By Stephen Young
By Stephen Young
By Stephen Young
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
11:54 a.m. With a Texas Rangers playoff game followed by a Dallas Cowboys contest, this could be one of the wildest, most wonderful Sundays in the history of metroplex sports. Up two games to one, the Rangers can close out their American League Divisional Series against the Tampa Bay Rays. And at 1-2 but favored by a touchdown, the Cowboys can climb back into the NFC's playoff race with a win over the Tennessee Titans. It's all happening right here on Randol Mill Road. And it's all going down on 10.10.10. Somebody summon Bo Derek, this is going to be beautiful.
12:09 p.m. On the fifth pitch of the game from Rangers' starter Tommy Hunter, Rays' catcher John Jaso singles to center field. Uh-oh, that didn't take long.
12:21 p.m. After the Rangers grabbed a 2-0 series lead, the Rays are playing cleaner, more efficient baseball. After Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton turns a double into a triple with an awkward, acute angle on Carlos Peña's drive off the left-field wall, Texas really makes a mess of things. Because he was never called off the ball by right fielder Nelson Cruz, second baseman Ian Kinsler furiously backpedals and eventually boots the shoulda-been out, allowing Tampa a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Cruz catches that ball with his momentum headed toward the infield and Peña doesn't even try to score.
12:49 p.m. Lots of antlers and claws (corny has become cool), thousands of white rally towels and plenty of red in the crowd. Also heard a couple of vuvuzelas. Fitting, since Rangers runs are suddenly as scarce as World Cup soccer goals.
1:02 p.m. His name was "Big Game" Hunter. He used to be 7-0 at home. But today the Rangers starter just doesn't have it. He strikes out the side in the fourth inning but in between allows three hard-hit doubles for a 3-0 Rays lead.
1:18 p.m. Derek Holland replaces Hunter and promptly surrenders a two-run homer to Evan Longoria. Tampa, 5-0. Looks like we're headed back to St. Petersburg. Are we sure manager Ron Washington shouldn't have handed the ball to Cliff Lee today? If I'm going to cough up a 2-0 lead, I'm going to do it with a start apiece from my best pitchers. But that's just me.
1:31 p.m. Down 5-0 in the fifth, the Rangers miss their one shot to make Game 4 interesting. After Hamilton ends a gritty at-bat by drawing a two-out walk to load the bases, Vladimir Guerrero uncharacteristically stares at the first pitch from Wade Davis. It was a fastball. Chest-high. Perhaps on the outer half. But juicy nonetheless. Three pitches later Guerrero chases a curve in the dirt to strike out and effectively end the game.
2:04 p.m. With a Cruz homer and a Mitch Moreland double, the Rangers cut it to 5-2. Nothing like daytime fireworks to make you believe in the improbable.
3:15 p.m. Up the street, the Titans win the coin toss and elect to receive.
3:29 p.m. Check that, the Rangers' chances wilt faster than Brett Favre's reputation. Tampa relievers send down the final 10 hitters ending with Elvis Andrus' harmless tapper back to the mound for the last out. Rays 5, Rangers 2. Series 2-2. Hello decisive Game 5.
3:30 p.m. Aided by two pass-interference penalties totaling 48 yards on Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins, Tennessee moves smartly down the field and takes a 7-0 lead. Uh-oh, part two.
3:31 p.m. Note to self: Hamilton just isn't right. Basically he's seeing off-speed pitches and pounding them into the dirt at his feet. The one 96-mph fastball he saw today from Davis totally beat him. I don't think the Rangers can win this series if their MVP produces neither an extra-base hit nor RBI.
3:47 p.m. Titans 10, Cowboys 0. Now hold on just a cotton-pickin' minute.
3:59 p.m. Funny how we treat Hamilton differently—more leniently—than Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. At his locker in the Rangers clubhouse, Hamilton answers a question about his series struggles with a shrug. "For me personally, there are a lot bigger things than baseball in life. Period." I remember Romo getting barbecued for a similar stance after the 2008 season-ending loss in Philadelphia but here nobody bats an eyelash. Is it because we appreciate and cherish Hamilton's journey with drug addiction more than Romo's rise from undrafted free agency? Is it because we sympathize more with a man we feel has his head buried in Scripture rather than one out chasing golf birdies and giggity chicks? Or is it simply because what the quarterback of the Cowboys says is that much more important than the words of the best player on the Rangers?
4:10 p.m. On second thought, it's gonna be one of those days. Titans quarterback Vince Young overthrows his intended target but still winds up with a touchdown pass to Kenny Britt for a 17-3 lead.
4:17 p.m. Stop me if you've heard this one before: Texas team has a commanding 2-0 lead in a playoff series and builds a late-game lead in Game 3 against a team from Florida. Then...Rangers fans, you better pray that Mavericks fans are wrong.