by a heater from Nolan Ryan, the Rangers became the first team from Texas to win a Series game.
Rookie Mitch Moreland hit an early three-run homer, Josh Hamilton later launched a 426-foot shot and the Rangers posted a Series win that took the franchise 50 years to achieve.
Just in time, in fact, coming off two thumpings in San Francisco.
“We’re still down one game, but it’s shifted,” Hamilton said.
Game 3 marked the first time the Series visited the Metroplex. On a college football weekend, the parking lots filled up early with flying pigskins, fine BBQ smoke and fans checking the scores of their alma maters.
But Lewis and the Rangers showed there was still a place in the Lone Star State for another sport, too. And they certainly brought more joy than the NFL’s 1-5 Cowboys, whose gleaming stadium is just a few Hamilton-sized drives away.
“I was just really excited to come back home. I knew with these fans out here we had a definite advantage,” Lewis said. “It was just a thing of comfortability.”
Bush toured the Texas clubhouse before the game — previously a Rangers part-owner, he visited with individual players.
Then Big Tex himself jazzed the largest crowd in the history of Rangers Ballpark by cranking up for the ceremonial first toss. The Rangers’ part-owner flung a 68 mph fastball — pretty swift for a 63-year-old guy wearing dress pants and a tie.
Lewis took over after that. He worked around solo home runs by Cody Ross — the fifth of the postseason for the NL championship series MVP — in the seventh inning and Andres Torres in the eighth. The Giants eventually brought the tying run to the plate, but reliever Darren O’Day retired Buster Posey to end the eighth.
Washington finally brought in Neftali Feliz, and the rocket-armed closer pitched a perfect ninth for his first save of the postseason. Washington was criticized in the first two games at San Francisco for leaving Feliz in the bullpen while the Giants broke away.
Feliz struck out two, cheered on by Ryan, Bush and their wives in the front row next to the Texas dugout. As fireworks exploded overhead and Texas swing music blared, Bush leaned over and kissed Ryan’s wife, Ruth.
The Rangers looked more like themselves with Vladimir Guerrero back in the DH spot. The other Texas big bats chimed in, with Hamilton hitting his fifth home run of the postseason.
Moreland homered from the ninth spot in the lineup, connecting in the second for a 3-0 lead.
“It’s a different league, and that’s the American League,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “Their guy got a big hit.”
No team in World Series history has overcome a 3-0 deficit and now Texas won’t have to try, either. Rangers starter Tommy Hunter, especially good at home, faces rookie Madison Bumgarner in Game 4 on Sunday night.
Lewis picked up where he left off in the AL championship series, where he finished off the defending champion Yankees in Game 6. He’s 3-0 this postseason, all of his wins coming after a Texas loss.
Lewis allowed five hits in 7 2-3 innings and struck out six. He stopped a Giants team that had become the first NL team to score at least nine runs in back-to-back Series game.
“We needed a well-pitched job,” Washington said.
Moreland, promoted to the majors in late July, won a tough at-bat against Jonathan Sanchez and homered on the ninth pitch.
“I knew I had a runner in scoring position, so he was going to try to pitch me tough and I fouled off some off speed stuff and just tried to battle back, and I got the fastball,” Moreland said.
At a burly 6-foot-4, Lewis is built something like a fullback. Backed by Moreland’s homer, he plowed through the Giants until the late innings.
“It obviously takes some wind out of your sails, but the game’s still early right there. We have to keep battling and keep fighting. Colby wouldn’t let us do that. He was pitching great,” Ross said.
Lewis is a below-.500 pitcher for his career, not including the two seasons he recently spent pitching for Hiroshima in the Japan league. Despite a shaky record, he’s known for this trait: He gets tougher in tight situations.
Lewis escaped a two-on jam in the first by getting Pat Burrell to fish for a breaking ball, and worked around a leadoff walk to Ross in the second.
The next time he got on the mound, he already had a nice cushion.
Nelson Cruz opened the Texas second with a double off the center-field wall and eighth-place hitter Bengie Molina drew a walk. It was trouble time for Sanchez — he owned the best hits-to-innings ratio in the NL this year, yet also led the league in walks and can unravel quickly.
Moreland hung in, fouling off four straight 2-2 pitches and barely getting a piece on a couple of them. He then took a smooth swing sent a liner far into the right-field seats for his first career home run against a left-hander.
It was the big hit the Rangers needed to get back into the Series. The crowd roared and Ryan stood up, thrust his right arm in the air and hollered.
Hamilton gave his boss another thrill in the fifth. A bit jumpy at the plate early in the game, the probable AL MVP patiently waited for his pitch and launched a drive deep into the lower deck in right-center field.
“I felt like tonight I just stayed square and covered the ball,” he said.
Sanchez, who got just six outs against Philadelphia in his previous start, gave up four runs, six hits and three walks in 4 2-3 innings, raising his ERA to 4.05 in four postseason starts. He was replaced by Guillermo Mota, who had started warming up in the third.
Notes: Feliz, at 22, is the second-youngest pitcher to post a save in the World Series. The youngest was Bob Welch of the Dodgers at 21 in 1978. The previous second-youngest was Nolan Ryan with the Mets in 1969. ... The Rangers had lost 13 of their previous 14 games against the Giants. ... Texas teams were 0-6 in the Series until this game. The Houston Astros were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.