The afterglow of Game 6 won't fade for decades, if ever. It is an embossed page in the book of World Series history. The Texas Rangers' mission: Turning that page immediately to Friday night's Game 7. Mission impossible? Daunting, at the very least. That page has been turned successfully only once, and even a member of the team that did it does not like the Rangers' chances.
"I will be watching," said George Foster, left fielder of Cincinnati's Big Red Machine of the 1970s. "I give the edge to the Cardinals. When they get momentum, it's tough to stop." After Thursday, St. Louis is on a 45-degree downslope. No team had ever lost one World Series game twice, as did the Rangers on Thursday, when they were within one strike of the championship in successive innings. How do you recover from the inconceivable? Well, you find encouragement in knowing that it has been done before: In 1975's Game 6, Foster's Reds were tied by Boston on Bernie Carbo's pinch-hit three-run homer in the eighth, then lost four innings later on Carlton Fisk's homer over the Green Monster into mythology; the next night, the Reds came back to take Game 7. One significant difference: the Reds were crushed only once. "They came back once, then they beat us," Tony Perez, the Reds' Hall of Fame first baseman, told MLB.com from his home in Puerto Rico. "The Cardinals ... they came back about three or four times." "I wasn't heartbroken," Foster recalled. "We lost that game, but we still had confidence we would win Game 7, even though we were on the road. We had confidence that we would come back. We weren't down." Actually, they were down. But they weren't out. Game 6 of the '75 Series, which ended with Fisk waving his winning drive fair, was instantly hailed as an all-timer, and huzzahs are being echoed 36 years later. However, Texas manager Ron Washington is echoing Sparky Anderson, the manager of those '75 Reds, who couldn't find anything great in defeat. "Sparky Anderson was so mad," recalled Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench. "He said, 'Was this great? Was this the greatest game you've ever seen? What are you talking about? We just lost the game. We could have won the World Series.'" Anderson was mad -- going on sleepless and concerned -- recalled Marty Brennaman, the Reds' Hall of Fame broadcaster. "Sparky and [scout] Ray Shore stayed up until 5 a.m. talking, and Sparky was convinced they would lose," Brennaman said. "He was scared to death after the way they lost Game 6. But the players were unflappable; their confidence was not shaken. They were sure they would win the seventh game." "As a player, you've got to say, 'That was a great game, and they beat us. But we've got another game to play. And we're going to win,'" Perez said. "We came back the next day and beat the Red Sox. That's what [Texas] is supposed to do. They've got to put that game behind them and play Game 7 like [Thursday] never happened." "Whatever happened is gone," agreed Joe Morgan, the Hall of Fame second baseman whose ninth-inning single snapped a 3-3 tie and set up the Reds' 4-3 victory in Game 7. "You have to be in the state of mind of today." Only one other time has a team forced a Game 7 with an extra-inning win after rallying from a deficit as late as the eighth: The Mets did that in 1986 against the Red Sox, and of course went on to also take Game 7. Sorry, Texas, but the Mets' precedent more closely resembles your predicament. After the Mets had tied it at 3-3 on Lee Mazzilli's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth, the Red Sox scored twice in the top of the 10th -- only for the Mets to storm back with three in the bottom (the last on the freeze-frame dribbler through first baseman Bill Buckner's bowed legs). Then there is this historical burden for the Rangers: The Pittsburgh Pirates were the last team to win a Game 7 on the road, in 1979 in Baltimore; since, home teams have taken the last eight Game 7s. And this: In those aforementioned Game 6 defeats, neither the Reds nor the Red Sox were within one strike of close-out victories in consecutive innings. The Rangers were one strike away in the ninth (David Freese's two-run triple) and in the 10th (Lance Berkman's RBI single). The Redbirds thus became the first team in World Series history to overcome deficits in the ninth and later in the same game. Freese and Berkman also teamed up to do in consecutive innings what had been done only once in 623 previous World Series games: Deliver game-tying runs with their team one out from elimination. In 1911, with the Giants trailing the Athletics, 3-1, in both the game and in the Series, Doc Crandall doubled for a run with two outs in the ninth and scored on Josh Devore's game-tying single; the Giants won, 4-3, in 10 innings, but Philadelphia came back to take Game 6 and the Series. In that Game 6 of the 1986 Classic, the Mets mounted their final rally with two outs and none on in the 10th, but the tying run was "delivered" by Boston reliever Bob Stanley's wild pitch. Horrific losses do tend to get -- and stay -- in your head. They are difficult to recover from, and recovery can take a lot longer than overnight. Another 1986 postseason game comes to mind. In Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, the Angels took a 5-2 lead over Boston into the ninth and were within a strike of a 5-4 victory when Dave Henderson hit a two-run homer off Donnie Moore. The Angels extended the game by scoring the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, but eventually lost in 11 innings and played the series' last two games in Boston in a daze. The Rangers appear too confident and too grounded -- maybe even too loose -- to be regarded as a dead team walking. Pumped up by Washington, this is the ideal candidate to go from an unprecedented meltdown to the only logical sequel -- the unprecedented comeback.