ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Jeff Francoeur might want to remind his Texas Rangers teammates about the 1996 Atlanta Braves.
A kid in Atlanta then, Francoeur saw his heroes – the reigning World Series champs, no less – go up 2-0 on the American League club, just like the San Francisco Giants have done to the Rangers going into Game 3 on Saturday night.
In ’96, the New York Yankees roared back and won the next four games, devastating the little boy who would grow up to play for the Braves.
“We all thought it was going to be back-to-back World Series,” Francoeur said Friday. “That thing turned around in a hurry. To me, you turn it around by pitching. We have good pitching. Yeah, we had a little meltdown in the eighth inning (of Game 2), but I think if you ask anybody in this locker room we have confidence … in all those guys to go out there and throw and throw well.”
After the Rangers lost Game 2 in San Francisco on Thursday night, Francouer’s wife reminded him that his former Atlanta teammate Brian McCann is partly to blame for the predicament Texas is facing.
In July, McCann hit a three-run double that won the All-Star game for the National League, earning home-field advantage for the NL champions. The Rangers are the first AL champions not to have home-field advantage in the World Series since that became a reward for winning the All-Star game.
“All these years I pulled for the NL to win the All-Star game,” Francoeur said. “They finally did and now I’m in the AL.”
Francoeur believes it made a difference, too.
“People say home-field advantage doesn’t matter, but I think it does in the World Series,” he said. “San Francisco is a tough place to play. I mean, it’s a huge outfield, the weather is crazy – cold, windy – and with their pitching they know how to play there.”
RETURN OF PANDA POWER: The San Francisco Giants are getting another bat in the lineup for Game 3 of the World Series – Pablo Sandoval’s.
With the Series shifting to the home of the American League champion Texas Rangers, the Giants get to add a designated hitter. San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy chose Sandoval, the guy whose physique earned him the nickname “Kung Fu Panda.”
Sandoval hit .268 with 13 home runs and 63 RBIs this season. He’s started four of 12 postseason games and played in a total of five, batting 3 for 14 (.213) with two RBIs.
“I’m just trying to prepare,” Sandoval said following a session in the batting cage Friday.
The Giants scored 20 runs in the first two games at home, so having another bat can only help.
“In our situation, it’s not really any disadvantage,” Bochy said. “We have a couple guys who have experience DHing. … We could change it every day.”
TURN THE PAGE: A college coach helped Texas’ Derek Holland grasp the concept that what’s done is done, good or bad – whether it’s holding down the Yankees to win Game 4 of the ALCS or walking all three batters he faced in his World Series debut.
“Today’s a new day, dude,” Holland said Friday. “They’re going to call me again, so I’m not worried about it.”
Holland looked helpless in Game 2 against the Giants. Asked to get the third out in the eighth inning, with the Rangers down 2-0 and a runner on first, he began a historic meltdown by throwing 11 straight balls.
“It’s just one of those things that happens,” he said. “It was like a freak accident.”
Really? Every kid who plays baseball dreams of being in the World Series. He finally got that chance, messed it up and chalks it up as a bad day at the office?
“A one-time thing,” he said. “When I get back out, I’ll be back to my normal self.”
He blamed a problem with his release point. Nerves, he insisted, weren’t an issue.
“No offense to San Francisco and the Giants fans or anything,” he said, “but that place was nothing compared to Yankee Stadium.”
WILSON’S BLISTER: C.J. Wilson has spent much of the year dealing with an annoying blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand. Enough so that he can make light of the situation to some degree, even a day after the Texas lefty took the 9-0 loss in Game 2 of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants.
“I think this offseason I’ll do a lot of woodwork, soak my hands in pine tar and take a lot of batting practice,” Wilson quipped Friday in the clubhouse. “I need to learn to throw a spitball this offseason so I can effectively pitch with blood on my fingers.”
Wilson left the game Thursday night accompanied by a trainer following a leadoff walk in the seventh. He even tried a glue-like substance to close the blister. At times, the blister becomes brittle and cracked – that’s the case right now – and other times the fingertip fills with blood and turns purple. Wilson carries a needle around in case he has to drain the finger between innings and get rid of the blood.
The blister affects Wilson’s fastball velocity and ability to locate his pitches. But he has gotten used to it.
“It’s been a six-month process and every day I’ve been dealing with it,” Wilson said. “It’s something I’ve been pitching around for a while.”
AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this story.
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