Move Over, Idiots … Meet the Morons

This one's already shaping up to be a brain bender. It might well stay that way even if the San Francisco Giants end up winning the thing in four straight. It might well stay that way even if the Texas Rangers pick themselves up, dust themselves off, start all over again, and remind the Giants what usually happens when you pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger.

The Giants got away with pulling that mask Wednesday night and then left no witnesses behind. That's how profoundly they committed police brutality against the Rangers, caring not a whit for any potential ramifications, even while the Rangers showed a little moxie and pecked away at the Giants like gnats swarming the rancho. It wasn't enough to overthrow the Giants, but at least the Rangers put up a fight.

But the Giants didn't have to pull the mask off anyone Thursday. They just sent their badly-unsung slinger out to keep the Rangers from horsing up; then — with a mere 2-0 lead and a few Ranger threats looming — they took complete advantage of the Ranger bullpen's sudden inability to find the strike zone unless it was over, under, sideways, down, or all the above.

They took a literal walk in the (AT&T) Park — actually, four straight eighth-inning walks, all starting on ball one without a strike; two with not a strike to be seen except, perhaps, by Neftali Feliz, the Texas closer who wasn't even seen warming up but who couldn't be blamed if he'd decided to picket the pen; and, two of them with the bases loaded.

It must have been perverse relief — no, let's rephrase that. It was already perverse relief, once Darren O'Day (who'd relieved starter C.J. Wilson following a gutsy performance) was lifted after surrendering a measly single following two inning-opening swishouts, to get the left-hander-to-left-hander platoon advantage, and the Ranger bulls to follow (Derek Holland, Mark Lowe, Michael Kirkman) brought either their walking papers or their gasoline hoses to the mound.

After the fourth of those walks, it was two-run single, two-run triple, RBI double. The Rangers were probably lucky that the Giants didn't RBI for the cycle before Kirkman finally managed to swish Freddy (Double Trouble) Sanchez for the long-overdue side.

And the big wheel of the mind keeps on turning. How on earth could Rangers manager Ron Washington not even think about sending Feliz out, even with a 2-0 deficit on his hands? Never mind Feliz's job description, there are times, in the World Series in particular, when you need a stopper and you needed him like five minutes ago.

Washington needed a stopper like right then and there rather than let Holland — a starter by trade, a young starter at that, who hadn't gone to the mound in eight days, showing what Washington didn't figure out when Cliff Lee on nine days' rest got chipped and dipped — walk the bases loaded and the first of the inning's runs home.

At minimum, he needed a stopper when Holland started the proceedings by walking Nate Schierholtz on four straight pitches. At maximum, he needed a stopper when Holland continued them by loading the pads in the first place courtesy of four more straight balls, to Cody Ross. At the moment, once Holland walked Aubrey Huff to send Buster Posey home, Washington forgot he had a game-over closer and went to Lowe — who had pitched three innings since undergoing May back surgery.

Under ordinary circumstances, you wouldn't be thinking about handing your closer the ball and asking him for a four-out save. Ordinary circumstances being, in this case, that your closer has had some work over the previous week. Feliz hadn't poked his nose out of his hole since the Rangers nailed the pennant in Arlington a week ago this writing. He probably should have been given a little work Wednesday night, even in a lost cause, just to get his World Series feet wet and shake a little rust.

All Washington got for that kind of thinking was Holland, Lowe, and Kirkland probably walking off the mound a collective mess, their confidence meanwhile walking off into the mist somewhere between old Candlestick Point and Alcatraz.

Maybe part of the problem is that the Rangers take themselves a little too seriously when they ought to be having the time of their lives. It isn't every year you get to be part of the team that yanks you into the first World Series in your franchise's half-century existence.

This isn't to say that the Giants' pitching staff has let them off with a mere warning. The only thing less in evidence than any sense of the Rangers' ability to have fun is Matt Cain's postseason earned run average.

He doesn't have one.

Everyone was so knotted up pondering the shootout at the fantasy factory that was supposed to have been Cliff Lee versus Tim Lincecum that they probably lost sight of Cain's Game 2 command and control. He'll be the first to admit he caught a phenomenal break when Ian Kinsler missed a leadoff bomb by possible millimeters in the top of the fifth Thursday. The ball hit the top of the wall and rebounded to the field; Cain, like Kinsler, thought it hit something just behind that wall, enough for a homer.

He shrugged, shook it off, got two straight ground outs, handed Mitch Moreland a free pass to dispatch Wilson (there's no designated hitter in the National League park, remember — which was why Washington thought he could live without power-hitting but defensively worn down Vladimir Guerrero in Game Two) and keep it scoreless.

The way he was pitching Thursday, Cain almost didn't need Edgar Renteria reaching back to a once-illustrious postseason past — it was he who shot the walkoff RBI single that gave the Florida Marlins the Game 7, extra-inning triumph in 1997 — and rifling one into the left field seats in the bottom of that inning. Or Juan Uribe shooting one right back up the pipe to send Cody Ross (a leadoff walk) home in the bottom of the seventh. Hell, Guillermo Mota, once a lights-out Dodger setup man, probably needed the ninth-inning work an awful lot more than Cain needed him to take on the relief job.

Renteria is having a possible last laugh. He spoke of retirement during his injury-riddled season; he lost his job to Uribe, and he snuck into the postseason because Pablo (Kung Fu Panda) Sandoval (who'll be the DH for the Giants in Texas) has been having a rather harsh time unhorsing himself. Renteria had nothing entering the World Series except two runs scored in the first National League Championship Series game, and an RBI single and a bomb in the Giants' seven-run eighth in the second NLCS game.

"I don't know where I am going to be next year," he told reporters after Thursday night's festivities, "so I feel I need to enjoy this as much as I can." He came to the right place. The Giants, of course, are having a Series-long party.

You thought the 2004 Boston Red Sox wore the self-appointed sobriquet of the Idiots with shameless pride? Wait until you get a load of this Dirty Couple of Dozen. They make the Idiots resemble constipated androids. Ask Cain how he gets to sleep the night before his first World Series assignment and he deadpans, "Close your eyes."

Ask Aubrey Huff — one of the Giants' rescues from the Geriatric Hotel and Resort — about the lucky red thong he's been wearing probably since he signed on the dotted line in the first place, and he deadpans just as plainly, "I'm just trying to fit in with these morons. I have to go a little bit over the top just to try to fit in. I'm probably very tame compared to this group."

Makes you not want to even think about the sartorial foundations into which slip the Kung Fu Panda, Pat the Bat, the Beard to Fear, and the Freak. On the other hand, as Huff goes on, "As weird as we are, it's strange to say that the weirder you are, it seems like the more you win."

So that explains how the 2004 Red Sox were able to stare right in the eye the final out of a likely sweep out of that year's American League Championship Series ... and then believe it was just a matter of time after Dave Roberts stole second, David Ortiz hit the walk-off bomb, and Curt (Old Blood and Sox) Schilling found a way to keep a tendon sheath sheathing. Except that that doesn't really explain anything. Those Idiots (against whom Renteria himself made the final World Series out, as a St. Louis Cardinal) may prove to have had nothing on these Morons.

But the Morons so far have plenty on the Rangers even as the Series moves to Arlington. Their own manager may call them (and Bruce Bochy means it affectionately) a collection of castoffs and misfits, but these Morons are making their manager look like a genius and themselves look like honor students.

And while it's technically premature to write the Rangers' obituary just yet, with three games at home looming, ponder this, if you will. The man who says the way you get to sleep the night before the biggest game of your life to date is just to close your eyes is also the man whom the Rangers will get to face again, in Game 6, if they should win three straight at home and force the Series back to San Francisco.

"I'M IN LOVE WITH A BUNCH OF IDIOTS!" said a placard held aloft in Fenway Park during the Red Sox's stupefying 2004 postseason romp. "WE'RE IN LOVE WITH A BUNCH OF MORONS!" is liable to be the dominating placard held aloft in AT&T Park if the Series gets back there.

But if a comparable placard shows up in Ranger Ballpark at Arlington over the next few days, the Rangers have a big job to do of making it seem like isolated disgruntledness. A job that may only begin with loosening up and lightening up in the name of bearing down. They're in mortal enough danger of losing a World Series without it being said that not even their own temporarily-dethroned postseason pitching priest could keep them from blowing it to a bunch of Morons.

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