ST. LOUIS -- The Rangers and their pitching faded at the finish line, and their glorious season has come to a disappointing and frustrating end, one victory short of the ultimate prize.
After twice being one strike away from winning it all on Thursday night, the Rangers couldn't throw enough strikes and it cost them in Friday's Game 7 of the World Series, a 6-2 loss to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Instead of winning the first World Series title in club history, the Rangers had to endure the pain of watching St. Louis celebrate for the 11th time since 1926.
"I can't describe how I'm feeling, but it's not a good feeling," third baseman Adrian Beltre said in the visitors' clubhouse afterward.
"It's disappointing, but at the same point, I'm proud to be a member of the 2011 Rangers," first baseman Michael Young said. "The last two nights stink, but we'll regroup, we'll heal and we'll get back after it."
The Rangers met for an extended period of time after the game as a group to try to absorb another painful World Series loss. A number of people spoke, including manager Ron Washington.
The Rangers' 51-year World Series title drought ranks 10th among the longest in Major League history.
* -- first year of franchise
"I felt like they are champions, although we didn't get the World Series trophy," Washington told his players. "Those guys committed themselves to getting here this year and win this, and they did it. A lot of times it's nothing but talk, but it wasn't talk in that Texas Rangers clubhouse. We just didn't get it done. We got beat by a good club."
The Rangers had gone 46 straight games without losing back-to-back games, then lost their last two of the season. They remain one of eight franchises to have never won a World Series. The Rangers and the Padres are the only two of those eight to have appeared in two World Series.
The Rangers, who lost last year's World Series to the Giants in five games, are also the first team to lose back-to-back Fall Classics since the Braves did so in 1991 and '92. That was at the beginning of the Braves' long run of success, but that's probably of little consolation to the Rangers, who blew two-run leads in the ninth and 10th innings of Game 6, then went quietly into the night in Game 7.
"We all know we lost the Series yesterday," Beltre said. "We shouldn't have let it slip away. We came back today to try to win it, but the momentum just took them and they won it. It's not a nice feeling.
"We had in our mind that we were going to win the World Series. We were one strike away, but it didn't happen. It would be easier if you lose four games in a row than having the thought that you were one strike away. It's not easy. That game [on Thursday] will be hard to forget."
Game 7 ended up being an anti-climatic clunker after the 11-inning epic on Thursday night that really kept the Rangers from achieving their dream.
"Just in the same way it never gets old to pop champagne and celebrate, this will never be a good feeling," outfielder David Murphy said. "It hurts. It's hard to go through a full season and play so well, and not get it done. There were so many positives, but right now it hurts."
Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, pitching on three days' rest in the first World Series Game 7 to be played since 2002, survived a rough first inning to work six-plus frames and earn the victory. The Rangers used six pitchers, combining to walk six and hit two batters, and four of those free passes ended up scoring. Texas set a World Series record by issuing 41 walks and tied a record by walking nine intentionally.
"Maybe we were just trying too hard," Adams said. "Maybe we were worn down or trying to be too fine. You really can't pinpoint one reason why we walked so many people."
Rangers starter Matt Harrison, well rested since his Game 3 start last Saturday, lasted just four innings, allowing three runs on five hits and two killer walks. He threw 77 pitches and struck out just one while taking his second loss of the World Series.
The Rangers did seem to recover quickly from the heart-breaking loss in Game 6. Texas gave Harrison a 2-0 lead in the first against Carpenter, even though Ian Kinsler got picked off after leading off the game with a single.
Elvis Andrus drew a walk and scored on a double by Josh Hamilton. Young's double scored Hamilton, but Carpenter shut off the rally by striking out Beltre and getting Nelson Cruz on a grounder. Young's hit was also the Rangers' last with runners in scoring position, and they were 1-for-9 in those situations.
"I think we showed what we were made of when we came right out and scored two runs," Young said. "But after that, their pitchers settled down and started making pitches."
It might have been different if the Rangers had been able to hold the lead. But Harrison gave the runs right back in the bottom of the first. After retiring the first two hitters, he walked Albert Pujols on four pitches and Lance Berkman on five. David Freese, who would earn the World Series Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet, worked his way to a full count, then doubled into the left-center-field gap to score both runners.
"We're up, 2-0, I get the first two outs and then I had two really bad walks," Harrison said. "There was some pitches that were close that didn't go our way, but I'm not going to make excuses. I was just barely missing some pitches and falling behind."
Allen Craig, in the lineup because Matt Holliday was sidelined with a sprained right wrist, gave the Cardinals the lead with a one-out home run in the third. It was his third home run of the World Series. Scott Feldman took over in the fifth and couldn't keep it a one-run game.
Instead, the Cardinals scored two without benefit of a hit, as three walks and two hit batsmen -- the last by C.J. Wilson -- forced home two runs. Molina hit an RBI single in the seventh off Adams to make it 6-2.
The Rangers bullpen had a 7.43 ERA and an opponents' batting average of .311 for the World Series. Texas relievers had a 2.34 ERA while holding opponents to a .193 batting average in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
"I don't have the answer, because I wish they would have continued to be dominant," Washington said. "I wish I did have the answer. I don't. You know, those are the guys that got us here, and those guys were in a position to take us further, and it didn't get done."
The Rangers as a team, for the second time in as many years, didn't get it done when it mattered most, and it hurts just as much the second time around.
"It was a great Series," Murphy said. "We'll all remember it as a great Series. It's just tough that we were one pitch away. It's hard."