Archive for the ‘MLB playoffs’ Category

By Chris Bates

    The Texas Rangers are one win away from their first world championship in their 30 years of existence.  Coming off a dramatic 4-2 win over St. Louis in Game 5 on Monday, the Rangers travel to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals in Game 6 tonight.  Weather should not be an issue in St. Louis as it is supposed to be in the mid 40’s with clear skies.

Matchup

    Colby Lewis, the Rangers best postseason pitcher, takes the mound for Texas.  In his game 2 start, Lewis gave up 1 run in 6 2/3 innings.  He kept the Rangers in the game as their offense could not manage any runs against Jaime Garcia.  Lewis will be ready to go tonight in what is the biggest start of his career and the biggest game in Texas Rangers history.  Rangers first baseman Michael Young said the team is feeling no pressure because of the experience of playing in big games last year.  Josh Hamilton has started to hit, recording a hit in his last 3 games.  C.J. Wilson and Derek Holland are both expected to be ready in the bullpen should Ron Washington call on them.  Lewis is looking to move his record to 5-1 in postseason play in his career with an ERA just under 2.3.  His record in the regular season was 14-10 with a 38-38 career record.

     Jaime Garcia, was brilliant in Game 2 for the Cardinals, giving up just 3 hits and no runs in 7 innings pitched.  Garcia is and has been the Cardinals 2nd best pitcher this season, winning 13 games for St. Louis.  Garcia is 5-5 in his career in interleague play including 2-1 this season.  In his career, Garcia is 27-16 with a 3.27 ERA.  Garcia should have a similar performance tonight as he did in Game 2.

Keys to the Game

    For both teams, the keys to the game are their batters getting ahead in the count.  Both pitchers do an excellent job of putting away hitters that are behind in the count.  Obviously, the Cardinals cannot win if they strand 12 runners on base such as they did in Game 5.  Getting the big hit with runners in scoring position is always a key, but especially is for St. Louis.  The Cardinals have had so many opportunities to close the door on the Rangers by getting that one big hit but havent been able to manage that hit.  The Rangers must continue to pitch well out of the bullpen.  Both teams are now fully rested after having 2 days off and I don’t think either team benefits from it.  The Rangers know what to expect going into a hostile environment being just 27 outs away from their first World Series title.  St. Louis is a veteran team and for them to force a game 7 they just need to play their game and everything else will take care of itself.  Whichever team that has their starter pitch longer I think will win Game 6.

Prediction

     The Rangers know that the game tonight must be treated like a Game 7.  You don’t want to give the Cardinals any hope of winning the series if they win tonight.  I see the Cardinals fighting until the last out and I think it will once again be an excellent-pitching, low-scoring game.  Whichever team comes through in the clutch will win.  Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said the bullpen phone works now so there should not be an issue in relaying to the bullpen coach who he wants to pitch.  In Game 5 La Russa and his bullpen coach were not on the same page in terms of who La Russa wanted to come in and face Mike Napoli with the bases loaded.  He wanted his closer Jason Motte but the bullpen coach did not hear him resulting in the current pitcher on the mound Marc Rzepczynski staying in and pitching to Napoli who crushed the game winning two run double.  The phone appears to be working for Game 6 to solve this issue.  Only a few hours until game time and then all will tell what happens.

By Chris Bates

     Rookie running back DeMarco Murray set a Cowboy all time record when he rushed for 253 yards on 25 carries in his first career NFL start.  The game Murray had was unbelievable but it was against the league’s worse rushing defense so time will tell what he does against a better defense.  A running back controversy may be brewing in Dallas with the breakout game of Murray.  The record was 9th all time in NFL history, the must rushing yards in an NFL game is 296 set by Adrian Peterson in 2007.  Murray definitely has warranted more carries going forward.

World Series Matchup

        C.J. Wilson takes the ball for the Rangers in what is a must-win game.  Texas cannot afford to go down 3 games to 2 games heading back to St. Louis for games 6 and 7.  Wilson needs to have a great start for the Rangers, he is due.  Wilson’s best postseason game came in Game 1 in St. Louis when he allowed 2 runs in 5 2/3 innings pitched.  The Rangers still lost the game however, it is time for C.J. to show up and pitch like the pitcher he is capable of being.  A 16 game-winner in the regular season proves he certainly has the stuff to do it, it is just a matter of putting it all together.  Wilson is the first pitcher in Major League Baseball history to lose an All-Star Game, league division series game, league championship game and potentially a world series game in the same season.  Wilson was the Rangers best pitcher in the regular season going 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA.  In the postseason, he has been a different pitcher going 0-3 with a 7.17 ERA.  The Rangers need a big game from him tonight.

St. Louis sends to the mound there ace, Chris Carpenter.  Carpenter was wild in Game 1 but only gave up 2 earned runs on a 2 run home run to Mike Napoli.  Carpenter certainly has the stuff to shut down the Rangers but he has a tendency to get off focus, which is where he gets in trouble.  Carpenter started the season off 1-7 but finished the season strong going 10-2 to finish 11-9 in 2011.  This postseason he is 3-0 with a 3.52 ERA.  The Cardinals have the right guy on the mound to give them momentum back in the series.

Keys to the Game

     For Texas, the keys are to keep the Cardinal hitters off-balance by mixing up their pitches.  This was not the case in the Cardinals Game 3 route of the Rangers.  Most of the Ranger pitchers threw fastballs in that game and the Cardinals are a great fastball hitting team.  In Game 4, more inside pitches and pitches out of the strikeout were pitched effectively by Derek Holland.  The Cardinals do swing at pitches out of the strike zone, the Rangers certainly have pitchers that can change speeds and movements on their pitches.  Continuing to hit the ball is always a key but the Rangers have been doing a better job of that in the last 2 games, putting pressure on the Cardinals pitchers to make good pitches and not chase balls like they were doing in the first 2 games.  Continuing to get guys on and force the issue will go along way in how Game 5 turns out.

     For St. Louis, their keys to the game are continuing to make the pitches when they count.  The Cardinals have done an excellent job this season limiting the runs with runners on base.  St. Louis must continue to do this if they want to have a chance to win this game.  The Cardinals lineup has been doing an excellent job of getting runners on base and making them count, this is a thing to watch out for in Game 5.

Prediction

    I see C.J. Wilson coming out and pitching the best game of the season in what could potentially be his last start in a Texas Rangers uniform.  He must establish himself to the Rangers organization as being their dominant pitcher they thought he could be when they let Cliff Lee go.  Wilson is 0-7 in his last 8 postseason starts, the Rangers have lost the last 5 postseason games Wilson has started but I see that changing tonight.  Look for Wilson and the Rangers players to seize control of the series tonight and head back to St. Louis just 1 win shy of their first ever World Series title. 

TEX: 5 STL: 3.

http://espn.go.com/mlb/

By Chris Bates

      One of the best games that Major League Baseball has had in a while was witnessed by millions of people around the globe.  The 2-1 victory the Texas Rangers had over St. Louis Cardinals was an instant classic type game.  It was exactly what postseason baseball is all about, great pitching and great defense.  The Rangers were 3 outs away from going back to Texas down 2 games to no games but the experience the team gained from last year’s World Series paid dividends in the ninth inning.  The Rangers scored 2 runs on 2 sacrifice flies rallying them to the win.

Game 3 Preview

      Rangers manager Ron Washington made a surprise announcement when he announced that Matt Harrison  will start Game 3 over Derek Holland.  If you look at the numbers, Harrison has been a much better pitcher than Holland this postseason.  Harrison has gone 5 innings in both of his starts this postseason, giving up 2 earned runs in each.  Harrison was 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA in 185 2/3 innings pitched.  This postseason he is 1-0 with a 4.22 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings pitched.  Holland has not gone more than 5 innings in any of his starts this postseason. 

Despite the Rangers lack of hitting so far in this series, their defense has been what has kept them in games.  There were 2 instances in last night’s game where the Cardinals could have added 1 or 2 more insurance runs after the Allen Craig pinch hit go-ahead RBI single.  Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal hit a scorching line drive up the middle that Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus snagged on one hop and flipped to second baseman Ian Kinsler for the final out of the inning, saving at least 1 run.  In the bottom of the 8th, Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols hit a fly ball he thought was out but it went to the warning track where Nelson Cruz caught it right in front of the wall. Great defense.

What I think will happen in Game 3

     The Rangers have the advantage in starting pitching in Game 3.  Kyle Lohse has not been good in the postseason (0-2, 7.45 ERA).  He gave up 3 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings in his last start versus Milwaukee.  So far this series, it has been clear that both teams pitching is the strong point.  Two high-powered offenses coming into this series, both have been shut down by the opposing teams pitchers.  Colby Lewis once again continues to impress in the postseason.  He has been the Rangers best pitcher in October the last 2 seasons.  If the Rangers can get their bats going then I think it will be a long Game 3 for the Cardinals.  I don’t see St. Louis scoring more than 3 runs in this game.  I think the Rangers will score at least 4 runs and yet again there will be another close game as these are two evenly matched teams.  Game 3 is tomorrow night at 7:05 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.  FOX will carry coverage of the game and it can be heard on ESPN Radio 103.3 FM locally.

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.

Pitching

       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.

Hitting

       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.

ALCS Game 3 Preview

Posted: October 11, 2011 in MLB playoffs

By Chris Bates          

          It was the first walk-off grand slam in Major League Baseball postseason history.  It was hit by a player who has been sent down to the minors numerous times, had to clear waivers and was acquired in a trade involving Carlos Lee.  This is a player who 3 weeks ago was on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. This player is named Nelson Cruz.  Every team in the major leagues is kicking themselves for not picking up this guy when they had a chance.  He had to clear waivers twice when he was sent down for minor league assignments by the Rangers after being acquired in the trade.  Cruz did not break out until he was 27 years old, but boy are Ranger fans happy he’s on their team.  Cruz went 2 for 5 last night with 2 homeruns and five RBI’s, one of the homeruns tied the game in the seventh inning when the Rangers needed it the most and the other sent them to a two game to none lead over the Tigers heading into tonight’s pivotal Game 3. 

Tough Road Ahead          

         Game 3 starts at 7:05 p.m. tonight on Fox from Comerica Park in Detroit.  Although the Rangers have held court on their home field (had the best home record in the American League this year) I think the Tigers win game 3 tonight because the Rangers have had plenty of problems winning in Detroit.  The Rangers previously had an 11 game losing streak inDetroit before they won 8-6 last July to end the streak but they are just 4-5 at Comerica Park since that losing streak ended.  That adds up to 4-16 over the last 4 years at Comerica Park in Detroit.  It has been the Rangers worst nightmare over recent years.  Josh Hamilton was hurt sliding head first into home plate in a game in Detroit earlier this year and missed 6 weeks.

Tonight’s pitching matchup

               Colby Lewis (14-10)

                                               

                vs. Doug Fister (11-13)

                                                

Advantage: Fister.  Lewis has been the best Rangers postseason pitcher the last two years, going 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA during that span.  However, he has struggled mightily against the Tigers this season.  In just 7 1/3 innings he went 0-2 giving up 13 Earned Runs including 5 homeruns.  In each start he gave up 10 hits a piece.  It’s been “Jekyll and Hyde” this year for Lewis on which guy you’re going to get.  He can be really good at times or really bad at times.  The Rangers are hoping for the Postseason Lewis, Mr. October if you will (not Reggie Jackson) but the pitching Mr. October. In his career, The Tigers are batting .340 against Lewis including 6 homeruns. The 6’4″ Lewis has a career record of 38-38 with an ERA of 4.99. In his career against the Tigers, Lewis is 2-2 with a 7.48 ERA in 27 2/3 innings pitched.

          Fister has been the Tigers second best pitcher since the All-Star Break going 8-1 with an ERA of close to 1.79.  Although he had a losing record of 11-13 he was 4th in the American League this year in ERA (2.83).  He was 6th in WHIP (With Hitters in Position to score) 1.06.  That means he did not give up a lot of hit or runs with runners at second or third base.  Fister was the Game 5 starter for the Tigers in their series clinching win over the Yankees in the American League Division Series.  He went 5 innings giving up just 1 earned run on 92 pitches in that game.  Fister is familiar pitching against the Rangers as a member of the Seattle Mariners.  He was traded to the Tigers at the trade deadline.  This season, Fister has given up 7 earned runs in 13 innings against the Rangers.  In his career, the Rangers are batting just .268 against him. The 6’8″ Fister has a career record of 20-31 with an ERA of 3.49.  He has not had much run support, pitching most of his career in Seattle.  He has just 2 postseason starts going 1-1 with a 6.52 ERA, both starts coming this postseason against the Yankees.  In his career against the Rangers, Fister is 2-3 with an ERA of 4.38 in 39 innings pitched. However, in his last start vs. the Rangers on Aug.3 (his 1st start since being acquired in a trade) he allowed just 3 runs in 7 innings of a 5-4 win over the Rangers at Comerica Park.

Projection

          The game will be another close one as these two teams are very evenly matched, but I think Detroit will win tonight’s game to climb back into the series.  With their crowd being rowdy and fired up, the Tigers feed off of that and play better at home than they do on the road (50-31 at home, 45-36 on the road).  Their history against the Rangers at Comerica Park will “hold serve” tonight cutting the Rangers series deficit to 2-1.  Although the Rangers have been hot on the road lately, winning both games in St. Petersburg against the Rays in the Division series and having won 7 postseason road games over the last 2 seasons.  I see the pitching matchup being a great one tonight as both pitchers pitch 6+ innings giving up 2 runs or less then turning it over to the bullpens, which is in the Rangers advantage (9 innings of shutout relief baseball in Game 2).  The Rangers have the better lineup but both teams are better at home. Comerica Park in Detroit has one of the biggest outfields in baseball so homeruns are hard to come by, especially in centerfield.  I don’t see the Rangers overcoming their demons inDetroit tonight because the Tigers are in a must-win game with all the pressure on them, no pressure on the Rangers to win tonight.  That will cause the Tigers to step up and do what they are supposed to do, win at home.  Final score Prediction: DET 6 TEX 4.

Fox Sports Preview:

http://msn.foxsports.com/video/MLB?vid=e70f1d94-df5e-4a43-82e0-1a13eb92a974&from=foxsports/mlb/home_gallery

ALCS game 2 preview

Posted: October 10, 2011 in MLB playoffs

By Chris Bates

The Texas Rangers hold destiny in their own hands.  With a win today over the Detroit Tigers, they will be just two wins away from a second consecutive trip to the World Series with 5 potential games to play.  As showed in the first game, I believe the Rangers have the better bullpen and lineup then the Tigers.  However, the Tigers have the better starting rotation.  If the Rangers can get the lead heading into the 7th inning then their chances of winning are about 80%, according to multiple sources.  Now that Alexi Ogando is part of the bullpen, the Rangers are a tough team to beat. They have so many relievers that come in, throw hard and throw strikes, which is what you want out of your bullpen.  For those of you that don’t know, the Tigers took a major hit today when they announced that leftfielder and notorious Ranger killer Magglio Ordonez is out for the rest of the playoffs as he fractured his ankle in Game 1.  This is an injury that has been ailing him all season long, it has finally caught back up to him.  Delmon Young, who was left off the ALCS roster due to an oblique injury, has been added to take Ordonez’s place but won’t be healthy enough to play the next couple of games at least.  Today’s pitching matchup features two young and upcoming stars in the Major League when Derek Holland takes the mound for the Rangers against Max Scherzer for the Tigers.  Both starters won at least 14 games this year and have shown flashes of brilliance this year.  Holland leads the Rangers in shutout wins with three.  I see this game being very similar to Game 1, very low-scoring and close until the end.  The Rangers will come out with the victory because of their shut-down bullpen and head to Detroit up 2 games to none.