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Masters of resilience, Rangers have new test

Bauman: New test of Rangers' resilience

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Texas Rangers have taken great and justifiable pride in their ability to deal with adversity. Here's their chance to make the point once again, because they are looking at an adversity surplus now.

After an atypical pitching breakdown from Cliff Lee in Game 1 of the 2010 World Series, the Rangers suffered from a severe offensive shortage in Game 2. San Francisco starter Matt Cain had a lot to do with this lack of offense, but one way or another, the Rangers were stopped cold on Thursday night.

And then, a bullpen implosion in the eighth inning turned defeat toward humiliation in a 9-0 loss. Now, the Rangers are down, 2-0. Adversity is all over the place. The trick here is not to see this as a crisis, but as the best opportunity yet to establish this team's comeback credentials.

"We've talked about the resilience of this team over and over again," outfielder David Murphy said on Thursday night. "I guess this is the true test. We haven't been down 2-0 in a [postseason] series before.

"We'll show up with our 'A' game for Game 3, in front of our fans."

That is a plus for the Rangers, with the Series shifting to Arlington. Texas' Game 3 starter, Colby Lewis, has been a stalwart in this postseason, going 2-0 against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, including a brilliant effort against them in the clincher of that series.

Those are genuine positives for the Rangers, along with the sense that their overall level of play is simply much better than they demonstrated in the first two games of this Series. But the history of these Fall Classic circumstances does not smile upon them.

Fifty-two teams have jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the Fall Classic, with 40 of the previous 51 going on to win the World Series.

Seventeen of the last 25 Fall Classics, starting in 1985, have headed to Game 3 with one team on top 2-0. Thirteen of the previous 16 went on to win the Series. The 1996 Braves, the '86 Red Sox and the '85 Cardinals all started with a 2-0 lead before losing the Series.

The home team has taken a 2-0 lead 35 times in the World Series and won 28 of those previous 34 Fall Classics. Since the 1981 Yankees went up 2-0 at home but lost the Series, the last 11 home teams that took a 2-0 lead went on to win.

None of that is encouraging news for the Rangers, but they believe that they have the ability and the outlook to come back, even in the most difficult circumstances. The 2-0 circumstances certainly qualify as difficult.

Asked to describe what quality about his club made comebacks possible, manager Ron Washington replied:

A look at how teams taking a 2-0 World Series lead have fared.
World Series facts and figures
  1. Fifty-two teams have taken a 2-0 lead in the Fall Classic, with 40 of the previous 51 going on to win the World Series.
  2. Starting in 1985, 17 of the last 25 Fall Classics, including this year's, have headed to Game 3 with one team on top, 2-0.
  3. Thirteen of the 16 clubs that led, 2-0, won the Series. The 1996 Braves, '86 Red Sox and '85 Cardinals led, 2-0, but lost the Series.
  4. The home team has taken a 2-0 lead 35 times (including these Giants) and has won 28 of those previous 34 Series.
  5. Since the 1981 Yankees went up 2-0 at home but lost the Series, the last 11 home teams that took a 2-0 lead went on to win.

"A day at a time, staying in the moment, but trusting each other and knowing there's more than one game to be played. It's a seven-game series. If you put too much emphasis on what happened the day before and not learn from it, then it can confuse you the next day. We're not confused."

In the first two games of the 2010 World Series, the best of Rangers baseball has not been on display. In fact, even average Rangers baseball has not been on display. In Game 1, the pitching and the defense broke down. In Game 2, pitching was not the core problem for Texas. On Thursday night, starter C.J. Wilson pitched well enough before departing in the seventh with a blister on left middle finger and his club trailing, 1-0.

A bullpen meltdown in the eighth did add considerably to the Rangers' general sense of futility. At one point, reliever Derek Holland walked three straight San Francisco hitters. All in all, four Texas relievers allowed eight straight hitters to reach base in the eighth, and seven runs eventually scored. This all tended to reduce the retrospective drama about what would have happened if Ian Kinsler's fifth-inning double to straightaway center had the extra inch or two that it needed to become a home run.

Thus, a 2-0 loss was transformed into a 9-0 loss. But the truth was, Texas' bullpen could have thrown shutout innings at San Francisco, and the Rangers still would not have won this game. Cain was terrific. He threw the way the Rangers thought Lee was supposed to throw in Game 1. Cain has not given up an earned run in three postseason starts this October.

But the Rangers remain publicly committed to the notion that they're not in anything like desperate shape.

"There's still a lot of baseball left to be played," Washington said. "We certainly don't feel like we're defeated. We're heading home. They took care of us in their ballpark; now we're headed to ours."

Adversity is front and center, caused by a combination of the Giants' strengths and the Rangers' shortcomings in Games 1 and 2. Yes, this 2-0 World Series should be a true test of the mettle of the Texas Rangers.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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