ST. LOUIS -- Rangers fans left Busch Stadium quietly, reluctantly and, above all else, proudly.

There are no moral victories at the end of a Major League Baseball season, but this was not 2010. This was one of the greatest World Series ever played, a seven-game joy ride that unfortunately was going to end Friday night for either the Rangers or Cardinals.

It was the former, because those two runs in the first inning were followed by eight zeroes on the big scoreboard in center field. Rangers fans had a strong presence at Busch for the last two games, but they were naturally disquieted in a 6-2 finale, most of them still trying to figure out exactly what just happened here.

They hoped for the same kind of breakthrough that the Dallas Mavericks enjoyed last June in the NBA Finals, but it was not to be.

"Any seven-game series means someone has to lose, and two great teams have gone that far," said Steve Schneider, standing behind wildly cheering Cardinals fans, a little numb. "So I think they played a great series, and I think they should have put it away in Game 6, and they didn't. There's only one team that wins the last game of the year, all the other playoff teams lose their last game."

When asked if he felt different at this point than he had a year earlier following the Giants' shutdown championship in five games, Schneider nodded emphatically.

"Absolutely. The Rangers are a tremendous team. They are a team of players who really care about each other, who come together. They aren't a bunch of mercenary individuals," he said. "I'm very proud of that team, and they beat some great teams to get here. I don't think people thought they would go farther than the Yankees or Red Sox or the Phillies, so I'm very proud.

"The Rangers are an excellent team, and they continue to prove that top-quality starting pitching beats power hitting. This is the second season in a row where they have lost in a World Series where they had the better offensive team, probably, but they lost to the team that had the better starting pitchers.

"[Chris] Carpenter had a great effort, shut down the Rangers after that first inning. The Rangers' pitchers gave up eight free passes by walk or hit-by-pitch -- can't do it. I think [general manager] Jon Daniels knows that. We didn't have Cliff Lee this year, and we've got to get someone like that."

Chris Carroll, of Fort Worth, Texas, said it seemed like the Rangers were never able to regain their swagger after twice being unable to close it out with just one strike remaining in Game 6.

"Last night was the night. I felt like we choked last night. I felt like it was a funeral tonight," Carroll said. "We couldn't ever get it back. We put up a two-spot in the first inning, and then [David] Freese getting it back with a two-spot in the bottom of the inning was big for them.

"Game 6 was probably the best game ever. To be here last night was phenemonal, you know what I mean? I'm proud of the guys, I'm so happy to be here, but after a whole season, it's so frustrating that we went down. Back-to-back losses is gutting. Maybe third time is a charm in 2012."

Ben Bholen, of Arlington, was walking toward the exits while a full house was celebrating inside. He said it was "devastating" and was not ready to find a silver lining.

"It was 40 years of misery, and you get that close, and one strike away twice and they blow it, it's hard to take," Bholen said. "I thought we had a good start in the first inning, but Carpenter was too tough. What can you do?

"Eventually, maybe it will feel better this time, knowing what a great series it was. But it's hard to take after you've been on the losing end. I thought we had a shot after the Mavericks came through and won the NBA title and thought, 'Maybe this could happen, too.' I still feel like it should have. It didn't work out. It's a tough game."

Bholen's father-in-law, Frank Richardson, said he didn't know how to explain what happened after this Fall Classic moved from Rangers Ballpark to Busch Stadium. He used the same word -- numb -- that his club's general manager did in talking with reporters.

"No words," Richardson said. "After seeing last night, and seeing how close they could come, and then losing, I just really question some of the decisions that were made in Game 6. Tonight, I don't know what went wrong. I don't even know how to describe this game. I'm numb from traveling and what I saw. I don't know how you explain that. How do you lose this World Series?"