Missed opportunities will haunt Rangers

ST. LOUIS -- In the end, the Texas Rangers didn't lose the World Series because of a managerial move Ron Washington made or didn't make.

It wasn't determined by bullpen decisions. Or pinch-hitting moves. And it certainly wasn't decided because Washington chose Matt Harrison to start Game 7 instead of Derek Holland.

The Rangers lost the World Series, the best in a decade, because they couldn't make one pitch.


Neftali Feliz couldn't deliver it in the bottom of the ninth in Game 6. And Scott Feldman couldn't do it in the bottom of the 10th.

The Rangers blew the World Series and their opportunity to win the first title in franchise history Thursday night in Game 6, when they wasted a pair of late two-run leads.

That's the truth.

Perhaps you're not ready to admit it and deal with it yet, but that's the reality of the Rangers' season.

Say what you want about any move Washington made. It's all irrelevant.

Feliz, the closer with an 0.87 ERA, had the ball with a two-run lead and one out in the ninth inning.

The game, the series, was supposed to end right then.

That was the Rangers' opportunity to remove their franchise's name from the ignominious list of big league franchises that haven't won a championship. That was their opportunity to validate Nolan Ryan's prediction of a series win in six games.

The 96 wins, the American League West title and the postseason wins over the Tampa Bay Rays and the Detroit Tigers will mean a lot more in a couple of months than they do right now.

As the players spend time with their families during the offseason, they won't spend quiet moments muttering about their 6-2 Game 7 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday at Busch Stadium.

It'll be Game 6 that haunts them. Maybe, forever. You just don't get too many chances to win a title.

The Rangers had one chance to win Game 7.

Josh Hamilton's RBI-double followed by Michael Young's RBI-single gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead four batters into the game.

It was the perfect start because it hushed the crowd, while giving Harrison a chance to work with a lead and a small margin for error.

If Harrison could execute a shutdown inning, then the Rangers could build on their momentum against St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter and attempt to put the game away early -- even against the relentless Red Birds.

But Harrison gave away the lead almost as fast as the Rangers had given it to him.

First, he issued a two-out walk to Albert Pujols on four pitches nowhere near the strike zone.

"I wasn't trying to pitch around him in the first inning with a two-run lead," said Harrison, who didn't fall asleep until 2:30 a.m. "I was just missing my spots."

Then, Harrison walked Lance Berkman, bringing David Freese to the plate. Freese worked a 3-2 count before ripping a double to left-center, driving in Pujols and Berkman with the tying runs.

So much for momentum.

"I felt pretty good," Harrison said, "but then for two batters I just couldn't hit the strike zone."

With the Rangers trailing 3-2 in the fifth inning, Scott Feldman issued a one-out walk to Allen Craig and hit Pujols on an 0-2 pitch.

Berkman grounded out, and Feldman intentionally walked Freese, which brought free-swinging Yadier Molina to the plate. Molina walked on a 3-2 pitch, forcing in a run.

C.J. Wilson replaced Feldman and hit Rafael Furcal with his first pitch, forcing in another run.

When the inning ended, the Cardinals had scored two runs without a hit.

"I don't want to complain about the umpires," Feldman said. "If I was an ump, I'd probably call every pitch a strike."

We all think the Rangers are poised to begin a long, successful run because they have stable ownership, money, a good manager and more talent than most teams.

Their farm system is stocked with talented players, they're doing a terrific job of international scouting and their core should remain together for the next few seasons.

None of that guarantees the Rangers a ring -- and that's what's so disappointing about the Rangers' inability to close out the series in six games.

You can't waste opportunities. They're too precious.

Key injuries, bad luck -- think Miguel Cabrera's bad-hop double in the American League Championship Series -- poor seasons from good players or an equally good team can stop a championship run.

The Philadelphia Phillies won 102 games and didn't get out of the first round. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox with their unlimited payrolls will always be threats.

You just can't assume that the Rangers are going to the World Series next year. Or every couple of years.

It doesn't work that way.

That's why their failure to make one pitch will haunt every member of the organization until the day they win a championship.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.