Tag:Matt Harrison
Posted on: October 22, 2011 8:25 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2011 8:44 pm

Craig continues hot World Series

Allen Craig

By Matt Snyder

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Cardinals pinch-hitter/outfielder Allen Craig was the hero of Game 1. He would have been the hero of Game 2, had the Rangers' not mounted a ninth-inning comeback.

And he's already made a huge impact on Game 3. In the first inning, Craig got a pretty fat pitch from Matt Harrison and planted it into the left-field seats in Rangers Ballpark, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead after one inning. After his first at-bat in Game 1, he's 3 for 3 with 3 RBI in the World Sieres and hitting .333/.440/.714 in the postseason, with two homers and six batted in.

The difference in this game, though, is that it's being played at 2011's top hitter's park in conditions almost ideal for hitters. One run isn't going to cut it. Still, the Craig story this postseason continues to grow.

Follow along live on CBSportscom's GameTracker

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Posted on: October 21, 2011 9:49 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2011 4:04 pm

World Series Game 3: Offense on the way

By Matt Snyder

Rangers at Cardinals, 8:05 p.m. ET, Rangers Ballpark, Arlington, Texas. Series is tied 1-1.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Can two slumping offenses magically reappear to what they were heading into the World Series? Of course they can, simply by taking the flight from St. Louis to Dallas-Fort Worth. First of all, the temperature will be about 20 degrees higher, give or take a few. Secondly, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was the top offensive stadium in the majors for both runs scored and home runs this season, while Busch Stadium rated out as a pretty significant pitcher's park this year.

The Cardinals aren't denying the difference.

"The ball does carry here, and you're going to have some danger if you don't hit your spots," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Friday in Arlington.

"It's a tough place to pitch, especially when you see those flags blowing in," said St. Louis' Game 3 starter Kyle Lohse. "It usually means that jet stream is going out to right-center. I think everyone in the league knows that. Coming in you've got to keep the ball down, especially against this lineup."

Oh, and of course the pitchers look a bit different. While we've seen recent struggles from C.J. Wilson of the Rangers and Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals, there wasn't much question the two had the ability to provide some quality innings. Colby Lewis has a great postseason history and Chris Carpenter is, well, Chris Carpenter. So when you factor in the weather and ballpark, it shouldn't seem a complete shock that the first two games were mostly a pitcher's paradise. The Game 3 starters aren't awful by any stretch, but they're a step down from what we saw in the first two games. And the conditions for them are the complete opposite of what the pitchers had in St. Louis.

Simply: The scoreboard operator is likely to be busy. 

World Series Coverage

Harrison vs. Cardinals:
The 26-year-old left-hander was 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.28 WHIP this season and he's 1-0 with a 4.22 ERA in two postseason starts. Like I said, he doesn't suck. He has never faced the Cardinals and no St. Louis hitter of relevance has a large enough sample size to draw any conclusions.

Lohse vs. Rangers: The 33-year-old right-hander was 14-8 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.17 WHIP this season. Eerily similar numbers to Harrison.

In 52 2/3 career innings against the Rangers, Lohse has been dreadful. He has a 6.66 ERA, 1.67 WHIP and has coughed up 14 homers.


He hasn't seen them since 2006 or gotten hit hard by the Rangers since 2005. He doesn't really know these Rangers well, other than Michael Young. Young vs. Lohse has taken place 31 times. Young is hitting just .233 off Lohse, but four of his seven hits are of the extra-base variety, including three homers. Adrian Beltre has homered of Lohse, but it's his only hit in nine tries. Ian Kinsler is 0-for-2 and Mike Napoli is 0-for-5. 


Cardinals Rangers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Rafael Furcal SS 1 Ian Kinsler 2B
2 Allen Craig RF 2 Elvis Andrus SS
3 Albert Pujols 1B 3 Josh Hamilton CF
4 Matt Holliday LF 4 Michael Young DH
5 Lance Berkman DH 5 Adrian Beltre 3B
6 David Freese 3B 6 Nelson Cruz RF
7 Yadier Molina C 7 Mike Napoli 1B
8 Jon Jay CF 8 David Murphy LF
9 Ryan Theriot 2B 9 Yorvit Torrealba C
SP Kyle Lohse RHP SP Matt Harrison LHP


• With Harrison being left-handed, that means switch-hitting Lance Berkman will be hitting from the right side of the plate. Berkman hit .307 with a .998 OPS left-handed this season, but just .277 and .804 as a right-hander. Berkman is 0-for-3 against Harrison in his career.

• It's worth noting that Harrison's ERA during the regular season was nearly a run worse at home than on the road.

• Lohse has been terrible this postseason, racking up 13 hits and eight earned runs in just 9 2/3 innings pitched across two starts. And he now gets to face a better offense in a better hitter's park. 

• Cardinals supersub Allen Craig is 5-for-10 with a home run and five RBI in the NLCS and World Series. He's now going to be in the lineup for three games as things shift to the AL ballpark, with Craig taking right field and Berkman moving to DH. That is a huge advantage for the Cardinals, as they add Craig's bat to the lineup while the Rangers only get to add either Mitch Moreland or Yorvit Torrealba. So the designated hitter rule ends up helping the National League team, who is only using it because the American League team is at home. Definitely an interesting twist as the games shift to Texas for three.

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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.


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]


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.


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.


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 11:56 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 4:50 pm

ALCS Game 4: Tigers look to even up series

Porcello, Harrison

By Evan Brunell

UPDATE: The start of Game 4 has been pushed back due to rain. Click here for more information.

DETROIT --  Rangers at Tigers, 4:19 p.m. ET, October 12, Comerica Park

The Tigers finally broke out at home, riding three solo home runs and (finally) an extra-base hit with runners ins coring position to victory, narrowing the ALCS series to 2-1. Given the victory, Detroit won't need to field questions on whether Justin Verlander should start in Game 4, leaving the eventual AL Cy Young Award winner to start Game 5. Texas still has the edge in the series, but suddenly this is a series worth watching.


While the Rangers obviously have the edge in the series so far, things could change on a dime Wednesday given the Tigers' success against Matt Harrison the last few years. Most notably, Ryan Raburn is an insane 8-for-12 off of Harrison with two homers. Brandon Inge, Miguel Cabrera and Austin Jackson also have succeeded against Harrison extensively, so if there was a game for Detroit to win, it's this one.

Texas isn't as familiar with Detroit's Rick Porcello, but Michael Young and David Murphy have all experienced success against the sinkerballer, while Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli all have just one hit against Porcello -- but all three have walked to the plate just seven times against Porcello, which isn't much to draw from as far as evaluating which players could give Porcello a hurting.

With the absence of Magglio Ordonez and possibly Delmon Young (who sat out Games 1 and 3 with injury), the Tigers' offense is pretty weak -- and don't forget about Victor Martinez coming up lame during his home run, possibly straining his oblique. Combine that with defense that is far from excellent (unlike Texas), and you have a convincing case for Texas to take a 3-1 series lead.

Rangers' Matt Harrison: It seems like such a long time ago, but Harrison is fresh off striking out nine Rays in Game 5 of the ALDS. While the amount of whiffs he sustained forced him out of the game after five innings, it was still an incredible performance for Harrison, and he'll look to send Texas to within one game of the Fall Classic in Game 4.

Harrison will be going on a full seven days' rest, which is a lot. He's thrown two side sessions and also tossed in the bullpen during Game 1 just in case he was needed thanks to the rain outs, so his arm should be fine. His performance against the Tigers might be a different story, as he gave up eight runs (one unearned) in two starts against Detroit this season, lasting just 12 innings. Add in three stints against the Tigers last season, coughing up eight runs in 10 1/3 innings, and one has to wonder just how effective the lefty can be.

"You just have to be aggressive against these guys," Harrison said, noting how Scott Feldman kept the ball down the zone and went after hitters, holding Detroit scoreless for 4 1/3 innings in relief of Derek Holland during Game 3. "Try to limit the mistakes, keep the ball in the corners."

Tigers' Rick Porcello: Leyland was adamant that Porcello would start Game 4, win or lose. Well, here we are, and Leyland's getting his wish.

Hey, Porcello has the ability to one day be fronting Detroit's rotation, but that time simply isn't now and it's hard to get optimistic about a righty who made 31 starts, tossed 181 innings and struck out 104 while walking 46. There's a reason Porcello was the No. 4 starter all season long and if Brad Penny had bothered to produce, he wouldn't even be starting in the postseason. The one benefit to Porcello is he induces grounders at a pretty good clip, but the defense has to be there behind him to make the plays. Given the Tigers' defense isn't exactly elite caliber, that doesn't work in his favor.

The 22-year-old will be making his second appearance of the ALCS after throwing 22 pitches in relief in Game 1, but he says he is fully prepared to go.

"I feel good. My arm feels fresh," Porcello said. I feel like the ball is coming out of my hand better now than it was earlier in the year. I'll be ready to go, and physically everything will be there."

Advanced pitching metrics do like Porcello, giving him a fielding-independent 4.02 ERA, so he could bust out with a start that clinches a return to Texas.


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

Matt Harrison LHP
Rick Porcello RHP


  • Since Comerica Park opened in 2000, Texas has the worst winning percentage at the park of any team, going just 23-35, including Tuesday's Game 2 loss. It's even worse since Washington took over as Texas' manager, as the club has combined to go 7-18.
  • Miguel Cabrera extended his ALCS hitting streak to 10, which is third-longest to start a career. The all-time record is 13 straight, set by Greg Luzinski from the 1976-1980 ALCS, playing for Philadelphia. Orlando Cabrera is the last player to collect at least one hit in 10 straight games, accomplishing the feat from 2004 with the Red Sox through 2005 with the Angels.
  • Flamethrower Joel Zumaya, the oft-injured Tigers reliever whose 2011 season ended before it began, was in town to take in the ALCS. Zumaya has been working out at Detroit's spring-training home all season and this is his first time back in Detroit since last season. He will be a free agent and hopes to stay with Detroit. "I started here and I wish I could end here," he said.

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

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.)


Detroit Tigers (host games 3, 4, 5*)
95-67, AL Central champions
: Defeated Yankees in 5 games -- View coverage of ALDS Tigers-Yankees
: 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
: 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.


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.


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.

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Posted on: October 4, 2011 5:13 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 6:26 pm

Instant Reaction: Rangers 4, Rays 3


By Evan Brunell

WP: Matt Harrison

LP: Jeremy Hellickson

SV: Neftali Feliz

HR: TEX - Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre (3)

Series: Rangers defeat Rays 3 games to 1

Hero: Yeah, I know, Adrian Beltre. Don't worry, I talked about him here. But we need to give a shout-out to Matt Harrison, who took out nine -- count 'em, nine -- Rays by way of the K in five innings. The high pitch count racked up by these whiffs forced Harrison from the game after 97 pitches, but the strikeouts were just what Harrison needed. The Rays were hitting Harrison enough that they always seemed to be on the verge of threatening, collecting five hits and two walks. But nothing can happen if the ball isn't put in play, and Harrison ensured that.

Goat: Let's point the finger at Rays pitching. Entering Game 3, Tampa Bay had allowed Texas a scant .219/.299/.313 line as opposed to the Rays' .245/.322/.491 line. And yet, here the Rays sit, having been knocked out of the postseason three games to one. How does that happen? Tampa did an admirable job shutting down the potent Rangers lineup. And even though Game 4 saw four Rangers homers, they were all of the solo variety. The pitching did a fine job... except it didn't, giving up 16 runs over the last three games after Matt Moore and co. shut down Texas 9-0 in the opening game.

More postseason coverage: Postseason schedule | Rangers-Rays series2011 playoffs

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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