If you’re going to get to the World Series anyway, you might as well set some record along the way.
How about six home runs and 13 RBI in just six games of a championship series?
In total, Texas slugger Nelson Cruz amassed eight hits in the series against Detroit, all for extra bases. His ludicrous slugging percentage of 1.273 was key to the Rangers’ success, as he played a pivotal role in three of the four victories.
Cruz led the Rangers to an ALCS victory with his record-setting performance (How/ Getty)
In Game 1, Cruz belted a fourth-inning home run off of Justin Verlander, ending an ugly postseason stretch that saw him go 1 for 15 against Tampa. The solo shot would hold up as the game-winner in Texas’ 3-2 victory. Cruz followed it up with a pair of blasts in Game 2, including an eleventh-inning grand slam that sent the team to Detroit with a two game advantage.
In Game 3, Cruz had hit only hitless performance of the ALCS. Coincidentally, the Rangers lost 5-2, unable to mount an offense against Doug Fister. Games 4 and 5 saw Cruz go 1 for 4 with each hit a solo homer. In a decisive Game 6, he drilled his sixth long ball of the series and added a double as the Rangers won easily, 15-5.
Now Texas can only hope that the magic continues.
Thanks to the result of the 2011 All-Star Game, the AL West Champs will begin on the road in St. Louis. It’s a thoroughly stupid system considering that Texas bested the Cards by six games during the regular season, but the club can’t allow the lack of home field advantage to stand in its way. last year, Texas began the World Series at San Francisco with poor efforts, losing both road games en route to a 4-1 series loss.
Now, the Rangers have a shot at redemption.
C.J. Wilson will start Game 1, maintaining his “ace” tag in spite of a ghastly postseason. Thus far, Wilson has tossed 15.2 innings in the playoffs and allowed 16 runs (14 earned). He needs to get himself under control for this final push, or the Rangers could very well find themselves on the losing end of a second consecutive title run. Wilson is sporting a whopping 1.85 WHIP having allowed 21 hits and eight walks in his three starts. In two of those three games, he allowed six home runs (three in each).
The Rangers need C.J. Wilson to reverse a recent trend and get back to winning (Diansezian/ Getty)
The struggling Wilson will square off against Chris Carpenter, who has had mixed results against the Phillies and Brewers. In Game 1 of the NLDS he was torched for four runs in only three innings, but in Game 5 bounced back with one of the greatest postseason performances of all time. Carpenter’s complete game shutout led to a historic 1-0 win over Roy Halladay and the Phillies, and showed exactly what the Cards’ ace is capable of.
In his lone start against Milwaukee, Carpenter was mediocre, surrendering three runs in five innings of work. St. Louis did manage a 4-3 win.
When it comes to matching up, the Rangers enjoy many of the same advantages they did over Detroit. In fact, it’s hard to find an aspect of the game in which St. Louis can be considered a favorite. The Rangers have the deeper and more dominant bullpen. They have the more productive offense by far (855 runs scored to 762), and allowed fewer runs during the regular season (677 to 692). And this time, there is no Justin Verlander opposing the Texas rotation, giving the Rangers an edge in starting pitching as well.
However, in one short series, anything can happen. All bets are off as far as regular season numbers go, and it comes down to which team can grab four wins first. No one expected St. Louis to be here; the team has overcome its limitations and found a way to beat the two best clubs that the NL had to offer. The Rangers would do well to remember that.
Even so, Texas has recent memories to draw on, and knows all too well the sting of losing on the doorstep of a championship. Last year’s disappointment should go a long way toward fueling this year’s resolve.
A few points to note:
- During games at Busch Stadium, Michael Young is likely to move from DH to first base. That will push Mitch Moreland to the bench.
- Mike Napoli will start the first two games at catcher, but expect his bat to remain in the lineup when the team returns to Texas. He could DH or play first if Young resumes his customary role.
- Koji Uehara, who was hit hard in the ALDS and ALCS, could be swapped out for Mark Lowe as World Series rosters are finalized. It would be an interesting move, given that Uehara has the better upside. The club seems to have lost faith in the former Oriole.
- Josh Hamilton has a groin injury but is expected to keep playing through it. It could impact his abilities in the field.
- Per Rotoworld.com: “The Rangers’ starting rotation has a combined 5.62 ERA in 10 postseason games. It’s the fifth highest ERA in postseason history with at least 10 games played [and] quite a contrast after the Rangers finished third in the American League in ERA and fifth in innings pitched during the regular season en route to establishing a new club record for shutouts.” To say that the rotation needs to return to form is a bit of an understatement.
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