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Rangers look to erase four decades of heartbreak with one more win

Texas is nine innings away from finally capturing their first World Series title. But given this team’s history, you’ll forgive fans for still being a bit apprehensive.

David Freese of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a walk off solo home run in the 11th inning to win Game Six of the MLB World Series against the Texas Rangers at Busch Stadium on October 27, 2011 in St Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals won 10-9. Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

For all intents and purposes, this should be a joyous time to be a Texas Rangers fan. Not only did you break the hearts of your in-state rival, on their home field, in Game 7 of the ALCS, but after a commanding win in Game 4 of the World Series on Tuesday night, you’re now just nine good innings away from the first championship in franchise history. But of course, as a Texas Rangers fan, you also understand that joy has typically come right before everything went terribly wrong.

As you might’ve heard, Texas is one of just six Major League teams to have never won a World Series, and the second-oldest of that group behind only the Milwaukee Brewers. But somehow even that is underselling it — for few franchises have managed to combine futility with heartbreak quite like the Rangers. They have a chance to rewrite that script tonight in Game 5, but before we get to that, let’s revisit how exactly we got here.

Texas Rangers’ postseason history

It took them nearly 25 years to finally reach the postseason after moving from Washington, D.C. to Texas back in 1972. And once they finally got there, things did not go well: Three times Juan Gonzalez and Co. made the ALDS, and three times they were dispatched by the New York Yankees, going just 1-9 in those matchups. Then came another decade of October-less baseball, with Alex Rodriguez arriving and then asking out and a years of truly abysmal pitching staffs.

At the start of the 2010s, however, there was hope. With Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler propelling the offense and C.J. Wilson anchoring the rotation, Texas won the AL West in 2010 and rampaged all the way to its first World Series — dispatching the Yankees in the ALCS to boot. Alas, Even Year Magic proved too powerful a force, and the Rangers suffered a gentleman’s sweep at the hands of Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum and the Giants. Still: This was a young, ascending team with everything ahead of them, and it wasn’t hard to see at least one if not multiple titles in their future.

Sure enough, Texas was even better in 2011. They won 96 games, took the AL West again, then had no trouble with either the Rays or Tigers en route to their second straight Fall Classic. Their opponent this time? A Cardinals team that went just 90-72 in the regular season and was considered a substantive underdog. Surely, at long last, this was the Rangers’ time.

The two teams split the first four games of the series, but Mike Napoli’s two-run double in the eighth drove Texas to a crucial win in Game 5. They headed back to St. Louis needing just one more victory to capture that long-elusive first title, and after back-to-back homers from Cruz and Adrian Beltre gave them the lead late in Game 6, the champagne was officially on ice.

Alas, Rangers fans probably know what happened next. More specifically: David Freese happened next, first with a game-tying triple with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and then — after Texas blew another two-run lead in the 10th — walking things off with a homer in the 11th.

Texas would lose Game 7, 6-2, watching a title slip through their grasp. The franchise hasn’t been back to the World Series since, losing in the Wild Card Game the next year and falling in the ALDS in both 2015 and 2016 — in fact, the Rangers entered the 2023 postseason with a 3-16 record in the playoffs outside of their two pennant runs, each of which ended in a loss.

We drag all of this back up not to rub salt in the Metroplex’s wounds — really, we promise — but to underscore just how big a deal Wednesday night’s Game 5 of the World Series is. Yes, it’s momentous for any franchise to finally capture the Commissioner’s Trophy, but a win for Texas here would go beyond that. It would be catharsis the likes of which most teams can only dream of, validation that decades of bad baseball punctuated by intense heartbreak has all been worth it. It’s been a very long and very winding road for the Rangers up to this point, but Nathan Eovaldi will take the ball at Chase Field tonight with a chance to make an entire city forget about all of it. First pitch is set for 8:03 p.m. ET, and once again, the champagne will be on ice. No pressure.