Tomorrow is not another day for Texas
Rangers' season-long philosophy in danger of riding into sunset against Giants in Series
ARLINGTON, Texas -- All season long the Texas Rangers have relied on the belief that no matter how bad today might have been, tomorrow will be better. It's a great philosophy and it has served them well, but suddenly there's a problem.
What happens when the only thing that counts is today?
What happens when they've run out of tomorrows?
This is where the Rangers' first foray into the World Series has brought them.
They no longer have the luxury of being able to slough off a bad game with their dog-eared mantra of "We'll get 'em tomorrow."
Starting Monday, it's not about tomorrow anymore. It's all about putting their best game on the field right now. That's the only way they can earn another tomorrow.
Texas reached the point of no return Sunday night. The San Francisco Giants, led by impressive 21-year-old left-hander Madison Bumgarner and home runs from Fort Worth Brewer product Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey, dealt the Rangers a bone-chilling 4-0 whipping on Halloween to take a 3-1 lead in the 106th Fall Classic.
Yes, a handful of teams have come back to win the Series after falling into a 3-1 hole -- six of 41, actually -- but the odds are obviously long and the road littered with massive failures.
Sounds like a job for Superman, right?
Funny you should mention that. Cliff Lee starts for the Rangers in Game 5 Monday night, and if ever the Rangers needed something extraordinary from the man who has made a career out of just such postseason heroics, it's now.
It may well be Lee's last start in a Rangers uniform, with free agency looming in another month. The Rangers desperately need him to go out in style and send this World Series back to San Francisco with a win.
Even the Rangers hitters sound like they're depending on Lee to help them shovel their way out of this deepening grave.
"We got Lee going [Monday]," said outfielder Nelson Cruz, whose two-out single in the seventh was one of the Rangers' three measly hits. "That should be good."
Of course, it won't matter how well Lee pitches if the Rangers' offense continues to get shut down by Giants pitching. The Rangers have been shut out twice in the past three games in this Series.
"I don't remember the last time that happened," Cruz said.
The game started on a Texas high, thanks to pregame activities that included father-son Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. The senior Bush rode onto the field in a cart driven by his son and had to use a cane to stand with Junior and Rangers president Nolan Ryan at the mound.
Even at that, George Sr. looked positively vibrant compared with the Rangers' offense. Bumgarner put the Texas bats into a deep freeze with eight brilliant shutout innings.
Let's see, besides Lee, what positive spin can we put on this situation for Texas?
Hmmmm. I did mention that Lee is starting, right?
Let's see ... well, the weather should be quite nice for Nov. 1 ... hmmm ...
OK, that's about it. Back to reality.
In a critical Game 4 -- win and the Rangers don't just even up the Series, they swing all the numbers and the momentum to their side -- the Texas hitters morphed into zombies at about the same time a new series called "The Walking Dead" was debuting on American Movie Classics. The Rangers managed lone singles in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings against the green but talented Bumgarner before he gave way to closer Brian Wilson, who breezed through the ninth.
Ah, there it is, one more positive. The Giants provided the perfect blueprint for what the Rangers need from Lee in Game 5: eight shutout innings and hand the ball -- and hopefully a lead -- to closer Neftali Feliz.
With Game 4 starter Tommy Hunter delivering his third straight postseason start of four innings or less and with Alexi Ogando, one of the Rangers' three most effective relievers, suffering a strained oblique in the sixth inning Sunday that will sideline him for the rest of the Series, the Texas bullpen is shaky in its own right.
Lee, for one, seems ready for the challenge and a chance to redeem himself after his surprisingly poor Game 1 showing.
"In the regular season usually when you have a bad outing, your next outing is going to be against someone else," he said before the Rangers' offense went all spooky in Game 4. "This time I get a chance to redeem myself against the team that actually put it to me pretty good last time.
"I'm looking forward to it. It's basically the last start of the season for me and I want to do everything I can to help this team win the World Series.
OK, can he hit, too?
Nevertheless, anyone expecting panic or pouting in the Texas clubhouse, even as dark as this situation now looks, just hasn't been paying attention.
"I don't think discouraged is the right word," said third baseman Michael Young, who slapped a single off second baseman Freddy Sanchez's glove for the first Rangers hit leading off the fourth. "There's no sense talking about or worrying over something that's already happened.
"We just have to get after them in Game 5 and go from there. It's not over, but we're going to have to do it the hard way now."
"Hard way" doesn't even do justice to the mountain facing the Rangers. First, Lee must beat Lincecum in Game 5, returning the Series to the Hellhole by the Bay, where the Rangers have played 11 games and lost 11 times.
Then there's the little issue of a rematch with Matt Cain in Game 6. He helped author a Giants shutout in Game 2.
And if all that somehow falls in the Rangers' favor then, and only then, will things look a little brighter with Game 3 winner Colby Lewis set for Game 7.
It's a long way between here and there, though, and the Rangers can't be looking at tomorrow anymore.
From this point forward, it has to be all about today.
Jim Reeves, a former columnist with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is a regular contributor to ESPNDallas.com.