I know, I know. Har har. But I had to address these hand signals which, if the announcers are to be believed, led the Rangers to their 90 wins this season. Should I have to guess the meaning of "the claw" in American Sign Language, I'd go with: "I would like to remove your colorectal polyps bare-handed." All I have to say about "the antlers" is: you have to stop reinforcing regional stereotypes before you can eliminate them, middle-class suburban Dallas. I thought that this was the most contrived sequencing of music and moving images I had seen since the 1980s, at least until I realized that it was automatically generated by a computer algorithm programmed to maximize lameness. "Oh my goodness / It's a home run!" Oh my goodness, indeed.
Clearly the Rays do not appreciate these anatomical structures nearly as much. In case you missed it, "claws" and "antlers" flashed from the Rays' dugout at some critical moments of Texas fail. Looks like the Unwritten Rules Police are unwriting up the Rangers for an unwritten violation of baseball's unwritten rules. Baseball players are very sensitive about the gestures you make on the field, you know. It reminded me of this famous incident, which I thought was pretty awesome at the time. Today I thought it was more awesome that the Rays won again to even the series.
Rays 5, Rangers 2 (Series tied 2-2)
If you're still mad at the Rangers for rising from the muck that was the AL West, then depending on the outcome on Tuesday, this series couldn't work out any better for you. The only thing worse than getting swept in the postseason is blowing the series after nearly sweeping your opponent.
The 2003 Oakland A's are so far the only team to accomplish this "feat" in a five-game division series. (Update: The 1982 Angels lost a five-game league-championship series to the Brewers after leading two games to none.) I don't really know why it's so rare. Baseball teams win three games in a row all the time. (Update updated: Lies, damn lies! A team has rallied from an 0-2 deficit to win a five-game division series four times. I swear I heard TBS repeatedly claim that the Yankees were the only ones to ever do it. These blowhards are rewriting history to make out the Yankees as even more glorious than they already appear to be. "Division series comeback" is synonymous with "Derek Jeter shovel-pass," as if little kids didn't successfully execute shovel-passes on playgrounds every day.) Regardless, Tuesday is why the Rangers sold their souls for three months of Cliff Lee. They didn't need him to win the division, but they do need him to bail them out now, and they paid dearly for his services. Maybe he pulls it off, they end winning the World Series, and it doesn't matter how good Justin Smoak is five years from now. Maybe Lee coughs it up and the Rangers don't sniff the playoffs again for decades. If I were a fan of that team, I don't know if I'd be able to sleep in the next 48 hours. Did the Cowboys win?
So who else thinks the Braves are spread too thin to win this series? When I first saw the their playoff roster, I turned to my Atlanta-born colleague and asked him, "Who the **** is Brooks Conrad?" He could only restate the fact that Martin Prado is injured. Apparently Brooks Conrad is a 30 year-old former Houston farm hand, and he's burning in effigy tonight. Thing is, Buckner was actually a respectable fielder who just misplayed a ball at the worse possible moment. Conrad, on the other hand, appears to be a genuine menace with a piece of leather. Three errors in one game (allowing two runs to score), four in the series (and that requires a generous "force attempt" on a misplayed double-play ball), and while there isn't a lot of fielding data for him, he seems to have been an error machine at all phases in life. Can anyone explain why Bobby Cox didn't play Troy Glaus at third and Omar Infante at second? Glaus can't hit or field like he used to, of course, but I'll play a genuine major-league hitter over some scrub who lucked out on HR/FB in limited playing time any day. I won't be the Hall of Fame though, so what do I know?
Yikes. The pitching juggernaut rolls on. The Braves and Giants are officially on notice: the Phillies are moving a bulldozer. I think the Reds, who pass for the top offense in the National League by most measurements, had ten hits in this series. The last time I saw three aces on the same team in October, they carried an abysmal offensive team all the way to the World Series (Houston in '05). San Francisco has some nice pitching too, but their lineup is so bad they might score negative runs in an NLCS match-up with the Phillies. The Braves are too injured to fare much better. If you want someone, anyone other than the Yankees to win the World Series, the Phillies are probably the team you hope will advance in the National League. Another I-95 World Series would be nearly insufferable, though, so let's just pull for someone else to knock them off in the ALCS.