ARLINGTON, Tex. The one thing the Texas Rangers could count on their march to the American League West championship was their starting pitching.
Since the playoffs began, the Rangers have been able to win despite their starting pitching.
It's possible because the Rangers have a stout bullpen, the trend could continue when the Rangers meet St. Louis starting Wednesday night in the World Series. But it's not something the Rangers want to see continue as the club vies for its first-ever World Series crown.
"I'm a little surprised," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "I expect those guys to go deeper than they have. The bottom line is however deep they went, they kept us in the ballgame and we were able to pull some of them (games) out. We hope this time they can take the ball and keep it for a long time, hopefully nine innings."
The way things have gone for the rotation so far in the postseason, maybe Washington should settle for eight. Or seven. Or even six.
Six innings has been the high-water mark for the Rangers in their 10 postseason games so far. Colby Lewis (Game 3, American League Division Series) and C.J. Wilson (Game 5, American League Championship Series) are the only two starters to give the Rangers six innings in the playoffs.
The Rangers prided themselves on quality starts and low ERAs from their starters in the regular season. Texas, which had 99 quality starts this season, has just one in the postseason. That came in the Lewis start. A rotation that had an ERA of 3.65 in the regular season has seen that number balloon to 5.62 in the playoffs.
Against a St. Louis Cardinal team that has an offense as good as any one the Rangers have faced this year, those numbers have to be better and the starters no that.
"Me personally I'm not happy with how I've been pitching and I'm pretty sure they're not happy either," said left-hander Derek Holland, who is 1-0 this postseason with a 5.27 ERA and has pitched just 13 23 innings in his three starts. "We know what we've got to do in the World Series, that's for sure. We just haven't pitched up to our abilities. We haven't lasted as long as we'd like to."
Lewis, who is the team's postseason ace with his career 4-1 playoff mark, thinks the lack of innings may be due to the higher stakes in the playoffs.
"We won, right?" Lewis said. "It's down to the wire and if you know a guy doesn't have it or is struggling, you can't leave them out there for two or three innings and let them find it. The next thing you know we're out of the game because it's 8-1. There are quicker hooks in the playoffs."
Washington said he isn't pulling his starters any quicker now than he did in the regular season. What he'd like to see is one of his starters step up in the World Series.
Texas got three victories out of its rotation in the ALDS against Tampa Bay. The Rangers won the ALCS without getting a victory from a starter.
The only Texas starter that hasn't won a game in the playoffs this year is Wilson, who is scheduled to go up against Chris Carpenter in Game 1. Wilson is 0-2 in the playoffs and his ERA this postseason is 8.04, the highest of any Texas starter.
He hasn't won a postseason game since he beat Tampa Bay in Game 2 of the ALDS last year, dropping his last four decisions.
He could turn that all around and set the tone for the starters Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.
"We expect C.J. to step up and really believe he will," Washington said. "He's my No. 1 guy. My feelings haven't changed."
While Washington hasn't set his rotation beyond Wilson, expect Lewis to get the ball in Game 2. Counting the playoffs, he went 10-5 on the road and just 5-5 at Rangers Ballpark. Holland, who battled food poisoning in the ALCS, will likely start Game 3 with Matt Harrison going in Game 4.
One saving grace for the Texas rotation is that they aren't the only starters struggling to produce right now. St. Louis got just one victory from a starter in the ALCS and has three wins from its rotation in the playoffs.
If the Texas starters continue to struggle, Washington is confident his team can find another way to win, especially with a white-hot bullpen that has a 2.34 ERA this postseason.
"We just won the American League Championship that way," Washington said. "If we play the ballgames and that's the route I have to go, I feel like we'll win."