Archive for the ‘Texas Rangers’ 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.

By Chris Bates

     A potential $50 million dollar front of the rotation ace type starter has certainly not pitched like it this postseason.  C.J. Wilson once again struggled last night giving up six earned runs in just 6.0 innings of work. Wilson will be a free agent this off-season and he is expecting to get a big contract.  From what teams have seen in the postseason, he will most likely not get paid like an ace does.  Last night was his chance to shine and match an ace, Cy-Young award winning pitcher in Justin Verlander pitch for pitch but after one bad hop on a ground ball to third base that hit the bag and jumped over Adrian Beltre’s glove, Wilson unraveled.  He gave up an RBI triple and then a two-run homerun on a high fastball as the Rangers lost game 5 to the Detroit Tigers 7-5.  Time will tell what kind of contract Wilson gets in the off-season.

Preview

       The Rangers head back home for potentially two games in front of their home crowd to eliminate the Tigers and head back to the World Series for the second consecutive year and the second time in franchise history.  Game 6 of the ALCS series starts at 7:05 p.m. Saturday night from the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.  Game 2 starters Derek Holland and Max Scherzer will face off again.  Ranger fans can only hope Holland gives the team a better outing this time around.  He struggled mightily with his command giving up 3 earned runs on 4 walks in just 2 2/3 innings.  Scherzer on the other hand, had a quality pitching performance giving up just three runs in 6.0 innings of work. 

Even Matchup

       Despite the struggle in his last start, Holland (right)  quietly had one of the best years in the major leagues this season.  He went 16-5 with a 3.95 ERA in 198 innings pitched.  He is certainly capable of pitching a great game and not relying on his bullpen to help him out of trouble.  Holland led the Rangers in both complete games (4) and shutouts (4).  He is just 25 years old and in his second full season in the major leagues.  In his first postseason, Holland has given up four runs on 11 hits in 9.0 innings pitched.  Opponents are batting .289 against him in the postseason compared to .262 in the regular season. Holland has not been able to find his command so far this postseason, walking six batters in the 9.0 innings he’s pitched.  He walked just 67 batters all regular season in 198.0 innings pitched. Holland was fourth in the American League in wins and complete games and third in win percentage (.762).  Look for Holland to bounce back in a big way and pitch like the Rangers know he can on Saturday in a close out game.

     Max Scherzer (right)  has been brilliant this postseason, giving up just five funs in 13 1/2 innings in two starts and one relief appearance.  Scherzer was 15-9 with a 4.43 ERA in the regular season.  He has just three career postseason starts.  Opponents are batting just .200 against Scherzer in the postseason compared to .272 in the regular season.  His ERA has made a significant jump to 2.70 this postseason.  Scherzer has been excellent locating the strike zone so far in his outings in the playoffs, having 13 strikeouts in his 13 1/2 innings pitched.  Look for Scherzer to continue pitching well and make the Rangers work for their runs, just like he did in Game 2.

Even Teams

     Going into this series, I believed all along that the Rangers would win in six games because of their depth of pitching.  The Tigers have the better rotation but the Rangers have the better bullpen (1.10 ERA combined in the playoffs).  Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz have been brilliant combining to go 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA.  These two teams were head to head in the regular season in the chase for home-field advantage in the playoffs and the number two seed.  The Rangers won both by just one game; it was a fight until the end.  Texas 96-66, Detroit 95-67.  If anything, the Tigers victory in Game 5 showed that they will not go down without a fight.  The Rangers are going to have to work to close these guys out; they are a resilient bunch and a veteran team.  Texas has the players and the experience from last postseason to do it and I don’t see any reason as to why they won’t close out Detroit tomorrow night.  Good news for Texas is that they are playing at home where they tied with the Yankees for the best home record in the American League (52-29).  The crowd is going to be ready, the Rangers players have said they feed off the energy of the crowd and another great game will take place on Saturday night.  This whole series has been close, without the two Nelson Cruz extra inning home runs, each game in this series would have been decided by one or two runs. 

Prediction

       Both pitchers pitch well and go 6+ innings before the bullpens take over.  That will be the difference.  The depth the Rangers have in their bullpen makes them the most complete team left in the playoffs.  The Tigers are dealing with injuries to two of their starters, Victor Martinez and Delmon Young (both playing with oblique injuries) but they are gutting it out for their team.  Detroit has tired relievers in set-up man Joaquin Benoit (threw 34 pitches in his last outing) and closer Jose Valverde (pitched in every game except Game 5). This will be a key to Game 6.  Texas has rested relievers and I see the bullpen once again shutting down Detroit’s lineup.  Final Score: TEX 4, DET 2.