For example, Michael Young admitted that the 1-2 fastball that he struck out on in the eighth inning was a terrific pitch. But Young said there were pitches earlier in that most crucial at-bat that he should have hit.
"I should have never been in that count," Young said. "When a guy with that good of stuff gives you good pitches to hit, you've got to make sure you get them. His fastball has got some giddyup, but I should have found a way to put it in play."
Sammy Sosa felt similar frustration after swinging at two fastballs and popping out to lead off the ninth.
"He gave me a pitch that I could hit, and I just missed it," Sosa said. "I had a good swing but came up empty. He threw another one, and I was little bit under it. It happens. We still got the series, two out of three."
The Rangers did, but they wanted more and certainly had a right to be greedy during the drama-drenched eighth when Gerald Laird and Ian Kinsler worked walks and Kenny Lofton beat out a sacrifice bunt for a single against Red Sox reliever Joel Pineiro.
The Rangers were still down, 3-1, but with nobody out and, as manager Ron Washington said later, "We had everything lined up perfectly. We had the right guys up at the plate."
Starting with Nelson Cruz. Red Sox manager Terry Francona had brought in Javier Lopez for a lefty-on-lefty matchup with Frank Catalanotto, but Washington countered with Cruz.
He swung at the first pitch and hit a line shot that first baseman Kevin Youkilis reached up to get his glove on but couldn't hold. He managed to recover to get Lofton at second for the force, but Laird scored and the Rangers still had runners at the corners with one out and Young coming to the plate.
That's when Francona brought in Papelbon, who hadn't pitched since Thursday, hoping for a five-out save. Francona, after getting seven terrific innings from Curt Schilling, did not want this game to get away without using his best reliever.
Papelbon responded to his manager's faith by striking out Young on four pitches and getting Mark Teixeira to pop out to end the threat. He then closed out the ninth, retiring Sosa on a popup before striking out Hank Blalock and Brad Wilkerson.
"Pap's our guy," Francona said. "But what he did against that middle of the order, you're not going to see that very often against them. I don't care who it is."
Schilling, who held the Rangers to one run on four hits to get the victory, said, "That job tonight against the guys [Papelbon] did it against in the fashion he did it was unbelievable."
Schilling outpitched Rangers starter Vicente Padilla mainly because he had David Ortiz on his side. Both pitchers went seven innings and allowed four hits. The difference was Schilling gave up a home run to Frank Catalanotto, while Padilla gave up two to Ortiz.
Ortiz took him deep in the top of the first and again in the third to break a 1-1 tie. Ortiz came up with two outs and a runner on second and hit a 2-1 fastball into the right-field seats.
Washington said he didn't want to walk Ortiz with Manny Ramirez on deck. Padilla said he wanted to pitch around Ortiz, but a fastball that was supposed to get inside trailed back over the plate.
"I didn't throw it where I wanted it," Padilla said.
"He kept trying to throw the fastball past him, and he got it up in the zone," Washington said. "The big boy doesn't miss. That's where they beat us, two swings of the bat. Other guys are going to pay, too."
That gave the Red Sox a 3-1 lead, and the Rangers were never able to mount a serious threat against Schilling. Other than Catalanotto's first-inning home run, Schilling did not allow a runner past first base and he retired the last 10 batters he faced.
He left after throwing 102 pitches, giving the Rangers a shot at getting to the Red Sox bullpen. In their minds, the opportunity was there.
"We had a chance, and we didn't do it," Washington said. "But I like the way we fought and played. Trying to sweep that club is not easy.
"But we almost did. ... We almost did."