Tag:Nelson Cruz
Posted on: October 16, 2011 12:09 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 1:22 am
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ALCS Series Grades: Cruz, bullpen hot for Rangers



By Evan Brunell


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers are headed to the World Series while the Tigers are headed back home now that the ALCS has concluded. Let's grade the series...

ANelson Cruz. A no-brainer.Cruz was a one-man wrecking machine the entire ALCS, and was voted the series MVP. Cruz became the first player in postseason history to hit two extra-inning home runs the same series. Both won games for the Rangers, with the first one making history as the only walkoff grand slam ever hit in October. His six home runs and 13 RBI both set LCS records. He already has 12 postseason home runs in his career over two seasons, which a franchise record and already in the top 15 all-time. Seriously, what more can you say about Cruz?

BThe Rangers bullpen. Seriously, how insane was the Rangers bullpen? Let's count the ways. The Rangers bullpen was responsible for all of the Rangers wins, allowing just four runs in 27 1/3 innings (1.32 ERA). The relievers -- headlined by Alexi Ogando (pictured) and Scott Feldman -- allowed just 21 baserunners while punching out 25 en route to becoming the fifth team with at least three wins in a LCS, the last being the 2003 Marlins. Only the 1997 Indians matched the Texas bullpen with four victories. And Ogando? He won his second game of the series in Game 6, the fifth reliever to win two games in an ALCS. He joins Sparky Lyle (1977), Tom Henke (1985), Gene Nelson (1988) and Francisco Rodriguez (2002).

CJustin Verlander. Look, Verlander had a regular season to remember and deserves to win the AL Cy Young, and it will probably be unanimous. But can anyone really look at Verlander's performance in the ALCS and say it was "good?" It wasn't bad, sure, but it certainly wasn't good. In Game 1, Verlander was far from top-notch before he was yanked thanks to weather problems. He lasted four innings and gave up three runs and two walks, striking out five. Then, in Game 5, Verlander tossed 133 pitches over 7 1/3 innings, giving up four runs including a two-run homer to Nelson Cruz, who would be his last hitter of the night. Verlander's pitches were still registering at 100 when he was done, true, and if he didn't come out for the eighth, he would have given up only two runs in seven innings. But that's not what happened. The fact is that he gave up four runs in 7 1/3 innings and that's not particularly great, especially given that it's often very difficult for a team to win in the postseason with their starter giving up four runs. Verlander did fine, but really no more than just fine. Hence this grade.

D
ALCS Coverage
Jim Leyland's managerial decisions. Leyland is a fantastic manager, but one has to wonder how this series would have looked if not for some curious decisions. In Game 4 alone, Leyland presided over two brutal baserunning decisions that, frankly, shouldn't have been made. In the 10th inning, Austin Jackson was on first base and chose to run on his own and was nabbed stealing. That was a colossal mistake, as it took the bat out of Miguel Cabrera's hands and took away a chance for Miggy to come through with a potential game-winning hit.

Speaking of Miggy, he was standing on third base in the 8th inning with a chance to cross the plate with the go-ahead run. But he was sent home on an outfield fly, with all the speed and agility of a freight train, and easily thrown out by Nelson Cruz. Leyland said if the throw was off-line, Cabrera still scores. Yes and no. If the throw was wildly off the mark, anyone could have scored ... but even a bounce, or a trajectory that took Napoli away from the plate still could have been good enough to nab Cabrera, who has zero speed. Yes, Cruz "sometimes" throws erratically. Yes, Alex Avila was up next. I don't care. Bad move.

Leyland also made some curious decisions with the lineup composition and didn't touch Wilson Betemit once the entire series, despite Betemit's bat being better than many who got playing time. And, frankly, he left Max Scherzer in the game far too long in Game 6. It was an elimination game. When something's not working, you move on fast.

FWeather. Rain was a constant presence during the ALCS, with two separate rain delays in Game 1 fouling up both Justin Verlander and C.J. Wilson's starts. Fortunately, however, the pitching rematch of Game 5 was able to be played without any delays. It was only the second game of the series that wasn't affected by rain, although the skies opened near the end of the game and became a deluge shortly after conclusion. Game 2 in Texas was postponed outright, while Game 4 in Detroit saw a pregame delay of just over two hours.

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Posted on: October 16, 2011 12:07 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 1:21 am
 

Eye on Photos: Rangers win ALCS over Tigers



By Matt Snyder


The Texas Rangers have taken down the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS, four games to two. They have now advanced to the World Series for the second straight season after having never gone before. Let's take a look at the series that was, in pictures.

Click on any photo below to enlarge.

Beautiful pre-game festivities for Game 1 in Texas. (Getty Images)
Tigers ace Justin Verlander discusses things with home plate umpire Tim Welke after allowing a Nelson Cruz home run. (Getty Images)
Game 1 had a few rain delays, which affected the work of both starting pitchers -- Verlander and C.J. Wilson. (Getty Images)
Neftali Feliz records the final out of Game 1. (Getty Images)
Game 2 was called well before the scheduled time due to expected inclement weather. Instead, it was sunny and the grounds crew even watered the field. (Getty Images)
Scott Feldman's effort out of the Texas bullpen in Game 2 was paramount to the Rangers victory. (Getty Images)
Wait, Nelson Cruz hit a home run? Really? (Getty Images)
Priceless shot of the Rangers' dugout immediately after the crack of the bat on Nelson Cruz's Game 2 walk-off grand slam. (Getty Images)
Cruz celebrates the big blow of the series as he approaches home plate. (Getty Images)
Doug Fister made sure this series wouldn't be a sweep with a huge effort in Game 3 for Detroit. (Getty Images)
Game 3 was rough for Adrian Beltre, as he just couldn't quit fouling the ball off himself. (Getty Images)
Close play, except the ball was jarred loose. (Getty Images)
Jose Valverde's subdued reaction -- for him -- to closing down Game 3. (Getty Images)
Yes, weather was a major player in this series. (Getty Images)
Believe it or not, this was a successful double-play turn by Ian Kinsler. (Getty Images)
Miguel Cabrera was thrown out by a country mile at home, and the ensuing collision with Mike Napoli was one of the more awkward ones we'll ever see. (Getty Images)
The biggest hit in Game 4? Why, a Nelson Cruz home run, of course. (Getty Images)
Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre share a laugh after Cabrera's grounder hit third base and jumped over Beltre's head for a go-ahead RBI double in Game 5. (Getty Images)
After Cabrera's double, Victor Martinez tripled as Cruz couldn't come up with a diving catch. (Getty Images)
And then Delmon Young put the game out of reach with a two-run homer. Wanna find the ball? Look at the red ad in the scoreboard, specifically the letter "f." (Getty Images)
Cabrera's solo homer drew first blood for the Tigers in Game 6. (Getty Images)
But the Rangers would go on to put nine runs on the board in the third inning alone to break the game wide open. (Getty Images)
Max Scherzer had two good innings in Game 6 before falling apart in the third. (Getty Images)
Josh Hamilton sacrifices his body in order to make a spectacular catch, ending the top of the fifth inning of Game 7. (Getty Images)
And then the first play of the bottom of the fifth showed the difference in the two ballclubs Saturday night. (Getty Images)
Really? Again? That's six home runs and 13 RBI in the series for Cruz. (Getty Images)


ALCS Coverage
Up next for the Rangers: Either the Cardinals or Brewers in the World Series. Due to the American League's All-Star Game loss, the Rangers won't have home-field advantage, despite having a better regular-season record than St. Louis and being tied with Milwaukee. Of course, Rangers' ace C.J. Wilson was the losing pitcher in that All-Star Game by virtue of allowing a three-run home run to Milwaukee's Prince Fielder.

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Posted on: October 15, 2011 11:40 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2011 1:20 am
 

Rangers ride offensive explosion to World Series

Napoli

By Evan Brunell

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers laughed all the way to victory on Saturday, demolishing the Tigers by a score of 15-5 to clinch the ALCS and advance to the World Series.

Hero: The Rangers offense has to be the hero here, as eight of nine starting position players reached base at least twice, and six did it by notching at least two hits. Oh, and the lone player that didn't reach base at least twice was Endy Chavez, who was pinch-hit for after just one at-bat. His replacement, Craig Gentry, collected two hits. That's just a stunning performance and a marker of not only just how bad Detroit's pitching was, but how incredibly potent the Rangers offense was. Eight different players scored, seven different players had a RBI. All told, the club notched
15 runs and reached base 25 times. Wow.


ALCS Coverage
Goat: Max Scherzer had been very impressive for the Tigers following the All-Star break, and equipped himself well in the postseason... until Game 6. Scherzer had absolutely nothing working for him and couldn't control the ball to save his life. He gave up four walks in 2 1/3 innings, also allowing five hits as he was scorched for six runs. There was absolutely nothing redeeming about Scherzer's start, and he was lucky enough to make it through the first two innings unscathed.

Turning point: The count was 2-2 on Nelson Cruz in the bottom of the third. The Rangers had already pushed across three runs to make the game 3-2 in favor of Texas, but obviously it was still a tight game that could have gone either way. On a 2-2 pitch, Nelson Cruz check-swung at a ball that the umpire ruled he didn't go around on, much to the ire of Jim Leyland. Cruz would eventually walk, setting up a David Murphy two-run, RBI single to open the floodgates. Maybe the Tigers would have still pummeled the Tigers into oblivion that inning, but the Rangers wouldn't have scored as much, certainly. If you recreate the inning with Cruz striking out, the Rangers would only have scored three additional runs, making it a score of 6-2 after the inning, not 9-2. Given the Tigers plated two in the top of the fifth, suddenly it's a 6-4 game, and the series is far from over.


It was over when... In the sixth inning, the Tigers asked Brad Penny to try and at least keep the Rangers offense down. Uh, yeah, not so much. With the score 10-4, Adrian Beltre greeted Penny with a double and came around to score with two out on a Craig Gentry single. But Penny wasn't done with his two-out struggles. David Murphy, who had been intentionally walked just before Gentry, scored on an Ian Kinsler single to push the margin of the game to eight runs. The Tigers already had enough trouble on their hands scoring six. But eight? Good night.


Related video: Rangers manager Ron Washington talks about the big victory:



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Photo: Mike Napoli

Posted on: October 13, 2011 11:32 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2011 4:05 pm
 

ALCS Game 6: Can Holland bounce back to win ALCS?

Scherzer, Holland

By Evan Brunell

Tigers at Rangers, 8:05 p.m. ET, October 15, Rangers Ballpark. Rangers lead series 3-2.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Well, maybe this series isn't over just yet.

Staring at elimination, Detroit bounced back with nothing short of a huge game on Thursday, taking the final game in Detroit by a score of 7-5.

Detroit rode a four-run sixth inning to victory behind the phenomenal arm of Justin Verlander and two home runs by Delmon Young, who has gotten press all ALCS for his injuries and nothing he's done on the field. Well, he's done plenty now, and with pitching matchups appearing to favor the Tigers in the final two games, this is anyone's series.

WHO HAS THE EDGE?


Unfortunately for Texas, their best pitcher is done for the series (although C.J. Wilson didn't exactly perform up to snuff in Game 5.)

Offensively, the Rangers still clearly hold the edge, but Detroit showed they don't have an offense as bad as the Mariners in Game 5, and Ryan Raburn has been rather impressive filling in for both Young and Magglio Ordonez when they were affected with injuries. Defensively and on the basepaths, the Rangers have the obvious edge. But what it really comes down to is pitching and at this point, no one can deny Detroit has the edge here.

Tigers' Max Scherzer: Scherzer has had an impressive postseason thus far, giving up just five runs in 13 1/2 innings across two starts and one relief appearance. Scherzer's only ALCS outing to this date came in Game 2, the game where Nelson Cruz made history with a walkoff grand slam.

In that outing, Scherzer was chugging along until the seventh after an inconsistent start to the game, an inning he probably shouldn't have come out for. He gave up a Cruz homer to lead off the inning and then was immediately yanked. With Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde both receiving two full days off, Leyland shouldn't have to ride Scherzer hard.

"Scherzer, what an arm," Rangers manager Ron Washington raved prior to the righty's first start. "It's unorthodox, doesn't throw anything straight, and for some reason when he faces us, he finds the strike zone with more consistency with all his pitches."

Scherzer has been particularly hot since the All-Star break and at this point should be considered a No. 2 starter. He made three starts against the Rangers in 2011, posting a 4.76 ERA in 17 innings, striking out 12 and walking four, with the team winning two games. Cruz has two homers off Scherzer in his career and is hitting .333 while Michael Young has three extra-base hits against Scherzer, but only four hits in 21 plate appearances. Aside from Cruz, no one has really keyed into Scherzer yet.

Rangers' Derek Holland: Holland, like Scherzer, enjoyed a nice run in the latter half of the 2011 regular season, but inconsistency still plagues him significantly as his Game 2 start opposite Scherzer showed. Holland actually had a shaky start to the postseason in Game 2 of the ALDS but recovered to win the game. He also impressed in relief in Game 4, but the wheels completely fell off against Detroit in Game 2 of the ALCS.

Holland gave up four hits and three runs in just 2 2/3 innings, with Scott Feldman manning up and blanking the Tigers for 4 1/3 innings, setting up the stage for Cruz's heroics. You can bet that Feldman will be ready to go at a moment's notice should Holland fail. In addition, you can also bet that Washington won't mess around and leave Holland in the game and try to extend his outing if it's clearly not working. At this point, in a Game 6, you don't take chances.

Holland's start in the ALCS against Texas is the only time he's faced the club in 2011. That's obviously in Detroit's favor but add in Delmon Young being in the lineup, and one has to seriously consider the fact the Tigers might not just be "slightly" favored in this game... but heavily favored. Reading too much into small sample sizes is not recommended, but Young has six hits in 12 at-bats against Holland over his career, so he obviously has something working against the lefty.

LINEUPS

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

Max Scherzer RHP
Derek Holland LHP

NOTES

  • Weather complicated each game in Texas earlier this series. Game 1 had two rain delays, while Game 2 was postponed a day due to inclement weather. Well, good news. We're back to a normal Texas drought for Game 6, with 80-degree weather during the day and nighttime climbing into the 70s with no precipitation expected.
  • Miguel Cabrera extended his LCS hitting streak to 12 games to start his career, one shy of Greg Luzinski for the record.
  • Nelson Cruz's five home runs so far in the LCS is tied for the LCS record, while his 11 RBI is tied with David Ortiz and B.J. Upton for the top spot. He already has 11 postseason home runs in his career over two seasons. I mean... come on.
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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.

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Posted on: October 11, 2011 9:48 am
 

Remembering Ventura's grand slam single

By Matt Snyder

Aside from Albert Pujols reminding everyone he's still Albert Pujols, the big story in baseball Monday night was Nelson Cruz's walk-off grand slam giving the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the ALCS. Cruz's blast was the first walk-off grand slam in MLB postseason history.

And, if you're like me, your reaction to hearing that news was: "No, that's not true ... oh, wait ... that is right."

Because in the 1999 NLCS, Mets third baseman Robin Ventura came to bat with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 15th inning in Shea Stadium with a tie game. And he hit a Kevin McGlinchy pitch over the right-center field wall to beat the Braves. It wouldn't be a technical grand slam, however, because Ventura's teammates mobbed him before he could reach second base. Thus, the official scorebook says it was a walk-off single. Ventura only got one RBI for it.

Here's the highlight, via MLB.com:



It's funny, two weeks ago Ventura hadn't been in the news in ages, other than for someone to mock him for being used as Nolan Ryan's punching bag once upon a time. All of a sudden, he's the White Sox manager and we get to reminisce about his grand slam that wasn't.

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Posted on: October 10, 2011 8:47 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 10:12 pm
 

Cruz heroics send Texas to ALCS Game 2 win



By Evan Brunell


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers won Game 2, 7-3. The series is now in the Rangers' favor, 2-0.

Hero: With the first pitch of the ninth inning, Adrian Beltre bombed a double that came close to being a walkoff. Following a Mike Napoli intentional walk, Nelson Cruz was plunked to load the bases with zero out.  One would imagine that left plenty of chances for the Rangers to walkoff, but the bottom two hitters in the lineup couldn't come through. A David Murphy flyout followed by a 3-2-3 double play by Mitch Moreland left Texas scoreless. A similar opportunity awaited in the 11th with the bases loaded and no out, but this time, Nelson Cruz made sure the Rangers scored, ripping a grand slam.

It was Cruz's second homer of the game and third extra-base hit of the game, the sixth straight ALCS game he has recorded at least one extra-base hit and the eighth straight he's collected a hit. "First two pitches, I was too aggressive," Cruz said after the game. "I hit the ball, foul ball, foul ball. So after that, I told myself, ' just slow down and try to hit a fly ball to the outfield.'"

The grand slam was all that much more impressive given the scary hit-by-pitch he suffered in the bottom of the ninth inning, collapsing to the ground in pain as the throats of each Rangers fan clenched. "He was scared," manager Ron Washington admitted. "It was black and blue ... but after the doctor checked him and told him he was fine, then Nelson got up."

Cruz's walkoff was not only the first in franchise postseaosn history, but the first walk-off grand slam in the postseason. However, Cruz brushed that accomplishment aside.

"It's special, you know. When you get a chance to get a W, that's the most important thing."

Goat:
Don Kelly was just 4-for-21 against left-handers and was pinch-hitting in a big spot in place of Delmon Young in the ninth inning. Manager Ron Washington of Texas was apparently so intimidated, he yanked Alexi Ogando, who was spinning a beaut in relief, per usual, for lefty Mike Gonzalez. The move backfired, as Kelly ripped a double that should have scored Ramon Santiago from first, but Santiago has no type of wheels. Still, it was a clutch hit but the Tigers couldn't make it pay off after a Miguel Cabrera intentional walk led to a Victor Martinez pop-out to short in shallow left-center.

Turning point: Max Scherzer had settled into a groove and kept the Rangers in check after pitching in and out of trouble to start the game. With his night nearing an end, manager Jim Leyland tried to squeeze one more inning out of the righty. However, Nelson Cruz had other things in mind leading off the seventh, crushing a fastball into left field for his second homer of the postseason, the first coming in Game 1. Cruz also added a double earlier in the game, extending his ALCS hitting streak to eight and ALCS extra-base hit streak to five. He leads all Rangers in postseason homers with eight. The solo blast tied the ballgame at 3-3 and made it anyone's game.

It was over when ...  The Rangers got the 11th inning started with a Michael Young single, and from there it was all over for the Tigers.

Next: Game 3 is in Detroit at 8:05 p.m. ET. Colby Lewis will go for Texas while Detroit counters with Doug Fister.

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Posted on: October 9, 2011 2:12 am
Edited on: October 10, 2011 1:43 pm
 

ALCS Game 2: Tigers look to even series up

Scherzer, Holland

By Evan Brunell

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Tigers at Rangers, 4:19 p.m. ET, October 10, Rangers Ballpark

WHO HAS THE EDGE?


Yeah, Texas won Game 1, but the Tigers still have a thin edge in Game 2. Why?

The Tigers constantly threatened to break the game wide open each of the first several innings, but could never get that big hit. Texas was able to smack Justin Verlander around enough that even if there was no rain delay, the right-hander was probably coming out of the game after five or six innings anyways, having allowed seven baserunners. All told, Detroit reached base 13 times compared to Texas' nine, which includes an error by Austin Jackson.

Then add in the pitching matchup, which you can learn more about below. Both Max Scherzer and Derek Holland are pitchers long on potential that have experienced some difficulty putting it all together. Each pitcher's respective performances in the ALDS was strong, and Holland rebounded after a shaky beginning to Game 2, but Scherzer came away more impressive in the end.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Tigers' Max Scherzer: Going on three days rest after hurling 1 1/3 innings of one-run relief against the Yankees, Scherzer has taken to the playoffs beautifully and also blanked the Yankees for six innings in Game 2. The righty originally was supposed to start Game 4, but that would have limited him to just one start, and the team could have really used him for two. Now they get that chance.

"He convinced me yesterday. And Max, he's up front with everything. He would never mislead me in any way, shape and form," Jim Leyland said prior to Game 1 of the ALCS, being convinced in due part to Scherzer playing catch on Friday and feeling 100 percent."He's raring and ready to go."

Scherzer's posted a 4.09 ERA since the All-Star break, but that doesn't do justice to how good he's been since mid-July. He punched out 78 and walked just 18 in 82 2/3 post-break innings, with a fielding-independent ERA in the low 3.00s showing just how good he's been. He made three starts against the Rangers in 2011, posting a 4.76 ERA in 17 innings, striking out 12 and walking four, with the team winning two games.

"Scherzer, what an arm," Rangers manager Ron Washington raved.. It's unorthodox, doesn't throw anything straight, and for some reason when he faces us, he finds the strike zone with more consistency with all his pitches."

Much like his opponent Monday, Scherzer has struggled with consistency in his command. "It's been a challenge this whole year of constantly making adjustments throughout mechanically with each pitch and how I want to execute it throughout the whole year," the pitcher said. I felt like the last five starts, the way of my stuff and the way of my mechanics, I felt in a good position."

Rangers' Derek Holland: Holland has been tantalizing many with his potential for quite some time, and he's finally starting to deliver on his promise. As Washington put it prior to Game 1 of the ALCS, "Right now he's not a total thoroughbred. He's just a little pony, but he'll develop into a thoroughbred."

Holland has had to battle inconsistency in the past with both command and jitters, He had a forgettable 2010 postseason thanks to that, posting a 4.76 ERA in 11 1/3 innings, but so far this postseason has been an impact lefty. He scuffled in the first inning of Game 2 of the ALDS against the Rays, but pulled it together to go five innings, giving up three runs, two unearned. He also appeared in relief in Game 5, blanking Tampa for 1 1/3 innings.

"Last year, I didn't really know what to expect, how to handle anything," Holland said before Game 1. I have a better idea, especially after being around with [Cliff Lee] and then C.J. [Wilson] has been helping me big time this year in how to handle myself as a starter. This year it's a big difference. I'm a lot more relaxed and I would say composed."

Holland has only started once against the Tigers, coming last season when he held Detroit to one run in four innings, knocked out with a rising pitch count due to walking two and striking out five. Delmon Young had the best success for Detroit against Holland, facing him twice while with Minnesota and collecting six hits in 12 at-bats. Unfortunately, Young isn't on the roster. Wilson Betemit and Victor Martinez are the only active Tigers who have a hit off Holland.

LINEUPS


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

Max Scherzer RHP
Derek Holland LHP

NOTES
  • Unlike the NLCS, there's no rancor between the teams involved in the ALCS. During Jim Leyland's press conference, he went on and on about how amazing Ron Washington has been in Texas and said that they are not enemies, just friends managing against each other. Meanwhile, both teams fraternized during BP with smiles on everyone's face. Miguel Cabrera was a popular man and could be sighted laughing uproariously with Washington.
  • Nelson Cruz's home run snapped a 1-for-16 skid in the postseason following a brutal September. It was a special homer for him too, as it's his seventh postseason homer (in just two seasons). That's the most in Rangers franchise history, breaking a tie with Juan Gonzalez.
  • The winning team in Game 1 of the ALCS has won the series 24 of 41 times, or 59 percent. That number dips to 52 percent when you limit it to only when the ALCS shifted to a best-of-seven since 1985. However, seven of the last 11 ALCS have been won by the Game 1 losing team.

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