Game 1: Wednesday at San Francisco, 7:57 p.m.
Game 2: Thursday at San Francisco, 7:57 p.m.
Game 3: Saturday at Texas, 6:57 p.m.
Game 4: Sunday at Texas, 8:20 p.m.
*Game 5: November 1 at Texas, 7:57 p.m.
*Game 6: November 3 at San Francisco, 7:57 p.m.
*Game 7: November 4 at San Francisco, 7:57 p.m.
All times Eastern * if necessary
For just the second time in the past 20 years, the World Series will be played entirely west of the Mississippi River. Here’s a quick reaction to the matchup between the Rangers and Giants in the 2010 World Series.
For all the talk about how Texas has gotten here by abandoning its decades-old philosophy of bashing in favor of pitching and defense, this is still a very good offensive team. The Rangers led all of baseball in batting average (.276), were fifth in MLB in runs scored and finished in the Top 5 in the AL in OPS, home runs and stolen bases. The heart of the order has baseball’s batting (.359) and OPS (1.044) champion, Josh Hamilton, hitting third, followed by the rejuvenated Vladimir Guerrero (115 RBI) and Nelson Cruz, who might be in the conversation for MVP if he hadn’t battled injuries all season.
In the postseason, facing the best pitchers in the toughest situations, the Rangers have actually improved offensively, batting .281 with an OPS of .815. They outscored the Yankees in the ALCS by a 2-to-1 margin. Five of their regulars are batting over .300 in the playoffs.
Offense was San Francisco’s missing ingredient early in the year, but the Giants added enough along the way to get it done. Castoffs Pat Burrell and Cody Ross have been huge, coming through in the clutch repeatedly. Overall, the Giants ended up middle-of-the-pack offensively: Ninth in the NL in runs scored, eighth in OPS, seventh in batting average and sixth in home runs. First baseman Aubrey Huff led the Giants in every major offensive category, and Buster Posey’s arrival at catcher has boosted the heart of their lineup and made up somewhat for the collapse of Pablo Sandoval.
In the postseason, the Giants have gotten big hits when they needed them most, but they’ve batted just .231 overall and have six homers – one more than Nelson Cruz has by himself – and just two that didn’t come from Ross. San Francisco really needs Huff to step up.
EDGE: Rangers, by a significant margin. They’ve scored 5.36 runs per game in the postseason to San Francisco’s 3.00.
You might have heard a bit about the Rangers’ No. 1 starter, but in case you didn’t notice, Cliff Lee only pitched once in the six-game ALCS. The rotation MVP in that series was No. 3 starter Colby Lewis, who was pitching in Japan last year. He beat the Yankees twice and has a 1.45 ERA in three postseason starts. No. 2 starter C.J. Wilson had a good start in the first round and mixed results in the second – he was the victim of the Game 1 bullpen meltdown and then had a nightmarish Game 5. Likely Game 4 starter Tommy Hunter is the Rangers’ weak link.
Having Lee on the mound twice (maybe even three times) is huge, but considering he’s going to be opposing another world-beater, you can’t exactly chalk up those wins.
The Giants entered Saturday’s game with the lowest starters ERA in the postseason, just 1.93. Tim Lincecum is perfectly capable of going toe-to-toe with Lee, showing the ability to dominate in big games. Matt Cain has been stellar in two postseason starts, and has yet to allow his first earned run. Jonathan Sanchez will go second or third, depending on what Bruce Bochy wants to do, and he showed Saturday that he’s capable of putting up a stinker. The Giants have won both games Madison Bumgarner has started.
Pitching is what has gotten the Giants to the Series, and Lincecum has a chance to set the tone on Wednesday in Game 1.
EDGE: Giants. If you figure Lee and Lincecum cancel each other out, it’s going to come down to multiple starts by the No. 2 and 3 guys. To this point, the Giants look better at those spots – though after Sanchez’s outing, not by much.
Though it hasn’t put its best foot forward at times in the postseason, the Texas bullpen has been a strength this season, posting the second-lowest ERA in the AL. Neftali Feliz had 40 regular-season saves, Darren Oliver has been amazing at age 40, and Darren O’Day has been an effective workhorse.
The Giants came into Saturday with the second-highest bullpen ERA this postseason (4.22), which is surprising considering how rock solid the bullpen was during the regular season, when they had the second-lowest relief ERA in the majors (2.99). But their seven scoreless innings in Game 6 show that this still has to be considered a shut-down bullpen. Brian Wilson has picked up five saves and a win in seven appearances while not allowing a run. Ramon Ramirez and Jeremy Affeldt have both struggled badly in the postseason.
EDGE: Giants. Over time, that bullpen has shown it can get the job done.
An improved defense has been an important factor for the Rangers’ ascension. They were mediocre in fielding percentage during the regular season but fifth in the AL in UZR. Shortstop Elvis Andrus is a plus, and the outfielders don’t make a lot of mistakes. At first base, the Rangers sacrificed defense by leaving Chris Davis off the roster in favor of Mitch Moreland and Jorge Cantu.
The Giants are one of the better defensive teams in the game, committing just 73 regular-season errors and tying for the lead in fielding percentage. But fielding percentage isn’t everything (some will tell you it’s hardly anything), and the Giants aren’t great in the range department. Sandoval, Burrell and Huff don’t get to a lot of balls others might, though all three were better than expected with the glove this year. Presumably Burrell will be the DH in games in Arlington, which will improve the defense.
EDGE: Giants, though the difference is unlikely to be what decides the series.
Ron Washington deserves a ton of credit for the Rangers being where they are. He is an infectious optimist and motivator who by all accounts did a lot to keep his crew loose during the ALCS. He badly mismanaged the bullpen during the Game 1 meltdown against the Yankees (maybe he just forgot Neftali Feliz was there?), but overall is a good in-game tactician. He’s let his team be extremely aggressive on the basepaths, which has led to some good things but also carries the potential to backfire at a critical time.
The unflappable Bochy has tinkered with his lineup a lot in the postseason, and sometimes the moves don’t seem to make a lot of sense, but they keep working. He’s always been a hunch guy who knows his ballclub. The big criticism of Bochy this season has been that he stuck with Sandoval and Aaron Rowand too long, but that’s pretty much irrelevant now.
EDGE: Giants, just because Bochy has four previous playoff runs under his belt, including a World Series, and this is Washington’s first rodeo.
Intangibles* For the first time since Bud Selig uttered the words “this time it counts,” the National League will have home-field advantage in the World Series. But home field wasn’t a huge advantage for the Giants during the regular season, and five of the Rangers’ seven postseason wins have come on the road.
* The Giants have been living on the edge just about every night, while the Rangers have been involved in some blowouts. Does that mean the Giants are battle-tested, or just tired?
* Look for Texas catcher Bengie Molina to be a big storyline in the next few days -- the Giants traded him to the Rangers on July 1. Bizarre fact: He's going to get a World Series ring no matter what happens.
* The Rangers are making their first World Series appearance. Five other teams have done that in the past decade, and two have won.
Bottom lineThe Giants look better on paper in most areas, but it already appears that the Rangers will be favored by the oddsmakers. The difference in the offense is huge -- if the Giants have to score five runs a game to win, it's going to be tough. But San Francisco's formidable pitching staff is capable of keeping the scoring low.
-- David Andriesen
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