World Series Preview!

Posted: October 18, 2011 in MLB playoffs, Texas Rangers

By Chris Bates


                    The Texas Rangers face the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the 2011 World Series on Wednesday.  The National League Champion Cardinals are headed back to the fall classic for the 18th time, most of any National League team.  This is the 2nd consecutive trip for the Rangers.  The Rangers believe they have a better team this year than last year’s team.  The experience the Ranger players gained from last year’s postseason has been big in their run back to the fall classic this year.  The first 2 games of the series will be played in St. Louis thanks to the National League winning the All-Star Game for a 2nd straight season. 

Breaking down the teams

                Texas is led by ALCS MVP Nelson Cruz- the new Mr. October if you want to call him that.  The Rangers have the better lineup although the Cardinals had the most runs scored in the National League (762).  The Cardinals feature the game’s best hitter in Albert Pujols.  He poses a problem to not only the Rangers but all of Major League Baseball.  Pujols led the Cardinals in Home runs (37), RBI’s (99) and hits (173).  Pujols has hit at least 30 home runs in every season in his major league career so the best bet for the Rangers is to pitch carefully to him and not let Pujols beat them.  NLCS MVP David Freese is another player to watch out for.  He led the Cardinals to a 4 -2 series win over their division rival, the Milwaukee Brewers.  Freese had a breakout series and is quickly becoming a well-known name in baseball.  His 3 home runs, 9 RBI’s and .545. batting average led the Cardinals. St. Louis is a hot team right now; they got into the playoffs on the last game of the season. The Cardinals have virtually been playing playoff baseball since September 1st when they were 8.5 games out in the wild card.  This matchup features two of the best bullpens in the postseason,Texas was 1st with a 1.2 team bullpen ERA andSt. Louis was next with a 1.63 ERA.  Both teams became just the 2nd and 3rd teams ever in postseason history to win a series where their bullpen had more innings pitched than the starters.


       The key to this series, as any series in the postseason, is pitching.  Whichever team can get better pitching from their starting rotation I believe will win this series.  The Cardinals have the better starting rotation, but the Rangers have the better bullpen.  Chris Carpenter shut out the high-powered offense of the Phillies in the wild card round, in a 1-0 decisive Game 5 victory in Philadelphia.  He has fully recovered from his Tommy John Surgery of a couple of years ago.   Carpenter is the only Cardinals starter not struggling, posting a 3.71 ERA.  Game 2 starter Jaime Garcia has a 5.74 ERA in 3 starts this postseason, Edwin Jackson, who lasted just 2 innings in Sunday’s game versus the Brewers, has an ERA of 5.84 in 3 starts.  Cardinals closer Jason Motte has been outstanding this postseason, pitching 8 innings of no run baseball including 4 saves and only allowing 1 hit in those 8 innings pitched.  If the Rangers can get to the starting pitchers early, they will put pressure on the Cardinals lineup to match them in scoring.

     Texas led the American League in shutouts this year with 18.   They are led by C.J. Wilson, who has not pitched like the ace they want him to be in the postseason. Wilsonhas an 8.04 ERA in 3 games started this postseason.  He is coming off a start to the Tigers in which he allowed 6 runs in 6 innings.  The best Rangers starting pitcher this year has been Colby Lewis, who was excellent last postseason.  Lewis has a 3.86 ERA in 11 2/3 innings pitched this postseason, the rest of the Ranger starters have struggled.  Matt Harrison has a 4.22 ERA and Derek Holland has a 5.27 ERA.  The best pitching in the postseason for the Rangers comes from a guy who was hurt all season, former 17 game winner Scott Feldman.  Feldman was huge in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Tigers.  He came in for Holland after just 2 innings.  Feldman came in and pitched 4 shutout innings for the Rangers, which kept them in the game and they went on to win.  Feldman has 9 strikeouts in just 8 2/3 innings of relief baseball.  Closer Neftali Feliz has 4 saves and a 1.17 ERA allowing just 1 earned run in 7 2/3 innings this postseason.


       Both teams have great lineups.  Rangers scored 855 runs this season and have all-stars all over their lineup.  The team is batting .259 combined in the postseason with 13 home runs in 10 games played.  They have scored 55 runs in the 10 games played.  Led by Nelson Cruz, who hit a LCS record 6 home runs in the series is really seeing the ball well right now.  Cruz is hitting 7th in the lineup; a guy who had 6 home runs and 13 RBI’s in one series is hitting 7th, which shows the depth the Rangers lineup has.  Michael Young led the Rangers in 4 of 5 offensive categories this year, batting average (.338), RBI’s (106), On Base Percentage (.380) and hits (213).  The 200 hit season was the 6th of his career.  Young got off to a slow start in the playoffs but exploded in the Rangers clinching Game 6 victory for 5 RBI’s.  Look for the offensive explosion from the Rangers to continue.

       The Cardinals are batting .288 as a team with 56 runs batted in in 11 games. St. Louisis led by Albert Pujols, whom they call “Fat Albert.”  Pujols is the most feared hitter in the game as he has all the tools.  He is batting .419 in the postseason (18 for 43).  Pujols was the best Cardinals hitter in the regular season and has continued in the postseason.  David Freese leads all batters in the postseason in runs batted in with 14, one more than Cruz.  Freese got off to a hot start (as did the entire Cardinals lineup) in the LCS against Milwaukee.  The Cardinals scored 12 runs or more in 2 of the 5 games played in the series.     


Series Prediction

         The experience the Rangers have from making it to the World Series last year will show in this year’s series.  That experience coupled with being what many people think is the most complete team in baseball is the x-factor into why I think the Rangers win this series.  Both bullpens will continue to be outstanding, but I think it will be the Rangers starters that step up and give Ron Washington the quality of work he has been looking for from them this postseason.  The entire series will be close and exciting, but ultimately the Rangers come out on top. Texas in 6.


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