Pure and simple, the Series the Giants once had firmly in their grasp could be slipping away. The Rangers made sure of that on Saturday night when they rebounded from those two suffocating losses in San Francisco with a convincing 4-2 victory.
To the Rangers, this was much more than just one win; they took away the Giants' momentum.
If the Giants cough up Sunday's Game 4, allowing Texas to even the series, the once-invincible Cliff Lee waits in the wings for Game 5 on Monday.
Get the picture?
The Giants handed Lee his first postseason setback in Game 1 after he recorded seven wins, but that was merely an aberration for the left-hander. I'd be shocked if he doesn't pitch well in Game 5.
The Rangers have been reading and hearing for three days about how the 1996 Yankees rebounded after losing the first two games to win the World Series over the Braves. Now, the Rangers believe it can happen to them.
Should Texas take a 3-2 Series lead back to San Francisco, all bets are off.
To say Sunday's game is pivotal is an understatement.
"It's nice to be in our position right now, but we have a lot of work ahead of us," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "We're playing a very good club, and we didn't think this would be easy. Tomorrow, hopefully, we'll get back on track here with the bats."
With right-hander Tommy Hunter starting for Texas against San Francisco rookie Madison Bumgarner on Sunday, it could be a long night for Giants batters, especially if Hunter can locate is curveball.
Even though Colby Lewis struggled with his control early and his pitch count reached 33 after two innings on Saturday, the Giants were vulnerable to the right-hander. Pat Burrell struck out four times.
Burrell, who reconstructed his career after being released during the regular season by Tampa Bay, has now fanned 19 times in 38 postseason at-bats.
Bochy may be forced to replace Burrell for Sunday's game.
"His timing is off a little bit, which happens," said Bochy. "He's a big reason why we're here, with the huge hits he's gotten."
|With his fifth home run of the postseason in Game 3 of the World Series, the Rangers' Josh Hamilton entered the history books with Nelson Cruz as the fifth pair of teammates to collect five or more homers each in one postseason.|
Player 1 (HRs)
Player 2 (HRs)
|Josh Hamilton (5)||Nelson Cruz (5)||TEX||2010|
|Jayson Werth (7)||Chase Utley (6)||PHI||2009|
|B.J. Upton (7)||Evan Longoria (6)||TB||2008|
|Albert Pujols (6)||Larry Walker (6)||STL||2004|
|Barry Bonds (8)||Rich Aurilia (6)||SF||2002|
"Yeah, I'd have to say so, too," Burrell said. "I wish I had the answer, but these things happen. I still have a positive mind-set, but you have to be accountable for what you do."
Burrell's slump could be a key. The Giants got home runs from Cody Ross and Andres Torres but just couldn't string any hits together.
"Our bullpen did a nice job of keeping us in the game and giving us a chance to get back in it, but we just couldn't mount many rallies because they pitched so well."
When San Francisco scored 20 runs in the first two games at AT&T Park, its offense was out of character. The Giants have been built on pitching and defense, not hitting.
Those true colors showed to the delight of the 52,419 who watched the first World Series game to be played at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Saturday.
The Rangers, on the other hand, vaulted to a 3-0 lead when the ninth batter in their lineup, rookie Mitch Moreland, blasted a three-run homer off starter Jonathan Sanchez.
Only because the designated hitter is used in the American League park could the No. 9 hitter be so vital to Texas' victory.
Plus, Moreland's nine-pitch at-bat was a classic. He fouled off four pitches before sending Sanchez's 2-2 pitch screaming to the right-field seats.
"It's a different league -- that's the American League, and their guy got a big hit," said Bochy.
Rangers manager Ron Washington said Moreland "goes up there and uses every bit of talent he has. He fights, and when he get his pitch, he doesn't usually miss it. That was a huge home run."
Ross, who's having a superb postseason, added: "We put pressure on them in San Francisco, and we couldn't keep it up.
"Yes, Sunday's game is big. Each game gets more important than the one before that. I felt like we had them on the ropes early, but they came back."
Washington, who guided the Rangers to an upset over the Yankees in the AL Championship Series, said his team was able to put its two jarring losses in San Francisco behind.
Now, the Rangers are convinced the World Series started all over again on Saturday, and they've regained whatever confidence they lost.
And that has to be the Giants' biggest concern in what might be the most important game of their season.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less