Josh Hamilton and the Rangers are heading home with all the momentum -- and their slumbering offence is finally showing signs of life.
Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus delivered back-to-back singles in the ninth inning Thursday night before Hamilton and Michael Young brought them in with a pair of sacrifice flies, allowing Texas to tie the World Series with a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2.
Baffled most of the night by Jaime Garcia and the Cardinals' stingy bullpen, the Rangers were three outs from heading back to Texas in another two-game hole. Instead, they mustered just enough offence on a night when runs were at a premium, and they suddenly seem to have the upper hand.
The Rangers were 52-29 at home this season; they went 44-37 on the road.
"It was calm in our dugout the whole night," manager Ron Washington said. "You've got to keep fighting. We needed to get one here. And I think tonight was one of those great ballgames that you'll continue to see between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals."
Texas powered its way into the World Series by launching balls out of the park.
Nelson Cruz was the MVP of the AL championship series mostly because he had six homers and 13 RBIs against the Detroit Tigers — both major league records for a post-season series. Kinsler and Adrian Beltre each bopped 32 homers during the season, Hamilton wasn't far behind with 25, and Mike Napoli's homer drove in Texas' only runs in a 3-2 loss to St. Louis in Game 1.
But with the big bats fizzling, the Rangers used daring baserunning to finally get some runs.
Kinsler singled off previously untouchable closer Jason Motte to start the ninth, and Washington sent him in an effort to put the tying run in scoring position. It wound up being a bang-bang play at second, but Kinsler slid in safely with a stolen base just ahead of the strong throw by catcher Yadier Molina.
Andrus followed with a base hit to centre that sent Kinsler to third, and Andrus alertly advanced to second when the cutoff throw deflected off the glove of first baseman Albert Pujols and went all the way to the plate.
That was critical. Hamilton hit the first pitch from Arthur Rhodes to right field for a tying sacrifice fly. Andrus was aggressive again in moving up to third base on the play, and he came home moments later when Young hit his sacrifice fly to centre.
"It wasn't a series-saving rally," Kinsler said, "but it was huge."
More than an hour after the game, the official scorers charged Pujols with an error.
The Rangers had been in jeopardy of heading home in the same predicament they faced last year.
After dropping the first two World Series games in franchise history in San Francisco, Texas managed to win Game 3 behind the stellar pitching of Colby Lewis. But the Rangers lost the next two games and wound up watching the Giants celebrate on their home field.
That's the fate they'll try to avoid when this year's Series resumes Saturday night.
"It's just our attitude, up and down our lineup. Our guys want to win ballgames," Hamilton said, "and it doesn't matter if we're down five runs or up five runs. We have that attitude that until the last out's made, we're going to keep fighting."
Hamilton's clutch sacrifice fly may have been the extent of what he could do.
The ailing slugger said before the game that a sore groin that's been bothering him for months would probably have put him on the disabled list if this was the regular season. Instead, he's been forced to play through pain on baseball's biggest stage.
Hamilton remains hitless in seven at-bats against St. Louis, and is 2 for 27 going back to last year's World Series. But he had enough power in his stride to launch a sacrifice fly to the outfield when it mattered the most.
One that helped send the Rangers back home with all the momentum.
"It would have been hard," Hamilton said of the prospects of a two-game hole. "We would have been comfortable going back to our place, having three games. They're just like we are, never say die, 'til the last out is made. It makes it fun."