ST. LOUIS — For all the Texas Rangers’ shrugs and denials, this place was still their Waterloo. Their Appomattox.This is where, on a crisp October night two years ago, they plunged down their Heartbreak Hill, skidded off the ski jump ramp and tumbled end over end into World Series infamy.The agony of defeat. Their worst defeat.Let it be noted that in St. Louis, home to baseball’s best fans, they take that 2011 World Series seriously. Which is to say that the Cardinals didn’t have a chalk outline of Nelson Cruz’s flailing body painted on the right field warning track Friday night.No cruel scoreboard jokes. No video tributes to Neftali Feliz or Mark Lowe.Just baseball. Eerie baseball, to be sure, as if we were slowly driving past an old accident scene for nine innings. Same stadium. Same Gateway Arch overlooking center field. Same billboard with the two Gulf logos on the right field wall.The returning manager insists, though, that this is all old news. “It’s not affecting me,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said before Friday night’s series opener. “The memories I had I dealt with that winter.“We had our chance to win it — we didn’t. They had their chance — they did. So move on. I’m through crying.”Take that eloquent dismissal, however, for what it’s worth. After declaring that he was “through crying,” Washington playfully dabbed at fake tears. For a more sobering perspective, a throng of media gathered around the Rangers’ Lance Berkman, who was wearing a St. Louis uniform on the night of that Game Six.“It’s got to be tough for them [coming back here],” Berkman said. “Yeah, I’m sure that’s something they’ll never get over. I know I wouldn’t if I was on the other end of it.”But Berkman wasn’t, of course. Berkman was on first base when David Freese’s fateful line drive sailed over Cruz’s head with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Berkman singled in another dramatic tying run an inning later.In a nod to his new team’s camaraderie — or maybe, simply, because Berkman can sometimes be a bit of a wise guy — he said he brings up that 2011 World Series outcome every now and then in the Rangers’ clubhouse. “I try to get in a good dig at least once a week about it,” Berkman confessed. “It just depends on the mood of the team. “Obviously, you don’t bring something like that up unless things are going well. We hit a little lull here recently, so I haven’t mentioned it in a while.”Most of the Rangers, Berkman reported, take the ribbing good naturedly. Adrian Beltre, however, Berkman confessed, “is not amused.”The first Berkman attempt at World Series levity came early in spring training, when Washington was addressing the troops. “What he said was, ‘We have lot of guys who’ve been through the war,’” Berkman recalled. “He was going down the list of names, like ‘Kinsler, you’ve been through the war. Murphy, you’ve been through the war. Berkman, you’ve been through the war.’“I said, ‘We won that war, Wash.’”Maybe the teasing was good therapy. Maybe the Rangers have finally turned the page.It was only a regular-season game Friday night, but there was more than a little poetic justice that Nelson Cruz, scorned for his outfield misplay two years ago, delivered the game-winning hit in the Rangers’ 6-4 victory. Closer Joe Nathan came in to deliver the final pitch that Feliz couldn’t. And left fielder David Murphy was able to race to the wall to track down the final out.Just another regular-season game. Just another ballpark in a season full of them. Sure, it was. But like the manager said, it’s time to move on.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton