On Monday night, tension comes to a baseball field in Arlington like never before.
Game 5 of the World Series always has the potential for heightened drama and the sweet stress that goes with it, but this one has it all and then some before the curtain is even raised. This one has Cliff Lee vs. Tim Lincecum poised for a rematch for the ages. It has the vaunted Texas offense meeting another daunting challenge from the game's best pitching staff. It has the Giants feeling, smelling, tasting the ultimate prize within their reach.
To think, it's been 39 years since the Rangers first came to Texas, playing in a ballpark with aluminum bleachers and their hopes of a World Series a distant dream. Buddy Bell and Jim Sundberg, Nolan Ryan and Julio Franco, Juan Gonzalez and Pudge Rodriguez, they all starred as Rangers for years but never got to experience this tension on their home field.
This is the dream, Texas. This is the World Series. It doesn't come easy, and this kind of dream doesn't come often.
This is tension, Texas: Lee and Lincecum, squaring off on the mound with everything on the line.
From the first pitch Lee delivers in his second matchup of aces against Lincecum, the air at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington will be thick with the incomparable tension that comes with a World Series on the brink.
Fewer than 72 hours after the World Series arrived in Arlington for the first time, Game 5 will be the final game there in 2010, regardless of the outcome. A lot of baseball history has been made at the ballpark this year, and one more slice of it, extra thick with drama, will be on the menu Monday.
The ongoing October story that is the postseason reaches a whole new level on the first day of November, with the visiting Giants leading 3-1 and poised for their first World Series title since 1954, before the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958.
AT A LOSS
The Giants have their own ghosts of the past wafting in the air amid the anticipation -- they were five outs away in 2002, and they were a snagged Willie McCovey liner away in 1962, and now they're this close once again.
Enjoy it, Giants.
No doubt, the home crowd at Rangers Ballpark will be cheering wildly for the tension to continue for a few more days, and would gladly send it to a ballpark about 1,700 miles away in San Francisco.
The Rangers intend to extend their own quest for World Series glory, and a win in Game 5 would send the Series back to AT&T Park for Game 6 on Wednesday, and a possible Game 7 after that. A three-game winning streak -- and that's what they need -- starts with one.
"It's not over," Rangers veteran third baseman Michael Young said after Sunday's 4-0 Giants victory in Game 4. "We'll have to do it the hard way. It all revolves around Game 5. We have to win Game 5."
Enjoy it, Texas.
"If you don't have confidence we can win, you should stay home," catcher Bengie Molina said. "I'm very confident we can win three games."
With another spectacular mound matchup like nothing seen before in Texas, the Year of the Pitcher continues to tell the tale during the postseason. Lee vs. Lincecum sets the stage for what could be the season's final delivery.
Including the first meeting between the two in Game 1, this is only the eighth time Cy Young winners will meet in a World Series game. This matchup figures to have less offense than the last one did, when the Giants took Game 1 by an 11-7 score -- and neither Lee nor Lincecum made it out of the fifth.
"Two of the best pitchers in the league going at it, battling," Giants outfielder Cody Ross said. "Last time we won, 11-7, which was weird. But I doubt that's going to be the case."
Lee has some helpful history on his side, having won Game 5 of the World Series against the Yankees a year ago for the Phillies, keeping the Series alive for a Game 6. Lee hadn't lost a game in postseason play until this Series' Game 1 setback, but he enters Game 5 with his regular dose of confidence.
"I keep things simple," he said. "I expect to have success every time I take the mound. I mean, I didn't last time. I'm going to go out this next time and expect to have success."
Having success against Lincecum is a difficult enough assignment, and doing it with no room for error is that much more of a daunting task. From the first at-bats they take, the Rangers' hitters will be trying to get anything going against the Freak, knowing they shouldn't have to put too many runs on the board for Complete Lee.
From the very first moments, Rangers Ballpark will be thick with anticipation, fans who have waited decades to live this dream, hoping it will continue as they hang on every pitch with two of the best in the game delivering them.
That's tension, Texas.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less