Near-homer embodies Rangers' misfortune
Rally never comes after Kinsler drive bounces off top of wall
SAN FRANCISCO -- That close.
Strange as it might seem when the Rangers ended up being defeated 9-0 in Game 2 of the World Series, but they were a matter of inches from it being a much different ballgame Thursday night.
One of the only Rangers batters to get solid wood on a Matt Cain pitch all night, Ian Kinsler delivered a powerful shot to center field in the fifth inning, a ball that sailed into the night sky seemingly headed for a game-tying solo homer.
But the ball hit the very top of the fence, bouncing back in play and keeping the Rangers off the scoreboard as Kinsler stood on second base in disbelief.
For Giants center fielder Andres Torres, the ball coming back to him the way it did was a baffling sight, one he really didn't expect.
"To be honest with you, I knew he hit it good, but I was waiting for it to come off the wall," Torres said. "Then it hit the top of the fence and came back to me. I don't know how that happened, to be honest with you. It just came back, and I was like, 'Wow.' It was just right off the top."
Indeed, had it gone out, who knows what would have happened in this game?
Kinsler's double led off the inning and might have been the start of something big, but he was left stranded at second as Cain masterfully got out of that and another jam in the sixth inning to keep the Rangers frustrated and scoreless.
Either one could have been the type of inning that got the Rangers going, but the big rally didn't materialize.
"We know we're capable of having a big inning," said Rangers No. 2 hitter Michael Young. "It hasn't happened yet, but we've got a powerful, versatile offense that can get it done."
Chalk this one up as an opportunity missed, perhaps by only an inch or two.
"We had some opportunities early in the ballgame to put some runs on the board and we had the right people up there, and [Cain] made his pitches," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "That's what he does well. We just couldn't get it done. I think you have to tip your hat to the pitching over there right now."
For his part, Kinsler -- who did not address the media after Game 2 -- continues to put together a tremendous postseason. He has hit safely in 11 of 13 games, starting by hitting safely with a run scored in his first five games to tie Nomar Garciaparra (Red Sox, 1998-99) for the longest such streak to begin a postseason career. Kinsler's double was his sixth extra-base hit of the postseason, and he carries a .326 average (15-for-46) through his first 13 contests.
While both Elvis Andrus and Nelson Cruz saw their postseason-long hitting streaks end, Kinsler continued to mash in October.
The bizarre bounce fits right in with the postseason Kinsler has had thus far as well -- he's swinging the bat well and getting on base, but this wasn't the first time things didn't quite turn out the way he and the Rangers would have hoped. There was Kinsler's Game 1 gaffe -- when he turned toward second after an infield hit, ultimately tagged out by first baseman Aubrey Huff -- and there was the pickoff in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
This time, on the other hand, Kinsler did everything he could, but fate -- and some green padding atop the wall in center field at AT&T Park -- stood between him and a big postseason play.
"That was big, you know?" Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez said. "For them to not get a run that inning, Matty stepped up and came up big for us. It was nice that that ball came back for us."
Said Giants closer Brian Wilson: "I'm thinking that wall was designed perfectly for tonight. And Cain kept his composure. That's a double right there, and the possibility of scoring a run right there is huge, but he made the pitches he needed to make, and that was a shutdown inning. It was probably a big momentum inning."
And it was that close to swinging the momentum toward the Rangers.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.