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Tag:Derek Holland
Posted on: October 10, 2011 5:56 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 5:59 pm
 

Inconsistent Holland can't last three innings

Holland

By Evan Brunell


The story around Derek Holland has been the same for quite some time now: Worlds of potential, but too much inconsistency holding him back. On Monday, Holland became the first starter in franchise postseason history to walk at least four batters in less than three innings.

It looked as if Holland might have turned a corner with a strong second half, then bouncing back after a poor first against the Rays in Game 2 to turn in a quality outing. But the wheels completely came off in ALCS Game 2, when Holland was knocked out of the game after just 2 2/3 innings, having walked four and giving up three runs on a three-run bomb by Ryan Raburn to give Detroit a 3-2 lead.

Holland threw 76 pitches, just 45 for strikes. Sixty-one of his pitches were fastballs, good enough for an eye-popping 80 percent after relying on the heater just 66.1 percent of the time in the postseason. Much of his pitches were left up in the zone, and while he was able to dance in and out of trouble for two innings, he finally got burned when Raburn took him deep into the left-field stands. Interestingly, Holland threw five breaking pitches to Victor Martinez out of 15, which may indicate a game-plan of sorts, although Martinez hit off-speed pitches just as well as fastballs in season.

After today's peformance, Texas has to think long and hard about turning back to Holland for a potential Game 6, which could mean the difference between glory or a second straight year of disappointment. Depending on how Scott Feldman fares in relief of Holland -- and at the time of this writing, he's notched four straight outs -- Feldman could be the man to throw a potential Game 6.

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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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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.

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Posted on: October 1, 2011 10:36 pm
Edited on: October 2, 2011 12:19 am
 

Instant Reaction: Rangers 8, Rays 6



By Evan Brunell

ALDS Game 2: Rangers 8, Rays 6

WP: Derek Holland

LP: James Shields

S: Neftali Feliz

HR: TB - Evan Longoria, Matt Joyce | TEX - Mitch Moreland

Series: Rays 1, Rangers 1 in best-of-5

Hero: It was a rather balanced offensive attack for the Rangers, but Mitch Moreland deserves the honors here. Texas jumped out ahead thanks to a five-run fourth inning and looked to be wrapping up the game in the seventh, ahead by a 7-3 score. However, Evan Longoria changed things by blasting a three-run homer and pulling Tampa Bay within one. It was a tight ballgame again, but Moreland brought down the anxiety level in Texas by cranking a homer for a much-needed insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. Moreland also had a RBI groundout to cap the scoring in the fourth and ended the night with two RBI.

Goat: Home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley may have changed the outcome of the game and series as a whole when he jumped the gun in the fourth inning. With James Shields struggling, two runs in and runners on second and third, the righty really needed an out to stamp out the fire. He almost registered the second out of the inning when Kelly Shoppach pounced on a dribbler in front of home plate and easily threw out David Murphy -- or he would have, had Danley not called the ball foul already. The ball had come off the bat straight down in foul territory but bounced into fair territory, which means it should have counted. Murphy would go on to strike out, but reached on a wild pitch that scored another run. One more would cross before it was all over, and the Rangers' five-run inning set the tone for the rest of the game. No one's saying the Rays would have won without that miscue -- after all, the game was tied at that point and Shields was imploding -- but to make that kind of error with the stakes as high as they are is inexcusable. An extra couple seconds would have made the difference. You don't need to call a ball foul that fast, especially when it's at home plate. Most umpires -- most competent ones -- move out from their stance and attempt to get a visual on the ball from the side before calling it fair or foul. Danley just didn't bother.

Update: Joe Maddon reported that Danley's case was that Murphy's bat hit the ball a second time. (@jasoncollette)

More postseason coverage: Postseason schedule | Rangers-Rays series | 2011 playoffs

Video: Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli talk about the win

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Posted on: October 1, 2011 8:29 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 10:45 pm
 

Jittery Holland puts Rangers in Game 2 hole

Holland
By Evan Brunell

Last season, Derek Holland was asked to play an important part of the Rangers' run to the World Series, but gave up three runs in 4 2/3 relief innings against the Rays before stymieing the Yankees in the ALCS, then getting crushed against the Giants in two appearances. You could tell that while Holland had loads of potential, he was having trouble putting it all together on a national stage.

It's much the same Saturday in ALDS Game 2, as Holland has coughed up three runs to the Rays through four innings. Only one of those runs was earned, but Holland is still to blame for the other two runs scoring.

Holland started the game by loading the bases in the first inning and issuing a bases-loaded walk, coming unglued after B.J. Upton followed Desmond Jennings with a double. You could actually see Holland's body language change, and his pitches changed from crisp and around the zone to someone trying to force-feed the ball into a small space and instead throwing obvious balls. The skittishness continued into the second when Jennings doubled to left field with two out, hitting the chalk. A dejected Holland unfurled a wild pitch to send Jennings to second, then threw three straight balls to B.J. Upton on a 0-2 count before finally inducing a flyout. Through two innings, the lefty threw 51 pitches.

The third finally saw Holland's first clean inning of the game, but his inconsistency reared his head again in the fourth. After seemingly finding a groove and recording the first two outs, Holland pounced on a dribbler by Casey Kotchman and threw to first. Seeing how Holland didn't set his feet and how he tried to gear up the throw, it was no surprise to see the ball fly low and skip under first baseman Mitch Moreland's glove. Matt Joyce then made Holland pay with a towering shot to right field to lift Tampa to a 3-0 score after the top fourth.

As mentioned earlier, Holland has loads of potential. In 32 starts, he posted a 2.95 ERA on the season over 198 innings, punching out 162 and walking 67. In his last 15 starts, his ERA was 2.77. The 24-year-old was clearly on the rise, delivering the potential many saw in him for years. Unfortunately, Holland seems to wilt under pressure, but does show signs of eventually putting it all together.

The Rangers may yet be able to bail Holland out, as the club has loaded the bases with no out against James Shields. One run has already come in on a hit by pitch, Shields' second of the inning.

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Posted on: October 1, 2011 4:31 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 10:46 pm
 

ALDS Game 2: Rangers play catch-up against Rays

Shields

By Evan Brunell

Rays at Rangers, 7:07 p.m. ET, Rangers Ballpark, TNT

Rays Rangers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Desmond Jennings LF 1 Ian Kinsler 2B
2 B.J. Upton  CF 2 Elvis Andrus  SS
3 Evan Longoria  3B 3 Josh Hamilton  CF
4 Ben Zobrist  2B 4 Michael Young  DH
5 Johnny Damon  DH 5 Adrian Beltre  3B
6 Kelly Shoppach  C 6 Mike Napoli  C
7 Sean Rodriguez  SS 7 Nelson Cruz  RF
8 Casey Kotchman  1B 8 David Murphy  LF
9 Matt Joyce  RF 9 Mitch Moreland 1B

James Shields RHP
Derek Holland LHP

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Shields vs. Rangers: Shields' calling card this year has been an innate ability to complete games, shutting the door a league-leading 11 times. One of those complete games came against Texas, fresh off facing the club five days prior and going eight strong with no runs allowed. In the complete game on Sept. 5, he allowed just one run. So that's one run in 17 innings, striking out 13. Not shabby at all. All year long, Texas has tested the patience of left-handed pitchers, but are more vulnerable against righties. To that end, Murphy and Moreland, who don't play against lefties, are in the lineup against Shields.

Holland vs. Rays: Holland closed the regular season in fine fashion, sporting a 2.77 ERA over his final 16 starts. Unfortunately, his time against the Rays left much to be desired, giving up eight runs in 12 1/3 innings, walking six. The bright spot? He whiffed 16. In his most recent start against Tampa, Holland allowed four runs (three earned) in 6 2/3 innings, setting down nine Rays by way of the K. Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist have raked the left-hander over the coals the last three years.

NOTES

Full Playoff Coverage
  • Manager Ron Washington wouldn't commit to starting Moreland against right-handed pitchers, but has slotted him into the lineup. Unfortunately for Moreland, he's only collected one hit in 11 career at-bats against Shields, striking out four times.
  • Kelly Shoppach's two homers and five RBI in Game 1 put him in exalted company. Only one other catcher has notched at least two blasts and 5 RBI in a postseason game, Johnny Bench of the Reds accomplishing the feat in Game 4 of the 1976 World Series. (Elias Sports Bureau)
  • In the 2011 ALDS, the Rays fell to the Rangers in five games, with the visiting team winning each game, a record. The trend continued Friday when Tampa took Game 1 in Texas.
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Posted on: September 30, 2011 12:40 am
Edited on: September 30, 2011 9:11 am
 

Phillies have the best rotation in playoffs

By C. Trent Rosecrans

This time of year, pitching can carry an otherwise flawed team all the way to a title, we saw that last year when the Giants rode their starters and a shut-down closer to a World Series championship. So which teams have the best rotations heading into this postseason? Glad you asked…

Here's our ranking of the eight playoff rotations:

 

1. Philadelphia Phillies: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt

Like there was a doubt? Halladay started last postseason with a no-hitter. It'll be tough to top that, but we'll see what happens when the National League's best pitching staff takes on the National League's best offense. 

 

2. Tampa Bay Rays: Matt Moore, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, David Price

Joe Maddon is taking one heck of a chance giving a rookie with fewer than 10 big-league innings under his belt on the hill to start Game 1, but Moore is amazingly talented -- and he's never lost a start for the Rays (small sample size alert!). 

 

3. Milwaukee Brewers: Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf

Gallardo is perhaps the least-heralded of the Brewers' starters, but that could just be that unlike the other members of the team's rotation, he's spent his entire season in Milwaukee. The 25-year-old right-hander has gone 44-29 with a 3.69 ERA over the last three years. There's also former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke who wanted to be traded from Kansas City so he could pitch in the playoffs. Now he's here and it's time to deliver.

 

4. Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello

Call them top-heavy, and even heavier at the top since Fister joined the rotation. Fister, acquired at the deadline from Seattle, has gone 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 10 starts for the Tigers. Add him to Justin Verlander and you have a heck of a 1-2 punch. It's the 3-4 that lacks punch.

 

5. Arizona Diamondbacks: Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders

It looks like Arizona will go with a three-man rotation in the playoffs, which will certainly help the bullpen with the addition to Josh Collmenter. Kennedy was the breakout star of the Diamondbacks' rotation, winning 21 games, while Hudson and Saudners have also pitched well.



6. Texas Rangers:
C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison

Sure, they don't have Lee this year, but they do have Wilson, who has established himself as an ace, going 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA this season, striking out 206 batters in 223 1/3 innings. Colby Lewis (14-10, 4.40 ERA) is the only right-hander in the rotation.

 

7. St. Louis Cardinals: Kyle Lohse, Edwin Jackson, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia

The Cardinals' two best pitchers are pitching Games 3 and 4, but everyone has contributed down the stretch. St. Louis would be higher on the list with Adam Wainwright, but he's not coming back this season. Jackson has pitched well since joining the team and Lohse, a former Phillie, has had a bounce-back season.

 

8. New York Yankees: CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia

Sabathia's as good of a big-game pitcher as there is in the game, but Nova is a rookie and Garcia is anything but. The fact the team is going with a three-man rotation tells you what you need to know about the guys not in the rotation. Garcia's the team's third-best starter -- I guess $196 million doesn't buy what it once did.

For more postseason coverage.

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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