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Texas Rangers must overcome history, stats, San Francisco Giants to win World Series

ARLINGTON, Texas — There was a reason they were underdogs against the Rays.

For instance, the Texas Rangers had lost 10 of their previous 12 games at Tropicana Field. And of the eight teams to reach the 2010 postseason, they had the second-worst record on the road.

There was also a reason they were underdogs against the New York Yankees.

The Rangers had gone 9-15 against the American League's three other playoff teams during the regular season. In fact, the Rangers were 23-30 against teams with a winning record this season.

And there was a reason their odds of winning the pennant were weaker than the other AL playoff teams.

They had fewer regular-season victories and less postseason experience than the Rays, Yankees and Twins when October began.

So do you really need a reason why the Rangers are down 2-0 in the World Series this morning?

Don't get me wrong.

The Rangers are a fine team. A worthy champion of the American League.

But Texas had some noticeable flaws in 2010, and they couldn't be covered up by a bunch of pretty World Series banners. The Giants have certainly made that clear in Games 1 and 2.

This is only the second time in the 106-year history of the World Series that a team has given up nine or more runs in each of the first two games of the Fall Classic. And the other time it happened, San Diego ended being swept by the Yankees in 1998.

"We're not here to wager on the over/under or to make predictions about who is going to win what game," Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson said Friday afternoon. "We're here to play."

And there is every indication the Rangers will play well tonight in Game 3. Starting pitcher Colby Lewis has been outstanding in three postseason appearances, and Rangers Ballpark has been a performance-enhancing drug for the Texas offense.

The possibility of Texas winning two or three games at home is not far-fetched in the least. They have antlers and claws and Cliff Lee, oh my. The issue is that, eventually, the Series would have to go back to AT&T Park.

"We know if we're going to win the Series, we have to win a game in San Francisco," said outfielder Jeff Francoeur. "And we're fine with that. We've won on the road all postseason."

If you miscalculated the Rangers' World Series chances, that may be where it started.

Texas was not a good road team in 2010. In fact, the Rangers have not been a good road team in quite some time.

Maybe that is because the roster has often been built with this stadium in mind. Texas has long been a haven for hitters but a wasteland for starting pitching. That has made road games a struggle for a decade or more.

So it was stunning to see the Rangers win three consecutive games against the Rays at Tropicana Field in the ALDS.

And it was nearly repeated a week later when they won two of three at Yankee Stadium in the ALCS.

But in retrospect, those games may have been the aberration.

Tampa Bay and New York were both susceptible to left-handed pitching, and four of those five road victories came with left-handers on the mound for Texas. When you're only giving up one or two runs an outing, winning on the road is suddenly easier.

That wasn't the case once the Rangers got to San Francisco.

The Giants had no trouble knocking Lee around the park in Game 1. And while Wilson pitched much better in Game 2, the Giants managed to keep the pressure on Texas until the bullpen collapsed.

"You try to analyze what went wrong and try to correct it. You just try to stay relaxed and get out there and get back to playing your game," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Now that we're home, we feel comfortable back in this place. Not taking anything away from the Giants; they beat us soundly. We've just got to come back here, get focused, win a game.

"We win a game, everything will be fine."

The problem at this point is the Rangers are not just playing the Giants. They're also battling history, and that may be a tougher assignment.

Of the 51 teams that have lost the first two games of a World Series, only 10 have come back to win it all. That doesn't make it impossible, but it suggests the odds are heavily in San Francisco's favor, no matter how well the Rangers play in Arlington.

The last time a team came back from 0-2 was in 1996, when the Yankees won four in a row against the Braves. It's a series that at least one Rangers player was thinking about on Friday. Francoeur was a sixth-grader in Atlanta watching that World Series.

"I'll never forget that Series. We were up 2-0, and everybody thought we were going to win the Series in back-to-back years. I felt like we were the best team in baseball that year," Francoeur said.

"The Braves hammered the Yankees in the first two games (12-1 and 4-0) just like the Giants did to us. And then the Yankees turned it around. Hopefully, we can pull a repeat."

John Romano can be reached at jromano@sptimes.com.

Texas Rangers must overcome history, stats, San Francisco Giants to win World Series 10/30/10 [Last modified: Saturday, October 30, 2010 12:06am]

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