- World Series----Texas Rangers vs San Francisco Giants:
Texas Rangers (90-72); 1st place, AL West (defeated Tampa Bay Rays 3 games to 2 in ALDS; defeated New York Yankees 4 games to 2 in ALCS) vs San Francisco Giants (92-70); 1st place, NL West; (defeated Atlanta Braves 3 games to 1 in NLDS; defeated Philadelphia Phillies 4 games to 2 in NLCS).
Keys for the Rangers: Score, score, score; win one of the first two games; contain their aggression; push their starters deep into games; play solid defense; Bengie Molina.
Much like the Phillies, the Rangers have a bunch of bats who can put up crooked numbers quickly. With the Giants pitching, the Rangers hitters are likely to be mitigated to a certain degree, but the Rangers were supposedly outgunned on the mound after a bruising 5 game series with the Ray; that they wouldn't have Cliff Lee until game 3; with a questionable bullpen; and a manager who's prone to making tremendous gaffes, they received above-and-beyond the call of duty performances from Colby Lewis in games 2 and 6 to dethrone the Yankees.
The job Lewis did hasn't gotten the attention it's deserved in any context, on or off the field. Because the Rangers were reeling from the devastating way in which they lost game 1, there was a potential for the Yankees to blow them off the field in game 2. Had Lewis given up a 3 spot in the first inning, things could have spiraled immediately. It was imperative for the Rangers to get their feet on the ground and become immersed in the second game rather than think about the bad things that happened to them the night before. Retiring the Yankees in order in the first inning; giving the Rangers bats an opportunity to get a quick 1-0 lead with their speed; they then scored 4 more runs in the next two innings to build a 5-0 lead and chase Phil Hughes.
While Lee's ruthless game 3 dismantling of the Yankees got the breathless reaction from the media and public, Lewis pitched brilliantly in game 6 as well. Despite Lee's presence for a game 7, there's no telling what can happen in what amounts to a 1-game playoff for the pennant; the Rangers didn't let it get that far and Lewis was big reason for it.
Surprisingly, with the Giants headliners Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, the Rangers have shown they can pitch with the best so far this post-season. If they can score 4 runs per game this series, they'll win.
In general, I don't think much of home field one way or the other in baseball----it's not football. That said, as insipid as is the idea of the home field advantage being determined by the All Star game winner, it's a boon to the Giants that the NL won it this year. Rangers Ballpark is a hitting haven and while it may help the Giants offense, it could hurt their pitching. The Giants can't get into a scoreboard shootout with the Rangers. Such a shootout won't happen in pitching friendly AT&T Park, but it could happen in Arlington. The Rangers need to win one of the first two games.
Basestealing and reckless abandon baserunning is one of the reasons the Rangers are in the World Series. They took a "everything we've got" approach to both playoff series and it worked; but their aggressiveness could cost them with a defensively sound and fundamentally solid team like the Giants. Giants catcher Buster Posey threw out 37% of the baserunners stealing against him in the regular season; the Rangers can't have the tying run picked off in the late innings as Ian Kinsler was in game 1.
Taking risks is great----it's what brought the Rangers this far----but eventually, if you do it too many times, it's going to cost you; you're going to get caught.
Rebounding as they did after their meltdown in game 1, the Rangers bullpen on the whole is still untrustworthy....and so is manager Ron Washington. One of the biggest strategic mistakes made by the Yankees----and it might have cost them the series----was manager Joe Girardi using David Robertson rather than Mariano Rivera down 2-0 in the ninth inning of game 3. Even if they'd lost; even if Lee had slashed through the Yankees in a similarly effortless fashion as he did in the eighth inning, they would've run his pitch count up into the 130s; had the Yankees gotten one baserunner in the ninth, who knows what Washington would've done? Worst case scenario, they'd have cut into Lee's reserves for a potential game 7. They might've lost anyway, but the strategy would've been sound; sounder than what Girardi did anyway.
The Rangers won't allow their bullpen to infringe on Lee and presumably Lewis; but Washington inexplicably pulled C.J. Wilson in game 1 and it, more than anything else, was what cost them the game. I'd be unable to sit still with Washington as my manager wondering whether he's about to do something stupid.
Tied in with the starters going deep into games, the Rangers have to play good defense against the Giants. The Giants don't walk; they don't have a ton of power; but they don't strike out either. They make contact and the Rangers have to catch the ball behind their starters to keep the pitch counts down; not give extra outs; and have quick innings.
Bengie Molina nurtured Lincecum, Cain and Jonathan Sanchez as the Giants catcher for 3 1/2 years and presumably knows them better than anyone. With Molina's penchant for big post-season hits and this understanding of the ins-and-outs of the Giants pitchers, Molina is very important to the Rangers winning the series.
Keys for the Giants: Keep the scores down and the Rangers pitch counts up; get into the bullpen; wait for the mistakes; execute; get the games to Brian Wilson.
The Giants beat the Phillies for numerous reasons, the greatest of which were their pitching and not being intimidated by the Phillies----no small feats considering the Phillies offense and their penchant for bullying. The Rangers aren't the Phillies, but they have a similar template with power, speed and defense. It's going to take a similar effort in the World Series as it did in the NLCS for the Giants to win.
Lincecum and Cain must be running on fumes after a long season in which they had to combat a weak offense and win close games; the cool air and post-season adrenaline has carried them through this far, but will they be able to dig deep in a long, drawn out World Series? The Giants have to either try to get a lead and turn the games over to the bullpen; or have quick innings of their own to keep their starters fresh. Sanchez won't be given much wiggleroom with his wildness and emotionality; the Giants bullpen is much stronger than that of the Rangers. A battle of the bullpens turns the tide for the Giants.
Every moment, every pitch, every inning that goes by and the this or that decisions that have to be made (especially under National League rules) lends itself to Washington making a gaffe; the Giants are much stronger in the dugout with Bruce Bochy than the Rangers are with Washington.
The Giants play the game the right way; they catch the ball; they use productive outs; and they get unexpected contributions from underappreciated players. This trend of being more than the sum of their parts is how the Giants have gotten here and it's how they can win the series against a better on-paper team.
Brian Wilson has been terrific----fearless and gutty----if the game is placed into his hands, the Giants will feel better than the Rangers will if they have to trust the rookie Neftali Feliz.
What will happen:
This is a case in which the Giants lack of patience is going to help them----at least against the Stone Cold Killer, Cliff Lee. Because Lee has such amazing control, it makes no sense to wait for a pitch to hit; it's not going to work. As I've said numerous times, if the hitter waits Lee out, he's going to be down 0-2 or 1-2 before getting comfortable at the plate; then Lee's going to rip off that wicked curveball. The Giants hackers----Juan Uribe* especially----are going to have to do the damage against him.
*Uribe is 11 for 37 in his career vs Lee; with a double, a triple and 2 homers. Watch that matchup.
Despite his reputation----like that of The Most Interesting Man in the World, a reputation expanding faster than the universe----the Giants have shown little reverence to the best pitchers in baseball. They didn't care that they were facing Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt; they won't care about facing Lee; Lee's going to get knocked around at least once in this series.
With Lee losing once, the Rangers need to get repeated performances from Lewis and Wilson; presumably, they're going to go with Tommy Hunter in game 4 again and, similarly to his game 4 start in the ALCS, he'll be used as long as he's effective with a quick hook awaiting him at the first sign of trouble. The Giants vs Rangers starting pitching matchups are a wash with Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner rounding out the rotation.
Once it gets into the battle of the bullpens, the Giants have a distinct advantage over the Rangers. That said, the bullpens aren't doing battle directly against one another. The Rangers bullpen won't have as much trouble with the Giants offense; the Giants bullpen might have more of an issue with the Rangers bats----especially in Texas.
I still trust the Giants bullpen more than the Rangers bats; I believe in the Giants growing aura of finding a way to get it done late in games.
The Rangers have battled all season; they have proven post-season players in Vladimir Guerrero, Molina and Lee; but the Giants have shown such an ability to rebound and take whatever comes at them with aplomb that I'm not going to doubt them now.
Washington is going to make at least one huge mistake that's going to cost the Rangers a game. He was lucky in the ALDS and ALCS that his counterparts----Joe Maddon and Girardi----were just as, if not more, mistake prone than Washington. Such is not the case with Bochy.
It's going to be a close, well-played series between two teams that no one was expecting to see; much to the chagrin of Fox Sports, there are no Yankees or Phillies this year. It's the Rangers and Giants; and for the first time since 1954 (and for the first time ever on the West Coast), the Giants franchise is going to win the World Series.
PREDICTION: GIANTS IN SIX
WORLD SERIES MVP: TIM LINCECUM
- Viewer Mail 10.25.2010:
Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the Rangers and the World Series:
Gotta tip my cap to Nolan Ryan. His plan worked. And it's pretty exciting for the folks in the Dallas area.
On a sidenote, I am in Houston, visiting a bunch of family down here, and none of them seemed to notice the Rangers were even in the playoffs.
Surely, FOX is quivering.
It's hard to have sympathy for FOX when they inflict the pain of forcing fans to make the choice of listening to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver or having the broadcast on the radio with the sound of the TV down. If they took some time and care into the production rather than advance this myth of Buck as the top broadcasting personality, I'd have a tiny bit of empathy. They don't care about us; why should we care about them?
Ratings and fan desires aside, it's good for baseball to get a look at Lincecum, Josh Hamilton and the other ancillary parts of both clubs on the big stage.
Joe writes RE Ron Washington:
I don't know that Washington had much to do with this. His strategic game is in question, and the team had talent. Another manager probably would have done the same.
Washington does not know what he's doing when it comes to strategy, but the players have never, ever, ever stopped playing hard for him. Who can quantify how many games they won because of that? The number could be greater than the games his glaring mistakes have cost them. Players can quit on a manager and end his tenure quicker than you can blink and despite his frailties, the Rangers have stuck with him. That counts for something.
The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger (Brooklyn Capo) writes RE the playoffs:
My, my...how the mighty have fallen (NYY and Philly).
The World Series will be the ultimate and final Battle between S.F. Liberalism and Texas Conservatism.
The New World Order is at our doorsteps looking to take over our TVs. I looked out my window after the game and saw dogs and cats playing together as a pig flew by.
After everything the Rangers have gone through this season, how can they be denied now?
Given the understanding the Rangers have shown with Washington and Hamilton, I don't know if the hard core conservative label fits.
I think the Rangers are going to be denied. A win for Nancy Pelosi over Rick Perry? Even with the ominous clouds hovering over the democrats?
NapLajoieonSteroids writes RE the Yankees:
What is comes down to is that the Yankees did not have enough pitching to even pretend like they belonged on the same field as the Rangers this series. They lost the minute Burnett and Vazquez collapsed and second-guessing who should have started what game is like rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic.
Unless there was something we didn't know about with C.C. Sabathia and a viable reason they didn't pitch him on short rest in game 4, this came down to the faulty decisions made by the manager. The Yankees were outplayed in every facet, but that doesn't necessarily mean they couldn't have won.
You look at that roster and they are getting old!!
You missed Fernando Valenzuela in the pitchers that Lasorda handled well.
I don't know if I like Farrell as the manager as well. Maybe I'd like him more if he had managed in the minor leagues. I'd have gone with Sandy Alomar Jr. He was a catcher and he handled pitchers really well.
And the Giants proved themselves. Congratulations to the Giants, Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean.
When I mentioned the Dodgers players from the 1970s, I meant those Lasorda managed in the minors up to the majors; but he did handle a lot of young players who won the Rookie of the Year award for the Dodgers----that was a hallmark of how they stayed competitive year-after-year.
Bobby Valentine would've been perfect for the Blue Jays, but maybe they didn't want to pay him and/or deal with the Bobby V package.
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE me:
You 're doing recipes now? What a good idea. I see A Prince of New York cookbook in your future.
Jane's referring to my suggested way for Michael Kay to prepare the crow he has to eat after his idiotic declaration of the ALCS being "over" after the Yankees took game 1.
I'm a renaissance man!!!
I was a guest with Sal on the SportsFan Buzz today talking about the World Series, the Mets and all the other stuff going on. Click here to listen directly or here to download it from Sal's site on I-Tunes.
I know you're listening repeatedly just to hear my voice.