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Rangers comfy at home after stumbling in San Fran


ARLINGTON, Texas -- This looks like the same World Series. Walks and talks like the same World Series.

But after the Rangers opened the gates on their first-ever Fall Classic game, is this the same World Series?

Sure didn't look like it after Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan had thrown out the first pitch, Mitch Moreland had slugged the first three-run homer, Josh Hamilton re-introduced himself to the public at large and Neftali Feliz closed the book on the finest moment in franchise history, a 4-2 Game 3 strafing of the high-flying San Francisco Giants.

What a difference a day (in another venue) makes.

After two games of fumbling, stumbling and crumbling, the Rangers finally showed up.

Welcome, Rangers.

"We love hitting in our home ballpark," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "We're comfortable here. We enjoy playing here. There are a lot of good hitter's parks around the big leagues, but we enjoy playing here."

What they learned on the last Saturday in October, normally reserved for nothing but football in these parts, is that they especially enjoy playing in the World Series here.

"Obviously, a lot of people realize this is history," Kinsler said. "And we're making history with every win.

"We loved seeing the first pitch Colby [Lewis] threw taken away after strike one."

It took a while, but if the Rangers figure out a way to keep playing like they did Saturday, that historic first-ever Rangers World Series pitch will not be the only artifact headed to the franchise trophy case, or Cooperstown, or wherever.

As Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff was saying, nobody in San Francisco came here expecting a sweep. Nobody expected things to remain as easy for the Giants as they were in the first two games.

But the Rangers are a different breed at home amid the tumbleweeds and Lyle Lovett.

And even though the Giants still are in control, there were some ominous signs forming in Game 3, starting with a second consecutive less-than-Giant outing from starter Jonathan Sanchez. Aside from Moreland's second-inning blast, Sanchez allowed Hamilton to crush a solo homer in the fifth, then was removed by manager Bruce Bochy when he followed that with a walk to Vladimir Guerrero.

Sanchez now has surrendered six earned runs, nine hits and five walks over his past 6 2/3 innings in Game 3 here Saturday night and Game 6 of the NLCS in Philadelphia last Saturday.

More worrisome, he had nothing on his fastball in Texas. It didn't break 90 mph, and he got only two swings-and-misses during his 72-pitch outing.

Lewis, meanwhile, was cruising, throwing first-pitch strikes to 26 of the 30 batters he faced.

Sanchez vs. Lewis is the projected Game 7 pitching matchup if this series extends that far, emphasis on projected.

Because you bet the dull stuff and lack of swings-and-misses put the Giants on high alert. Pitching coach Dave Righetti, asked if the staff now will have to have a conversation about whether to use Sanchez in Game 7, quickly replied, "Damn right."

The Giants could circumvent that conversation and remove the decision from the hands of Righetti, Bochy, et. al., of course, simply by winning twice more, pronto.

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As things stand now, though, there is every reason to believe that the Rangers can continue to make life a living hell for San Francisco over these next two games at The Ballpark in Arlington (name as dull as Sanchez's repertoire) because that's what they do here.

Hamilton had more than twice as many long balls at home (22) as on the road (10) this summer. Michael Young (two hits in Game 3) smashed 16 homers and collected 55 RBI in 79 home games this season, as opposed to 5 and 36 in 78 road games. Nelson Cruz hit more than 100 points better at home (.371) than on the road (.267).

"I feel great," said Rangers manager Ron Washington, who recovered quite well from the [deserved] sharpshooting he took following his bullpen's Game 2 meltdown. "We wanted to get back home. We felt comfortable here. We knew we could finally put a good game together, and we did."

Hamilton went a step further, saying, "You know, the momentum, obviously we're still down one game, but it's shifted."

The Rangers knew, whether they admitted it or not, that their first home World Series game doubled as a must-win game. Had they gone down 3-0 in this series, they would have been as dead as, Lord forbid, the Cowboys.

"To be honest, I don't really buy the must-win," Young argued. "When the other team is up 3-0, then it's a must-win.

"Having said that, we're not blind. The biggest thing is, we started playing our style again."

And, as Young promised, "we can even get better."

In a hallway outside the Rangers' clubhouse as a stadium-record crowd of 52,419 headed out after, as Kinsler said, seeing history, new Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg spoke like a man who expects even more of it.

"Tremendous pride," he said of the first-ever World Series game in north Texas. "Knowing what this means to so many people, being so proud of our players and our front office people.

"Even after the other night, I felt very comfortable losing two on the road. I grew up rooting for the Pirates, and I've seen them fall behind 2-1 [against the Yankees in the 1960 World Series] and 3-1 [against the Orioles in the 1979 World Series] and come back to win.

"I knew coming back to our house it would be a different deal."

Question now becomes, will it stay a different deal?


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