As I write this sentence, the Texas Rangers are down to their final strike in Game 2.  One strike away from being down 2-0 in the World Series.

The game was completely within reach for Texas as late as the 7th inning, when they were only trailing by the score of 1-0, with C.J. Wilson hanging in there for the most part against Giants starter Matt Cain.

Then the Texas bullpen came in, and failed to keep it within distance for the Rangers offense. In fact, they took what was a pitching duel and turned it into a laugher pretty damn quickly.

Darren O’Day allowed a run.  Derek Holland let three score without recording a single out.  Mark Lowe let two more score, again not getting one batter out.  Michael Kirkman finally ended the carnage, but even he let a run score.

Seven of the nine runs San Francisco scored came in the eighth inning.  Had Texas been able to escape that bottom frame, they would have gone up against Giants closer Brian Wilson, who’s known for making every outing extremely difficult (see the Giants slogan: Torture.) only two runs down.

Somewhere between that first paragraph and this one, Jeff Francoeur flew out to right field to end the game.  Now, it’s official: The Rangers are currently in a hole.   A big one.

Where’s the team that bounced back from their ALCS Game 1 collapse against the Yankees?

Where’s the team that felt no heat when the Tampa Bay Rays came back from a 2-0 series deficit and forced a Game 5?

They’re still there.  In body, and according to many experts who’ve been witnessing the World Series first-hand, in spirit

But this time, they don’t have Cliff Lee up their sleeve.  When the Yankees shocked the Rangers in the last round, the Rangers didn’t panic.  They had Cliff Lee looming in Game 3.

When the Rays won two straight in Arlington to push the ALDS to a Game 5, the Rangers didn’t panic.  They had Cliff Lee ready to go.

Now, they don’t have that.  Cliff Lee’s next scheduled start is Game 5, or maybe even Game 4 depending on how much Texas manager Ron Washington is panicking right now.

The Rangers can’t even fully depend on Lee now though.  He got rocked for six earned runs in Game 1 and didn’t make it out of the fifth inning, against a rather intimidating Giants offense.

What can the Rangers do now? 

Well, they need to hope Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter can pitch the Rangers into a 2-2 series tie (while avoiding the bullpen as much as possible) going into Game 5, where they can put Cliff Lee on the table, knowing full well no matter what they’ll be going back to San Francisco.

They also need to prove something to the baseball world.  Because for the first time this postseason, they’re going to have to win knowing that Cliff Lee isn’t there to bail them out.  The Rangers might not make it to Lee.

The Rangers were sure loose before the World Series, but once the players are between the lines for real, the Fall Classic can do some weird things to people.

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