By JUSTIN RAINS
This was it. Texas was returning to the scene of the crime.
For the first time since October of 2011, the Rangers headed back to St. Louis this past weekend to take on the Cardinals, the team that defeated Texas in that epic 2011 World Series.
You remember that series, right? Here’s a refresher course.
Texas headed back to St. Louis up 3-2 in the series after a gem from Derek Holland led them to a Game 4 win, and an eighth-inning rally sealed Game 5.
Then came Game 6, when the Rangers twice came within a strike of the franchise’s first World Series title. Both times, they were denied.
The first game when Nelson Cruz failed to catch a deep fly to right field by David Freese, allowing the two runners St. Louis needed to score in the bottom of the ninth to do just that.
But that was okay, because in the next inning Josh Hamilton did things to a baseball that he used to do, hitting a home run to center field that gave the Rangers the lead yet again, only to see it fade away once more.
In the end, Freese hit a home run to give St. Louis the win in the 11th inning, and the Cardinals eventually won the series in the seventh game.
Now, back to this weekend.
Texas was back in St. Louis and, with Saturday and Sunday’s game both on national television, replays from that fateful series were easy to come by.
But, 2013 isn’t 2011 and these aren’t those Rangers. Hamilton is gone, as are Michael Young and C.J. Wilson and Mike Napoli.
Mike Adams and Darren Oliver both earned wins on the mound for Texas in that series. Neither plays in Arlington any longer.
It showed on the field as well.
The Rangers capitalized on taking 3-of-4 from Oakland earlier in the week by sweeping this weekend’s series, and doing so with some flash in front of those aforementioned national TV audiences.
Still, it doesn’t undo 2011. It doesn’t take away the pain felt by Ranger fans and I’m sure players, pain that’s still evident to this day.
In fact, during Saturday’s game they showed a replay of the highlights from Game 6. It was the first time I’d watched it since watching it live.
But, it’s a start — albeit a small one. These aren’t the 2011 Rangers, they’re a different team that hopes to get back to that point, and then finish the job.
At least for a weekend, it was a little bit better.
Then there was Cruz.
For the last almost two years, Cruz has been the Rangers’ Buckner. He’s the guy that could’ve made the play that needed to be made.
Instead, he didn’t and the ball bounced off the wall and ... well quite frankly I don’t want to go into all again.
But this past weekend, Cruz showed up big. He went 5-for-13 in the series at the plate with 5 RBI, and his ninth inning single Friday and home run on Saturday were both game winners.
Like the Rangers as a whole, this weekend doesn’t change what happened that fateful October for Cruz, but it has to make it feel better.
That’s the thing about sports, there’s always the next at-bat, the next play or the next game.
There’s always next season or that next great draft.
What happened on Oct. 27, 2011, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis isn’t completely wiped out by the wins these past three days, and that’s okay.
Because this year isn’t 2011, and this year — right now — the Rangers are winners of six-of-seven, against two of the best teams in Major League Baseball.
While the memories may hurt, that’s all that really matters now. Because now, there’s always this year.
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at email@example.com