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Tag:Colby Lewis
Posted on: October 21, 2011 12:59 am
Edited on: October 21, 2011 1:37 am
 

Grading Game 2 of the World Series



By Matt Snyder


ST. LOUIS -- Another game, another chance to hand out grades (I was a student teacher once upon a time, after all). Let's dive in without any further ado.

The starting pitchers from both teams were pretty maligned heading into the series after a collectively brutal performance in the LCS round. Considering these two teams sport some of the most powerful offenses in baseball, we were going to see a slugfest, right? Wrong. Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia was dominant, giving his ballclub seven shutout innings, allowing only three hits and one walk while striking out seven. If he pitches like that in his second turn this series -- assuming there is one -- the Cardinals will have some real confidence in him. Colby Lewis also turned things around for his Rangers. No Texas starting pitcher had worked into the seventh inning this postseason until Lewis did so Thursday night. His final line: 6 2/3 innings, four hits and one earned run. It's worth noting he wasn't on the hill when his one charged run scored.

The Rangers' defense. Elvis Andrus was incredible, but an Ian Kinsler error could have really burned the Cardinals in the fourth inning. He booted a groundball off Lance Berkman's bat, meaning the Cardinals had a runner on base with Matt Holliday and David Freese to follow. That was absolutely playing with fire in a game where runs were at a major premium. Sure enough, though, the defense is what got them out of the inning -- when Andrus and Kinsler teamed up for a beautiful double play, keeping the score tied at zero.

The Rangers' offense. They were asleep for eight innings, and it appeared the lack of offense would send the Rangers home trailing 2-0 in the series. At that point, I had the Rangers' penciled in for an F. But the game wasn't over yet, and Texas did something no one has done in a while: Get to Cardinals (unofficial) closer Jason Motte. Kinsler's hit to start things off was a bit lucky, but that's how the game is played. Then, Kinsler showed some serious guts and stole second on Yadier Molina. Andrus followed with a single and consecutive sacrifice flies won the Rangers the game. They won with pitching and defense, but the offense salvaged enough in the ninth to get a C.

It's hard to blame Jason Motte for Kinsler's single, again, but Motte also allowed the big hit to Andrus and also didn't keep Kinsler on his toes prior to the paramount stolen base. "We steal bases on the pitcher," Andrus said in the locker room after the game. And he was right. Yadier Molina couldn't have possibly made a better throw, but it wasn't enough to get Kinsler. An out there likely ends any threat for the Rangers in the ninth, and sends the series to Texas with a 2-0 Cardinals lead.

Anyone who has read me regularly knows I often call Albert Pujols the best player in baseball, so keep in mind this grade is relative. It was an "F" game for Pujols' lofty standards. He went 0-for-4 and then made a pretty costly mistake in the ninth inning. He failed to cut off Jon Jay's throw home cleanly, and that allowed Andrus to advance to second base. That meant Andrus was able to get to third on Josh Hamilton's sac fly and then score on Michael Young's.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 20, 2011 11:10 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 1:08 am
 

Rangers take down Cardinals, tie World Series

Ian Kinsler
By Matt Snyder


ST. LOUIS -- The Texas Rangers used a two-run ninth inning to knot the World Series at one game apiece with a 2-1 win.

Hero: Tough to pick just one here, because the Rangers' offense was brutal until the ninth inning. So, we're going to go with Colby Lewis. He didn't get the win -- archaic stat alert -- but pitched 6 2/3 innings of pretty good baseball against a great offense, allowing just one run. And that run scored off Alexi Ogando, after Lewis had been removed. This was the first time all postseason a Rangers' starter had worked into the seventh inning, so give props to Lewis for giving his team those innings. Credit has to go to the defense, too. And that credit is going to come soon, here on this blog (spoiler alert!).

World Series Game 2
Goat: The Cardinals' offense. You can point to Jason Motte, Arthur Rhodes, Lance Lynn or even Tony La Russa's bullpen decisions in the ninth inning if you want, but the offense needs to provide more than one run to win games against this Rangers ballclub. That isn't going to cut it moving forward.

Turning point: Ian Kinsler's stolen base in the ninth. He moved into scoring position and took the double play off the board, setting the tone for the rest of the inning.

It was over when ... Rangers closer Neftali Feliz recorded the final out. This thing hung in the balance all night for both teams.

Next: We shift down to a bit warmer weather, as the series moves to Texas for three games. Friday is a travel day, and Game 3 will take place Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. CT (note I put Central time because that's where both of these teams are located). The tentative pitching matchup is Kyle Lohse of the Cardinals against Matt Harrison of the Rangers.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 20, 2011 3:10 am
Edited on: October 20, 2011 4:12 pm
 

World Series Game 2: Garcia, Lewis face off



By Matt Snyder


Rangers at Cardinals, 8:05 p.m. ET, Busch Stadium, St. Louis. Cardinals lead series 1-0.

ST. LOUIS -- Jaime Garcia, who will start Game 2 for the Cardinals, had a 7.27 ERA in two NLCS starts. Colby Lewis, who will start Game 2 for the Rangers, allowed eight hits and four runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Tigers in his lone ALCS start. So both are looking to right the ship when they square off on Thursday night.

And both have reasons for hope.

Despite the bad start last time out, Lewis has been lights-out in the postseason, posting a 4-1 record to go with a 2.37 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in six career postseason starts -- yes, including the bad last outing. He also says he loves pitching in the postseason.

"I mean, I just -- yeah, it's comfortable, it's exciting, stands are packed, towels are waving," Lewis said Wednesday. "I mean, it's kind of hard not to get pumped up for it, you know?"

Meanwhile, Garcia has some pretty drastic splits concerning home vs. road. During the regular season, he had a 2.55 ERA in Busch Stadium while having a 4.61 ERA on the road.

"Of course, being at home with the home fans and like sleeping in your own bed and things like that," Garcia said Wednesday. "But I've said this a bunch of times before, where it doesn't really get in my head where I go on the road and I don't like it or I get frustrated or something. It's happened this year where I go on the road and it's a tough game. You have the battles on the road and the good ones at home. Me personally, I don't really see anything different that I do."
 
"But yeah, obviously I like pitching here."

World Series, Game 1
PITCHING MATCHUP

Garcia vs. Rangers:
It's a complete unknown here. Garcia has never faced the Rangers, and he has only faced Matt Treanor and Yorvit Torrealba -- neither of whom are going to start.

"They were the best team in the American League," Garcia said. "It's a tough team to pitch against. You know, just like a Milwaukee team that they've got a really good lineup, good team."

Lewis vs. Cardinals: He faced the Cardinals all the way back in 2007 and it wasn't pretty. Lewis allowed four hits and four earned runs in just one inning. His only decent sample against major Cardinals players is against Lance Berkman, and it's good news for the Rangers. Lewis has only allowed two hits in 13 at-bats against Berkman, with zero homers and one RBI. That's the only remotely relevant thing we can find in Lewis' history against these Cardinals, and 13 at-bats isn't exactly a big sample.

"I've never pitched here," Lewis acknowledged. "All the dimensions are the same, 60 feet, 90 feet, all the good stuff. I think it's just another stadium."

LINEUPS

Rangers Cardinals
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Ian Kinsler 2B 1 Rafael Furcal SS
2 Elvis Andrus SS 2 Jon Jay CF
3 Josh Hamilton LF 3 Albert Pujols 1B
4 Michael Young 1B 4 Lance Berkman RF
5 Adrian Beltre 3B 5 Matt Holliday LF
6 Nelson Cruz RF 6 David Freese 3B
7 Mike Napoli C 7 Yadier Molina C
8 Craig Gentry CF 8 Nick Punto 2B
9 Colby Lewis RHP 9 Jaime Garcia LHP


NOTES

• I don't really get excited about hitting streaks, but some people do. If that's your cup of tea, it's worth nothing that Cardinals third baseman, and NLCS MVP, David Freese has an 11-game postseason hitting streak. A 12th game would tie the franchise record, which is currently held by both Yadier Molina and Mike Matheny.

• Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday is certainly over his hand injury. In the past four games, he's 8-for-17 (.471) with three doubles, one home run and five runs scored.

• Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler is quietly pretty hot right now. He's eight for his last 20 (.400). 

• Rangers catcher Mike Napoli is having a huge postseason. Since going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in Game 1 of the ALDS, Napoli is 13-for-36 (.361) with two homers, seven RBI and 10 runs scored.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 7:06 pm
 

Rangers, Cardinals tentatively line up pitching

By Matt Snyder

ST. LOUIS -- Neither World Series manager would commit to a firm plan in terms of how their respective starting rotations would line up in the series, but both do have a good idea what direction they are going.

Rangers skipper Ron Washington said that after C.J. Wilson -- who has already been announced as the Game 1 starter -- he would go with Colby Lewis in Game 2 and "we're still up in the air as to where we'll go after that, but Colby will throw the second game."

Matt Harrison and Derek Holland have been in the postseason rotation behind Wilson and Lewis, but Washington hasn't made any decisions for anything beyond Game 2.

For the Cardinals, manager Tony La Russa has named pitchers through Game 4, but it's still subject to change.

World Series coverage
"We are going to announce that Jaime (Garcia) is pitching Game 2, and right now (pitching coach) Dave (Duncan) is home, will be back tomorrow, and I know that we're going to look at it closely. But I think we'll be penciling in Kyle Lohse for 3 and Edwin (Jackson) for 4, but that might change when we talk a little more."

A major concern for both teams was the ineffectiveness of most starters in each respective LCS. The Rangers' starters had a 6.59 ERA in the ALCS while the Cardinals starters have a 5.43 ERA in the entire playoffs.

The Cardinals were reportedly having an additional scare, too: Chris Carpenter's elbow was recently said to be a problem. La Russa attempted to alleviate some of that fear.

"If he wasn't sound, he wouldn't be pitching (Wednesday)," La Russa said, when asked if Carpenter's health was sound. "I think what I understand is that way back in August every once in a while he would find -- his elbow was a little stiff, so he would monitor his bullpens, but he also finished really strong. He's been getting treatment, and I know put his hand on the Bible the other day, a couple days ago, with the trainers and the doctor, and they all feel he's good to go."

Carpenter seemed a bit annoyed that talk was centered on his health.

"I'll speak about it one time, and that's it," he said. "Coming out of that start in Milwaukee, I had 200-something innings, 4,000 pitches or whatever and it's the middle of October. Everybody has got soreness and everybody has got aches. I got some treatment on my elbow. My elbow is fine. Tony and 'Dunc' would not throw me out there if it wasn't, and neither would the trainers or doctors. I would have been fine to pitch two days ago or yesterday, whatever day Game 7 would have been, and I'm fine to go Wednesday. I wouldn't go out there if I wasn't. That wouldn't help my team anyway."

That's about as emphatic as one could be, so it would appear he's perfectly fine.

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Posted on: October 17, 2011 5:52 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2011 7:02 am
 

Rangers tab Wilson as Game 1 starter

WilsonBy Evan Brunell

C.J. Wilson has been tabbed as the Rangers' Game 1 starter in the World Series, manager Ron Washington announced on Monday.

“He’s my No. 1 guy, nothing has changed,” Washington told MLB.com.

Wilson has struggled mightily this postseason, posting an 8.04 ERA over three starts. However, not many of Texas' other starters have done well, so Wilson really wins the job by default. As the ace all year long, Wilson could still come through with a gem on baseball's biggest stage. It's unclear who will follow Wilson in the rotation, although Derek Holland has done so all October. Given how shaky Holland has been, though, it's possible he could be bumped down the list by Colby Lewis. Matt Harrison, who has been the No. 4 starter all postseason, will remain in that role, the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram writes.

It is not yet known who will start Game 1 for the Cardinals, although it is widely expected to be Chris Carpenter, who would have pitched a potential Game 7 in the NLCS.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.


Posted on: October 16, 2011 11:50 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 1:24 pm
 

World Series preview: Rangers vs. Cardinals



By Matt Snyder


Talk about your clashes in historical pedigree.

The St. Louis Cardinals franchise began all the way back in 1882 (as the St. Louis Brown Stockings). After having just won the 2011 NL pennant, the Cardinals now have 18 NL titles and 10 World Series championships -- looking to add No. 11 in the next week and a half or so. The history of the franchise is loaded with Hall of Famers and transcendent personalities, and the city is often said to be one of the best baseball towns in the country. Manager Tony La Russa has been playing bullpen matchups since before Al Gore invented the Internet.

The Rangers' franchise, on the other hand, has only been around since 1961 (as the Washington Senators -- they moved to Texas and became the Rangers in 1972). Prior to 1996, the Rangers/Senators had never been to the playoffs. Prior to last season, they'd only won one playoff game in franchise history. The only individual Hall of Fame plaque with a Texas Rangers cap is Nolan Ryan's. Sitting right in the middle of die-hard football country, Arlington hasn't exactly been romanticized as a baseball hot spot. Manager Ron Washington took his first managing job in 2007.

Full playoff coverage
Of course, history has absolutely nothing to do with this series. The players are the ones who will win this series, not the uniforms or any flags in the respective stadiums honoring the past.

The Rangers are now making their second consecutive trip to the World Series and there's no doubt they're a current baseball powerhouse. Anyone who watched Game 6 of the ALCS can attest that the fans are as great as anywhere, too, because Rangers Ballpark was rocking.

These two teams have lots of similarities, too.

Both lost an ace before the season even began. The Rangers lost Cliff Lee to free agency while the Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright to a torn UCL in his throwing elbow -- requiring season-ending Tommy John surgery. Both offenses feature several power hitters while the bullpens got stronger down the stretch on the strength of midseason acquisitions and some roster/role tinkering. And both teams have been scorching hot for the past six or so weeks.

Sure, the Cardinals late surge got lots of attention and rightfully so. It's because they were running down the Braves from a double-digit deficit in the NL wild-card race. But check this out:

Rangers' September record: 19-6
Cardinals' September record: 18-8

Rangers' October record: 7-3
Cardinals' October record: 7-4

So if you're going to argue for the hotter team winning the series, you're picking the Rangers -- not the Cardinals. Since a Sept. 10 loss to the A's, the Rangers are 21-5. To put that in perspective, that's a 162-game pace of 131 wins. To reiterate, the Cardinals are playing exceptional baseball right now and deserve all the credit they've gotten for the huge comeback in the regular season and run in the playoffs, but let's not be fooled into thinking they come in hotter than their Texas-sized opponent.

TEAM INFORMATION

Texas Rangers (host Games 3, 4, 5*)
96-66, AL West winner.
ALDS: Beat Tampa Bay three games to one.
ALCS: Beat Detroit four games to two.
Manager: Ron Washington
Offensive ranks: 3rd in R, 2nd in HR, 1st in AVG, 5th in OBP, 2nd in SLG
Pitching ranks: 13th in ERA, 12th in K, 5th in WHIP

St. Louis Cardinals (host Game 1, 2, 6*, 7*)
90-72, NL wild card winner.
NLDS: Beat Philadelphia three games to two.
NLCS: Beat Milwaukee four games to two.
Manager: Tony La Russa
Offensive ranks: 5th in R, 13th in HR, 5th in AVG, 3rd in OBP, 6th in SLG
Pitching ranks: 12th in ERA, 21st in K, 15th in WHIP

*if necessary
[Note: All rankings were regular season and for the entire MLB]

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN -- WHO HAS THE EDGE?

Catcher: Mike Napoli vs. Yadier Molina


Big offensive advantage to Napoli here, but Molina can hit, too. Big defensive advantage to Molina here, but we've seen what Napoli can do behind the plate this postseason. This is a tough call for many reasons. We're weighing Napoli's power stroke (30 HR in 369 at-bats this season) against Molina's ability to completely eliminate the opposing running game. Ultimately, it's a toss up between two really good players.

First base: Michael Young vs. Albert Pujols


Young is a very good hitter. A great one at times, including most of the 2011 season. He just became the first player in LCS history to record two extra-base hits in one inning. He's gotten some noise in the AL MVP argument. It's just that he's not Albert Pujols in any aspect of the game.

Second base: Ian Kinsler vs. Ryan Theriot


Theriot's a scrappy singles hitter who makes lots of baserunning mistakes. He's not a defensive liability at second like he was at short, but he's still not much more than just an average player. Even if Skip Schumaker can return at full health, the upgrade is pretty minor. Kinsler had 32 homers and 30 stolen bases in the regular season and is far superior with the glove. 

Shortstop: Elvis Andrus vs. Rafael Furcal


Andrus is a solid defender and base stealer, but not a very good hitter. Furcal has provided St. Louis a bit of a power-speed combo atop the order since his acquisition. It's a really close call here, but Furcal seems to be providing his team more of a spark at this point in time. Things could easily change by the second inning of Game 1, but we're going Furcal by a nose for now.

Third base: Adrian Beltre vs. David Freese


A healthy Freese has been a monumental boost for the Cardinals' offense, especially as Matt Holliday has dealt with some injuries. Freese was a really good hitter in the regular season and absolutely exploded in the NLCS. Beltre can match and exceed his firepower, though. Beltre had 32 regular-season homers and then went yard three times in the clinching ALDS Game 4 at Tampa Bay. He's also a great defender. Before the NLCS, Freese was underrated, but let's not overcorrect based upon six games. He closed the gap, but is still slightly behind Beltre overall.

Left field: David Murphy vs. Matt Holliday


When healthy, Holliday is an elite player. He's starting to look healthy based upon the last few games, too, so this is an easy call.

Center field: Josh Hamilton vs. Jon Jay


Jay isn't a bad player by any stretch, but he's out of his league here. When Hamilton can keep himself on the field, he's one of the most feared sluggers in the league, and will also sell out his body to make a big defensive play (see Game 6, for example).

Right field: Nelson Cruz vs. Lance Berkman


We cannot discount the season that Berkman, the NL Comeback Player of the Year, put together. He was great, and especially valuable early in the season when Holliday was hurt and Pujols was struggling. But Cruz still almost matched his power production despite playing 21 fewer games in the regular season. In the playoffs, Cruz has been the best hitter in baseball, not to mention that he's a much better defender than Berkman. This one would be a toss up, but Cruz's hot hand pushes him over the top. Put it this way, Cardinals fans: What if you could trade Berkman for Cruz straight up for the series? You'd do it. Don't lie.

Designated hitter


The designated hitter for the Rangers is a mix and match thing. Young or Napoli can be used there, which would get Mitch Moreland or Yorvit Torrealba into the lineup. It's also possible Washington goes with Endy Chavez or Craig Gentry in the outfield and uses Murphy at DH. So, essentially, we're judging the bench here. For the Cardinals, the smart money is on Berkman being used as the DH, which then puts Allen Craig in the outfield. So what we're really judging here is which offense benefits more from being able to use a DH and, oddly enough, the NL team here does. Craig is a much better offensive player than Moreland, Torrealba, Chavez or Gentry. So the three games in Texas will actually favor the Cardinals in this one aspect of the game, however small it is.

Starting rotation: C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland vs. Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse


Both rotations have good ability yet have been shaky at times. Holland and Garcia particularly struggled in their respective LCS'. Wilson and Carpenter both pitched like aces at several points throughout the regular season, but the deciding factor here is that Carpenter has shown he can carry his team in a big game. Wilson, meanwhile, is 1-4 with a 5.40 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in seven career postseason starts.

Bullpen: Neftali Feliz et al vs. Jason Motte et al


The fact that both teams won four of six games against their respective LCS opponents with zero quality starts tells you all you need to know about how good the bullpens are right now. The Cardinals' bullpen has significantly improved down the stretch, as Motte has stepped in as the closer -- despite not being "officially" named as such. Marc Rzepczynski has been a solid left-handed addition just as right-hander Octavio Dotel has gotten some really big outs. Especially after the NLCS, you have to say the Cardinals have a very strong bullpen right now. The way things have gone for Texas of late, though, it's even better. Scott Feldman and Alexi Ogando have proven to be an exceptional duo to bridge the gap from the starters to the potentially dominant Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz at the back-end.

Defense


Getting Furcal helped the Cardinals, as will being able to use Craig in right instead of Berkman when the games are played in Texas, but this isn't really a match. The two teams had virtually identical fielding percentages during the regular season, but that doesn't measure range. The advanced metrics that do measure range pretty heavily side with the Rangers here. If you just go by position, only at catcher and first base are the Cardinals clearly better. Everywhere else it's either debatable or definitely the Rangers.

PREDICTION

First of all, keep in mind all categories above aren't created equal. Having a slight edge at shortstop, for example, isn't near as important as having an edge in the bullpen. The position-by-position breakdown is just a snapshot at the different strengths and weaknesses of each team. Adding everything together, including the momentum and swagger heading into the World Series, the Rangers have a better offense, defense and bullpen. And while the Cardinals have been having all their happy flights, the Rangers haven't lost consecutive games since August 23-25. The Cardinals' run has been a great story and nothing would surprise us here, but we'll go with the St. Louis run ending when it runs into a more talented buzzsaw. Rangers in six.

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Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:14 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 12:40 am
 

Rangers can't hold Tigers at bay, fall 5-2



By Evan Brunell


DETROIT -- The Tigers love the home cooking and rode three solo home runs and an extra-base hit with runners in scoring position to take Game 3 of the ALCS, 5-2. The win narrows the Rangers' lead in the series two games to one.

Hero: Doug Fister came up huge in a virtual must-win game for the Tigers, throwing 7 1/3 strong innings, punching out three and allowing seven hits. Fister had been knocked around in the ALDS, and it was fair to wonder if he was regressing to the mean after unsustainably killing it as a member of the Tigers in the regular season. Nope. Fister's outing was just what the Tigers needed after Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer were unable to keep the Rangers at bay.

Tigers-Rangers

Goat: It may be unfair to pick on Koji Uehara when it was Colby Lewis that relinquished the lead, but so be it. Uehara, you'll recall, gave up three runs and a homer against the Rays in Game 2 of the ALDS without recording an out. That was the extent of his pitching in the postseason until Tuesday night, when Ron Washington asked Uehara to stop the bleeding. Well, he didn't. Uehara relieved Lewis with a runner on first that he allowed to score, then gave up a solo homer in the seventh to ice the game for Detroit.

Turning point: Until Miguel Cabrera stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fifth, the Tigers were 2-for-28 with runners in scoring position in the postseason, and had collected only one extra-base hit with RISP over the last 32 innings. The lone Tiger run that had scored up to that point was on a solo homer by Victor Martinez (pictured). That changed when Miguel Cabrera took a grooved 0-2 fastball from Colby Lewis and lined it to right-field, plating the go-ahead run, and giving Detroit a lead it would not relinquish.

It was over when … It took a while for Detroit to get going with the stick, but a Jhonny Peralta homer in the bottom sixth gave Detroit an insurance run that suddenly made it very difficult for Texas to engineer a comeback with Detroit needing just nine outs from Fister and the bullpen. After an Andy Dirks single to knock Colby Lewis out of the game, Austin Jackson finally came through to plate another run and then it was really over, but Miguel Cabrera added a solo blast just for extra measure.

Next: Detroit will attempt to even up the series on Wednesday when it offers up No. 4 starter Rick Porcello up against Texas' Matt Harrison.

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Posted on: October 11, 2011 7:14 am
Edited on: October 11, 2011 5:01 pm
 

ALCS Game 3: Tigers scramble to avoid hole

Lewis, Fister

By Evan Brunell

Rangers at Tigers, 8:05 p.m. ET, October 11, Rangers Ballpark

ARLINGTON, Texas --  The Rangers shocked the Tigers with a walkoff grand slam, the first in postseason history. Obviously, Texas is on a roll and riding momentum with a 2-0 series lead, but no one should expect Detroit to just roll over and play dead. A 2-0 series lead is imposing, but not insurmountable. And now that the series is shifting to Comerica Park, the Tigers will have something they haven't had yet in the ALCS -- last ups.

"It can't change the approach for the pitcher at all," Tigers starting pitcher Fister said of the pressure facing him. "It doesn't change the mindset, it doesn't change how you attack hitters."

Let's be honest -- it's going to be tough for the Tigers to bounce back from this. It's not as if they can point to a major gaffe, or to a bad day by a player. Detroit played hard and was in every game until virtually the last out. And yet, the ball hasn't bounced their way... twice. Mentally, that has to take a toll. It will be interesting to see how the game unfolds.

WHO HAS THE EDGE?


The Rangers are obviously riding the momentum and get to offer up Colby Lewis in Game 3 in a prime opportunity to take a stranglehold in the ALCS. But the Tigers counter with Doug Fister, who threw up a 1.79 ERA in 10 starts and one relief appearance for the Tigers after coming over from Seattle.

It'll be a hard-fought battle, and the Tigers will look for Fister to hold the Texas offense in check. Nelson Cruz, who struggled through September and the ALDS before exploding in the ALCS and taking pole position in the series MVP department, has seven hits in 14 at-bats against Fister. David Murphy has also experienced success, but for the most part, Ranger hitters struggle against the righty, led by Ian Kinsler, Michael Young and Elvis Andrus.

On the flip side, the Tigers have hit Lewis well (more on this below). Alex Avila has two home runs and will look to bust out of his slump at just the right time for Detroit, while both Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera have combined to collect 11 hits in 27 at-bats. Fortunately for Lewis, the game is being played at Comerica Park, which has a spacious outfield and should play right into Lewis' hands as a flyball pitcher, especially with left-center field preventing righties from launching home runs.

The pitching matchup is as even as it can get, but the Rangers' offense has been more impressive in the early going and is riding a ton of momentum, so the edge has to be given to Texas.

Rangers' Colby Lewis: Lewis hasn't had much success with the Tigers this season, getting rocked for 13 earned runs over two starts totaling just 7 1/3 innings, but that doesn't faze the right-hander staring at a 2-0 series lead.

"You don't really worry about anything in the past," Lewis said. "Once it's over, it's done with, you just walk in the dugout and forgetabout it and move forward." Lewis also noted that he was successful last season against the Tigers, but that's not entirely true. In three starts, Lewis has a 4.66 ERA. That's a massive improvement over his performance in 2011 against the Tigers, but it doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

What does is Lewis' impeccable postseason record. Since returning from Japan and joining the Rangers in 2010, Lewis has a 1.65 ERA in five starts, including holding the Yankees to one run in six innings during his Game 3 ALCS start. Now, Lewis is a grizzled veteran and ready to halt Detroit's start to the ALCS.

"The more you do it, the more you go out there [in the playoffs], the more you understand what it takes to perform and be on that stage," he said.

Tigers' Doug Fister: As mentioned, Fister has been a revelation since arriving in Detroit. However, no one truly believes he's as good as he's displayed in a Tigers uniform and he was lucky enough to face weak opponents down the stretch. He struggled in the ALDS against the Yankees giving up seven runs in 9 2/3 innings.

But he's home now, in Comerica Field, where he's spun a dazzling 1.61 ERA over the 2011 season. Fister credits the Detroit crowd with getting him ready for the game. "We sit back, we watch everybody standing on their feet waving the white towels. It's something that gives you chills to be a part of," Fister said.

Fister has seen the Rangers twice this season, one apiece as a Mariner and Tiger and has held them in check for six runs in 14 1/3 innings, but he's only struck out just one batter, so he'll need his defense active behind him. The way he's performed so far, the defense will be more than happy to pick up the slack.

"I would be lying if I said we thought he would be this good," manager Jim Leyland said. "He doesn't seem to be rattled. He's aggressive. He's a fierce competitor."

All qualities that need to be displayed on Tuesday night if the Tigers don't want to dig themselves a hole that only one baseball team has ever come back from.

LINEUPS

Rangers Tigers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Ian Kinsler 2B 1 Austin Jackson CF
2 Elvis Andrus SS 2 Ramon Santiago 2B
3 Josh Hamilton CF 3  Miguel Cabrera 1B
4 Michael Young 1B 4 Victor Martinez DH
5 Adrian Beltre 3B 5 Don Kelly 3B
6 Mike Napoli DH 6 Jhonny Peralta SS
7 Nelson Cruz RF 7 Alex Avila C
8 Yorvit Torrealba C 8 Ryan Raburn LF
9 Endy Chavez LF 9 Andy Dirks RF

Colby Lewis RHP
Doug Fister RHP

Note: Delmon Young was originally slated to hit third, but he's been scratched from the lineup due to his injury flaring up.

NOTES

  • Elvis Andrus had a strong game for the Rangers, going 1-for-4 with two walks. He also made a pivotal catch late in the game that prevented a Tigers run. Overall, a good game for someone who hadn't been swinging the bat well and whose defense suffered earlier in the year. "He unseated a Gold Glover at shortstop as a 20-year-old," Washington said. "Twenty-one years old, he was in the World Series. When you're that young and you're that successful, sometimes you take things for granted. The thing about this game of baseball, it will humble you. He got a wake-up call with the way he was playing defense. His teammates let him know that the way he was doing it was unacceptable and he got refocused."
  • Tigers closer Jose Valverde went two innings, the first time this season he's gone more than one inning. Nice to see Leyland relying on Valverde more in October -- as he should be -- instead of allowing the soft underbelly of middle relief to get burned. (Well, technically it did, but not until the 11th inning, and you can't help it at that point.)
  • Not having to worry about weather will be nice, and it looks like a nice night in Detroit. The temperature should be in the mid-60s at night with minimal chance of rain. A game will be getting in tonight. Wednesday, similarly, should be fine, but Game 5 on Thursday could be problematic.

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