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Tag:Elvis Andrus
Posted on: October 21, 2011 12:37 am
Edited on: October 21, 2011 1:53 am
 

Andrus' glove helps propel Rangers to Game 2 win



By Matt Snyder


ST. LOUIS -- Elvis Andrus came through with a big single in the top of the ninth Thursday night and then scored the eventual winning run in the Rangers' 2-1 victory. If you only look at the offensive statistics, he was one of the heroes of the game. And that would be a correct assertion, but it wouldn't even come close to telling the whole story.

Andrus is a dazzling defender and he showed it once again in Game 2. In the fourth inning, Andrus flashed his range and glove control, cutting down a ball up the middle, scooping it to second baseman Ian Kinsler, who then proceeded to bare-hand the ball and complete an incredible double play to end the inning. Then, in the sixth, Andrus showed even more range up the middle, making a diving stab and then making the throw from the ground, getting it to Kinsler just in the nick of time to end the inning. Had he not made the play, Nick Punto likely would have scored, and any run in a 2-1 contest changes the entire complexion of the game.
World Series Game 2

"Having him at shortstop, it’s fun to watch," said center fielder Craig Gentry, who enjoyed a pretty nice view of the plays. "He had two plays tonight where I was like ‘wow.’ That was impressive. But he’s been doing that all year."

It's true, Andrus is so good defensively it's gotten to the point where his teammates don't necessarily take him for granted, but they expect him to make those plays. It's not just Andrus, either, because the entire defense is a strength. He's just the defensive leader.

"You never wanna make mistakes, but, boy, they take care of you," reliever Mike Adams said. "Sometimes you make a pitch and the ball’s gonna go through and these guys come up with some amazing plays."

"Our pitchers feed off that, they know they can let ‘em put the ball and play and our defense is behind them," Gentry added. "We take pride in that."

And it was especially evident Thursday night.

"It’s a totally different game if a few of those plays aren’t made tonight," Adams said.

A few of those plays would obviously be Andrus' two gems. So which one was better?

"I liked the second one," Andrus said with a laugh. "I’ve made that play a couple of times, but in the World Series … "

Indeed, he saved at least one run for his team on the biggest stage of them all, and in a game the Rangers won by one. It's no surprise Andrus couldn't really finish that thought in words, only with a smile. Just as it's no surprise that he continues to make life easier on his pitchers and teammates in the field.

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Posted on: October 20, 2011 12:56 am
Edited on: October 20, 2011 4:13 am
 

Grading Game 1 of the World Series

By Matt Snyder

ST. LOUIS -- We've done grades for the first two rounds of the playoffs, but it's the World Series. A big deal, in other words. So let's just grade out every single game. It's fun. And we like fun.

Marc Rzepczynski only faced two hitters, but he got two huge outs. Granted, it wasn't against a murderer's row or anything -- Craig Gentry and Esteban German don't exactly instill fear in opposing pitchers -- but he's been a lefty specialist and faced two righties. He struck them both out, ending what was the last Rangers threat.

"He beat us," said Rangers manager Ron Washington after the game. "That's all there is to it."

Allen Craig, Chris Carpenter, Lance Berkman, Albert Pujols, David Freese and Matt Holliday with garner lots of attention from the winner's clubhouse in Game 1, but do not discount the job by Rzepczynski. He got two of the biggest outs of the game.

Carpenter will get lots of credit for this performance, and rightfully so, as he worked six innings, allowing five hits, two earned runs and picked up the victory. But he missed his spot -- didn't get the ball as far outside as Yadier Molina wanted -- in the fifth inning against Mike Napoli to lose a two-run lead the Cardinals had just built. That pitch knocks Carpenter down to a B, which is by no means a bad grade. I'd even be willing to bump this thing up to a B+ considering Carpenter was facing such a stacked offense

Carpenter's counterpart, Rangers' starter C.J. Wilson, showed some signs of breaking out of his postseason slump, but he ultimately wasn't good enough to help the Rangers gather a win. He did put three zeroes on the board, but then faltered. In the fourth inning, Holliday and Berkman got to him after putting Pujols on with a hit-by-pitch. Then, in the sixth, Wilson allowed a double to Freese and then uncorked an awful wild pitch to move him -- and the eventual game-winning run -- to third base. Allowing three runs in 5 2/3 isn't horrible, but it certainly isn't good. And the six walks weren't acceptable.

The strings Ron Washington pulled Wednesday night didn't seem to work very well. Before the game, he insisted that the Rangers wouldn't shy away from trying to run on Yadier Molina and the Cardinals -- stressing that stealing is really on the pitcher, not the catcher -- and stayed true to his word. Ian Kinsler led off the game with a single and then tried to steal second base. He was thrown out by Molina. Then, when the Rangers were threatening in the seventh, Washington went with Gentry and German and both struck out. Meanwhile, Cardinals' manager Tony La Russa's moves all worked out well.

The Rangers 2-3-4 hitters -- Elvis Andrus, Josh Hamilton and Michael Young -- went a combined 0-for-11 with three strikeouts. That's a pretty big hole toward the top of the lineup, and it's very difficult to develop any sort of offense without those three spots contributing anything. It's only one game, though, and the good news for the Rangers is that there's a big drop off in the Cardinals' rotation after Carpenter.

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Posted on: October 19, 2011 2:50 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 2:51 pm
 

World Series relievers vs. hitters



By C. Trent Rosecrans

Both the Cardinals and Rangers advanced to the World Series with a huge hand from their bullpens, so both bullpens are expected to be used often during the series.

St. Louis manager Tony La Russa likes to use match ups to his favor, relying on stats to decide when to use a reliever and which one to use. Octavio Dotel's mastery of Ryan Braun was part of the Cardinals' NLCS victory -- Dotel had struck out Braun six times in eight at-bats coming into the series and the two faced each other three times in the NLCS, with Braun striking out all three times. While the Brewers and Cardinals faced each other 18 times during the regular season, the Cardinals and Rangers have only played three times in the teams' histories, back in 2004.

While some free agents have moved, there are still many pitchers and hitters who haven't seen each other, giving this a true old-school World Series feel.

Here's a look at both team's primary relievers against the most important batters:

Cardinals relievers vs. Rangers hitters
Rangers Mitchell Boggs Octavio Dotel Lance Lynn Jason Motte Arthur Rhodes* Marc Rzepczynski* Fernando Salas
Elvis Andrus N/A 0-4 N/A N/A N/A 1-3 N/A
Adrian Beltre N/A 5-22, 2B, HR, 8 K N/A N/A 0-1, K N/A N/A
Nelson Cruz N/A 1-2, HR N/A N/A N/A 2-5, 2B N/A
Josh Hamilton* N/A N/A N/A N/A 0-2, 2 BB, K 0-3, 2 K N/A
Ian Kinsler N/A 0-5 N/A N/A 1-2, BB, K 4-6, 2 HR N/A
Mitch Moreland* N/A 1-1, HR N/A N/A N/A 0-1 N/A
David Murphy* N/A 0-1, K N/A N/A 0-0, 2 BB 0-4 N/A
Mike Napoli 1-1, 2B 0-3, 2 K N/A 0-2, 2K N/A 1-5 N/A
Yorvit Torrealba 0-2 1-1, 2B N/A 0-1, K N/A 1-1 N/A
Michael Young N/A 3-12, 2B, 4 K N/A N/A 0-9, 3 K 1-4, 2 BB N/A

Rangers relievers vs. Cardinals hitters
Cardinals Mike Adams Scott Feldman Neftali Feliz Mike Gonzalez* Mark Lowe Alexi Ogando Darren Oliver
Lance Berkman^ 1-3, 3B 3-9, 2B, 3 K 1-4, BB, 2 K 2-6, BB N/A N/A 4-6, BB
Allen Craig N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
David Freese 0-2, 2 K N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Rafael Furcal^ 1-6 1-2, 2B N/A 0-6, 2 K N/A N/A 2-9, 2B, K
Matt Holliday 1-5, HR 2-5, 2BB N/A 0-4, BB, 2 K 1-2, BB, K N/A 1-4, HR
Jon Jay* 1-2, 2B N/A F4 1-1 N/A N/A N/A
Albert Pujols 1-8, 2B, BB, 3 K N/A N/A 1-7, 3 BB, 2 K N/A N/A 2-6, 2 K
Nick Punto^ 0-0, BB 1-5, 2B, 2 BB, 2 K 0-1 0-1, K 0-2, BB N/A 0-8, 2K
Skip Schumaker* 1-3 N/A N/A 0-2, K N/A N/A N/A
Ryan Theriot 0-4, 2 K N/A 0-1 1-4, 2B, BB N/A 0-1 N/A
* left-handed
^ switch hitter

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 12, 2011 10:32 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 1:39 am
 

Blunders cost Tigers as Rangers blast way to win



By Evan Brunell


DETROIT -- The Rangers rode a four-run 11th inning to victory, taking a commanding 3-1 series lead in the ALCS against the Tigers.

Hero: The Napoli man can. Mike Napoli strode to the plate with runners on first and second in the 11th inning in a tie ballgame. For some reason, skipper Jim Leyland thought it would be a good idea to intentionally walk the 0-for-4 Adrian Beltre in front of Napoli to set up a force, after Josh Hamilton (pictured) doubled to begin the inning. After the game, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, "You're just trying to set up a double play. I didn't want Beltre and Napoli both to hit against [reliever Jose Valverde]."

Problem: Napoli ripped a single into center field for his second hit of the game, scoring the go-ahead run. Look, Beltre is a dangerous hitter, but so is Napoli. In that situation, I take my risks with Beltre, who is more aggressive at the plate and may still have been hurting from fouling a ball off his knee in Game 3.

ALCS Coverage
Goat: The Tigers tried way too hard to make something happen in the 10th inning when Austin Jackson was gifted first base on a hit by pitch. The Rangers still had to get through Ryan Raburn and Miguel Cabrera to end the inning, and yet Austin Jackson took matters into his own hand and tried to steal second, a move Leyland said he agreed with. Jackson was thrown out at second, which was an idiotic move. You can't take the stick out of Cabrera's hands, especially in the bottom of the 10th inning. Sure, Raburn could have hit into a double-play, but give him that chance instead of risking Jackson being caught stealing. The Rangers wouldn't allow Detroit another chance to win.

Turning point: The Rangers finally broke through for three runs in the sixth to take the lead. The man responsible for the go-ahead run in Michael Young had been struggling all postseason long, but finally came through in a big spot by singling in Elvis Andrus. David Murphy opened the sixth with a single, then after a popout, Ian Kinsler doubled to deep left where Delmon Young misplayed the carom and allowed Murphy to score. Andrus followed by plating Kinsler, who was on third after stealing a base. A Hamilton flyout and Porcello pickoff error later, Andrus crossed the plate on Young's single to completely deflate the Detroit crowd.
It took a while for the next run to be scored, but extra innings don't happen without this inning.

It was over when... The Tigers kept making mistake after mistake in the late innings and were burned like crazy in the 11th when they intentionally walked Adrian Beltre only to see Mike Napoli deliver a RBI single. But the game wasn't over at that point -- after all, Texas only had a one-run edge. But then Nelson Cruz blasted a three-run homer that put the stamp on the game. Cruz is the only player to ever hit two extra-inning homers in a postseason series.

Next: Detroit will attempt to stave off elimination by sending Justin Verlander to the hill at 4:19 p.m. ET. The Rangers counter with their own ace, C.J. Wilson.

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

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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Posted on: October 7, 2011 7:12 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 4:45 pm
 

Tigers vs. Rangers ALCS preview

By Evan Brunell

Detroit-Texas ALCS

The Tigers and Rangers share one thing in common -- both teams have AL pennants to their name in recent seasons, but fell short in the World Series. Jim Leyland took Detroit to the World Series in 2006, his first season with the club, winning 95 after the Tigers registered five straight seasons of at least 90 losses, including 119 in 2003. It's taken them some time to return to the postseason, but they're here after downing the Yankees in five games. Detroit will be leaning on the electric arm of Justin Verlander, who won Rookie of the Year in '05 but gave up 17 runs in 21 2/3 innings across the 2005 postseason. He'll get a chance at redemption against Texas, who appeared in the Fall Classic a mere season ago.

The revamped Rangers may have lost Cliff Lee, but their offense is as potent as its ever been in franchise history, adding Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli to its monstrous lineup. Seeking to become the first consecutive AL pennant champion since the 1998-2001 Yankees, Texas will be relying on C.J. Wilson and its formidable bullpen to keep the Tiger offense in check. However, Texas' own offense needs to play up to its billing, as the team scored just 16 runs in the LDS, least among any team. (Granted, Texas was the only advancing club to play a series in less than five games, bouncing Tampa Bay in four.)

TEAM INFORMATION

Detroit Tigers (host games 3, 4, 5*)
95-67, AL Central champions
ALDS
: Defeated Yankees in 5 games -- View coverage of ALDS Tigers-Yankees
Manager
: Jim Leyland
Regular-season batting statistics: .277 batting average (3rd in AL), .340 on-base percentage (3rd), .434 slugging percentage (4th)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 4.04 ERA (7th), 1.32 WHIP (8th), 2.27 K/BB (6th)
Star player: SP Justin Verlander -- 24-5, 2.41 ERA, 251 IP, 0.92 WHIP, 250 K

Texas Rangers (host games 1, 2, 6*, 7*)
96-66, AL West champions
ALDS
: Defeated Rays in 4 games -- View coverage of ALDS Rangers-Rays
Manager: Ron Washington
Regular-season batting statistics: .283 batting average (1st), .340 on-base percentage (5th), .460 slugging percentage (2nd)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 3.79 ERA (13th), 1.24 WHIP (5th), 2.56 K/BB (5th)
Star player: C Mike Napoli -- .320/.414/.631, 432 plate appearances, 30 HR, 75 RBI

*if necessary

WHO HAS THE EDGE? (Click player name for statistics)

Let's break each position down and see which team has the edge...

Catcher: Alex Avila vs. Mike Napoli, Yorvit Torrealba


Being a quality catcher is difficult to do. You have to be able to call a game, develop a rapport with pitchers, block balls effectively, have a gun for an arm... and oh yeah, hit too. The latter category is what Avila and Napoli excel at, as both rank 1-2 in baseball in catcher offense. Napoli of course, blows away Avila in offense, but the Ranger also has 28 less games at the position, in large part due to another capable catcher also on the roster in Torrealba -- but the Tigers have Victor Martinez, too. Defensively, Avila holds the edge, and this is just too close to call.

First base: Miguel Cabrera vs. Mitch Moreland, Michael Young


Moreland could feasibly be at first base the entire series, as he's a favorite of the club and all of Detroit's starters are right-handed, but Young could steal a couple games if the team wants to get Torrealba or Craig Gentry into the lineup. Either way, both these players pale in comparison to Miguel Cabrera who, if it wasn't for Justin Verlander lucking into 24 wins (to be clear, he's a very good pitcher, but win-loss records have nothing to do with player quality), he could very well be the favorite for the MVP award. Cabrera led all of baseball in doubles, batting average, OBP and decided to swat 30 homers too. Moreland is still scrapping to be a full-time player and Young just can't field.

Second base: Ramon Santiago vs. Ian Kinsler


This isn't even close. The Tigers have cycled through six second basemen this season, with five of them receiving at least 17 starts. Santiago won the job basically by default, as Carlos Guillen can't stay healthy, Ryan Raburn split his time between left and second then lost his job for a complete inability to hit and Scott Sizemore was traded. Santiago is like Raburn in that he can't hit, but can flash a solid glove. Kinsler, meanwhile, was one of the most valuable second basemen in the game.

Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta vs. Elvis Andrus


Andrus can pick the ball, get on base and steal bases. Peralta can't steal any bases and can only play a passable short. But boy, can Peralta hit. Here's the thing, though -- people tend to overvalue offense because it's easily quantified, and you can see with your eyes the impact a bat can have. Stolen bases and defense, not so much. But they are important facets of the game as well, and when you factor everything in, this is a dead-even.

Third base: Wilson Betemit, Brandon Inge vs. Adrian Beltre


Adrian Beltre is an awesome player, there is no doubt about that. He posted the second-best season of his career and slugged three home runs to pace the narrative of Texas winning the ALDS. However, the gap between Beltre and the Tigers' crew isn't as large as one might think. Betemit rakes against righties, while Inge is capable against left-handers. But don't ask them to face the opposite-handed pitcher. Inge also has excellent defense at the hot corner and is a great late-inning replacement for Betemit. All told, the duo combines into a pretty good player. Good enough that the difference between Detroit and Texas at the spot is not significant.

Left field: Delmon Young vs. David Murphy, Craig Gentry


Young injured himself in Game 5 of the ALDS, but reports are that he should be fine for the ALCS. If not, Raburn will start in his place. Young has played his way into a 2012 role with the Tigers, but he's doing so on the backing of a hot streak that might not be sustainable long-term. He's a statue in left field and his value is tied up completely in swatting home runs. Murphy, meanwhile, parlayed a hot September into more playing time and has been sharing time with Gentry, with Murphy getting PT against right-handers and Gentry mostly playing against lefties. If Young wasn't performing well as of late, this would probably be a slight edge to the Rangers, but as long as Young's hot streak is carrying him, we'll call this even.

Center field
: Austin Jackson vs. Josh Hamilton


This isn't a difficult decision at all. Hamilton is one of the best hitters in the game and is the reigning AL MVP. Austin Jackson, meanwhile, rode a lot of luck to a .293 batting average last season that sank to .249 this year. He has strong defense, but is miscast as the leadoff hitter.

Right field: Magglio Ordonez vs. Nelson Cruz


At one point this season, Ordonez contemplated hanging his spikes up. Good thing he didn't, for he hit .365 from Aug. 21 to the end of the year and finished the ALDS with five hits in 11 at-bats, including a 3-for-3 effort in Game 2. When Ordonez is hot, he can still beat any pitcher, regardless of his advanced age. But his defense is questionable, and Nelson Cruz is a better hitter at this point. Although Cruz is slumping significantly, gathering just one hit in 15 trips to the plate during the ALDS against the Rays, he remains the better player.

Designated hitter: Victor Martinez vs. Young


A certain three-year-old, I'm sure, would pick Young here with an edge. But both Martinez and Young are remarkably similar in production at the DH spot, and the numbers are uncannily similar even though Young has played in 14 more games. Take a look:

Martinez: .330/.380/.470, 12 HR, 103 RBI
Young: .338/.380/.474, 11 HR, 106 RBI

How can you not call this even?

Starting pitching: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Rick Porcello vs. C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison


The order listed here is the order that both teams have announced will go in the ALCS, so let's judge it on these parameters. For one, the Tigers clearly lose by not being able to set up their rotation they way they wanted. Rick Porcello, obviously the lesser member of the quartet, will start twice while Max Scherzer only draws Game 4 after appearing in relief during Game 5 of the ALDS. Regardless, the Tigers still hold an overall edge here. You don't need me to throw more platitudes Verlander's way, and Fister has been a revelation since coming over from Seattle (although he's veering fast into overrated territory) and Scherzer is a quality pitcher whose potential breakout has been tantalizing pitchers for quite some time.

Over in Texas, C.J. Wilson is a great pitcher, but doesn't quite stack up to Verlander. Porcello matching up against Derek Holland pits a battle of proming young pitchers, especially Holland, who is showing signs of emerging into an ace but is lacks consistency and is prone to the wild inning if he lets the game get away from him. Lewis has an incredible postseason record, but his propensity to give up the long ball held him back in the regular season. Harrison impressed against the Rays by punching out nine but could only last five innings and the jury is still out on just how good a picher he is.

All told, yet another matchup where both teams look even -- but not quite, as Verlander is the man that tips the scales in the Tigers' favor.

Relief pitching: Jose Valverde and co. vs. Neftali Feliz and co.


Both Valverde and Feliz are good pitchers when on, but both can also be maddeningly inconsistent. The Tigers closer can point to his 49 of 49 record in saves, but he walks way too much to be reliable. Feliz, meanwhile, took a clear step back from last season when he closed 40 games as a rookie and lost his strong command. He's been much better since the All-Star break, though, and if I had to pick one closer, I'd take Feliz. Texas also has a vaunted setup corps, boasting Mike Adams (who is still one of the best relievers in the game despite a spike in home runs allowed), Koji Uehara, Alexi Ogando, Mike Gonzalez and Darrell Oliver most notably.

Texas' 3.79 bullpen ERA during the regular season was fifth-best in the AL and would have been even better with full years of all relievers mentioned sans Feliz and Oliver, who have been with the club all year. By comparison, the Tigers' two best relievers are Al Alburquerque and Joaquin Benoit, but Alburquerque only pitched 14 1/3 innings in the second half and did not look good in Games 1 and 4 of the ALDS. The Tigers pen has a chance to be a good one, but Texas is the better bet to come out on top in the war of bullpens.

Defense


Defensive statistics are getting a bum rap these days, and it's understandable. Quantifying defense is a very difficult thing to do and no defensive metric out there can be relied on. However, when you have a large sample to draw from, multiple numbers to look at and enough of a disparity in the numbers, it becomes obvious which defense holds up. And that's the Rangers, who score well in defensive metrics, largely on the strength of Andrus, Kinsler and Beltre, while the Tigers are affected by the tin gloves of Betemit, Cabrera, and Young the most.

DetroitPREDICTION

Both teams shape up to be remarkably even all across the board -- even though both teams are the last two standing in the AL and it makes sense that they would be equals, it's not often you see such a balanced division. It will come down to the postseason mantra of good pitching always beating good hitting, and given the presence of Verlander, I'll give the nod to Detroit vanquishing Texas in six games, while Daniel Knobler likes Detroit too, but in seven.

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



Posted on: September 29, 2011 4:05 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 2:57 pm
 

2011 ALDS matchup: Rays vs. Rangers

By Evan Brunell

The Rays and Rangers will meet for the second year in a row. Last season, Texas came away with a victory, needing the maximum five games to do so. They would go on to advance to the World Series before losing to the San Francisco Giants. Both teams are in dramatically different places this time around, with the Rays team undergoing turnover while the Rangers' offense is one of the most fearsome in recent memory. Let's break down each team's position and determine who has the advantage....

TEAM INFORMATION

Tampa Bay Rays (host games 3, 4)
91-71, AL wild card champions
Manager: Joe Maddon
Team batting statistics: .244 batting average (25th in AL), .322 on-base percentage (13th), .402 slugging percentage (13th)
Team pitching statistics: 3.58 ERA (8th), 1.22 WHIP (2nd), 2.27 K/BB (2nd)
Star player: SP James Shields -- 16-12, 249 1/3 IP, 2.82 ERA, 3.25 xFIP, 65 BB, 225 K

Texas Rangers (host games 1, 2, 5)
96-66, AL West champions
Manager: Ron Washington
Team batting statistics: .283 batting average (1st), .340 on-base percentage (5th), .460 slugging percentage (2nd)
Team pitching statistics: 3.79 ERA (13th), 1.24 WHIP (5th), 2.56 K/BB (5th)
Star player: C Mike Napoli -- .320/.414/.631, 432 plate appearances, 30 HR, 75 RBI

SCHEDULE (Click here to view the entire postseason schedule)

Full Playoff Coverage

Game 1: TB @ TEX, Sept. 30, 5:07 p.m. -- Matt Moore (1-0, 2.89 ERA) vs. C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.94)**
Game 2: TB @ TEX, Oct. 1, 7:07 p.m. -- James Shields (16-12, 2.82) vs. Derek Holland (16-5, 3.95)
Game 3: TEX @ TB, Oct. 3, 5:07 p.m. -- Matt Harrison (14-9, 3.39) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (13-10, 2.95)
Game 4*: TB @ TEX, Oct. 4 -- Colby Lewis (14-10, 4.40) vs. David Price (12-13, 3.49)
Game 5*: TB @ TEX, Oct. 6 -- James Shields (16-12, 2.82) vs. C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.94)

* If necessary | ** all pitching matchups projected

TEAM BREAKDOWN (Click player name for statistics)

Catcher
Texas: Mike Napoli, Yorvit Torrealba
Tampa Bay: John Jaso, Kelly Shoppach

The Rays' catcher situation is like that of shortstop: Choosing between bad or worse. Jaso and Shoppach have both combined for extremely disappointing seasons while Napoli was one of the best offensive players in the game, robbed of his due because his counting statistics aren't up to snuff due to playing in just 113 games, but Napoli can do serious damage. Torrealba isn't a zero either, but most of his value comes on defense.

Advantage: Rangers

First base
Texas: Mitch Moreland, Napoli
Tampa Bay: Casey Kotchman

Kotchman came out of nowhere to give Tampa fantastic value out of first base, hitting at a .306 clip and providing his usual stellar defense at first place. While no one expects Kotchman to keep this up next season, what matters is right now. And right now, Kotchman is head and shoulders better than Moreland, although if Texas goes with Torrealba behind the plate and Napoli at first base, this conversation changes.

Advantage: Rays

Second base
Texas: Ian Kinsler
Tampa Bay: Ben Zobrist

Both Kinsler and Zobrist had excellent seasons -- both at the plate and in the field. Picking one or the other amounts to nitpicking as both players have 30 stolen bases. Zobrist holds a small edge in batting average and Kinsler holds a small one in slugging percentage. Even fielding numbers aren't any help. This is as even as it gets.

Advantage: Tie

Shortstop
Texas: Elvis Andrus
Tampa Bay: Sean Rodriguez, Reid Brignac

As mentioned before, Tampa's shortstop spot is horrible. Between Rodriguez, Reid Brignac and Eliot Johnson, Rays shortstops combined to hit .193/.256/.282. League average was .266/.321/.386. That's simply awful, awful production. The Rangers clearly win out here, with Andrus' solid bat and strong glove.

Advantage: Rangers

Third base
Texas: Adrian Beltre
Tampa Bay: Evan Longoria

Evan Longoria has been one of the best third basemen in the game for a long time. Up until this year, you could have argued that he was the best AL third-baseman for years running. Alas, Beltre's second straight excellent season has supplanted Longoria, coming off a down year. Beltre's 32 homers rank fifth in the AL, and he missed a month and a half! Add in his all-world defense, and he runs away from Longoria even though Longo is still a threat and hit .289/.454/.589 in September.

Advantage: Rangers

Left field
Texas: David Murphy
Tampa Bay: Desmond Jennings

Murphy looked like he would have a lost season, but turned it on down the stretch and forced the Rangers to move Josh Hamilton to center for the playoffs in order to get Murphy's bat in the lineup. It's easy to remember that Jennings debuted with fantastic numbers in August, but September told a very different story. All in all, both players have things working both for and against them and nothing quite standing out.

Advantage: Tie

Center field
Texas: Josh Hamilton
Tampa Bay: B.J. Upton

This is pretty easily Hamilton's domain here after Upton hit just .243. Hamilton remains one of the best players in the game despite being injury-prone. When he's on the field, he produces. Upton can't say the same, although he turned on the jets at the right time for Tampa and had a productive September.

Advantage: Rangers

Right field
Texas: Nelson Cruz
Tampa Bay: Matt Joyce

Here's an interesting matchup. Cruz missed time with injury but when he was right, enjoyed yet another productive season, missing 30 homers by just one blast. Cruz's calling card is power, while Joyce counters with a better overall game, flashing a strong glove. With both players' offensive games basically evening out, the balance tips to defense, and Joyce wins there.

Advantage: Rays

Designated Hitter
Texas: Michael Young, Napoli
Tampa Bay: Johnny Damon

Yet another win for the Rangers on offense. We all know what Napoli can do, but Young figures to get most of the at-bats at DH. Despite Young having to adjust to the DH spot on a full-time basis for the first time in his career, Young coolly racked up 106 RBI and should get some MVP attention. Damon, by comparison, falls far short.

Advantage: Rangers

Starting pitching
Texas: C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis
Tampa Bay: Jeff Niemann, James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson

The Rays win here, although Rangers fans will probably beg to differ. Yes, Wilson had a fantastic season -- you can't take that away from him. But Shields, Price and Hellickson all had excellent years as well. No one's shorting Holland and Harrison here, but at best, these two pitchers are no better than fifth best overall with three of the first four spots belonging to Tampa. The Rays are in the postseason for their pitching, not their offense.

Advantage: Rays

Relief pitching
Texas closer: Neftali Feliz
Tampa Bay closer: Kyle Farnsworth

Feliz's future as a closer was in doubt even as late as early August, but he clamped down the rest of the way and will pair with Mike Adams for a formidable 1-2 punch. There isn't a soft underbelly of middle relief either, and this bullpen has the potential to pick up the slack left over from the starting rotation to beat Tampa. But the Rays have taken a completely remade bullpen and turned it into an elite corps, too. Tampa's relief ERA of 3.73 is 10 spots higher than Texas' 4.11, but Texas' bullpen is different after importing Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez. Let's call it even.

Advantage: Tie

Total advantage: Rangers (5), Rays (2), Tie (3)

PREDICTION (click here to see full postseason predictions)

CBS Experts
Evan Brunell: Rays in 4
Gregg Doyel: Rays in 4
Danny Knobler: Rangers in 5
Scott Miller: Rangers in 4
Trent Rosecrans: Rangers in 4
Matt Snyder: Rays in 5

Evan's take: The Rangers are a fearsome club, there's no doubt about that. The offense is awe-inspiring and the pitching has the ability to hang tough with Tampa Bay. The Rangers basically cruised to the division title in September, so it's easy to overlook the club because of lack of press, but those who overlook the club are making a mistake. I selected the Rays in four because in the postseason, I believe far more in pitching than offense. I also give credence to how teams played down the stretch. Tampa went 17-10 in September (of course, Texas went 19-8, so there's that) and was in playoff mode for two weeks, constantly playing must-win games then seeing it all pay off when Evan Longoria's second homer of the night went over the fence to give T.B. the wild card. The combination of pitching and the hot hand tilt me toward predicting the Rays to advance.

More Rangers-Rays ALDS coverage

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com