Posted on: October 19, 2011 5:40 pm
ST. LOUIS -- The tarp is on the field. The place is on near-lockdown with First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden due tonight. The rain has been falling off and on all afternoon.
Though MLB officials are confident that the Cardinals and Rangers will play tonight (and on time), it is cold, wet and raw here -- which means Mother Nature may have a better chance of slowing down these two big-hitting lineups in Game 1 of the World Series than any starting pitcher.
The cold, wet conditions will not help Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter, who experienced some swelling in his right elbow following his Game 3 start against Milwaukee in the NLCS. (He says he's fine.)
The weather will not be comfortable for Rangers starter C.J. Wilson, who has experienced some severe swelling in his postseason numbers this autumn: He's 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA. (He says he's fine.)
But the conditions may be even worse for hitters, because the colder it gets, the less the baseball carries. And it is expected to dip into the upper 30s tonight.
The Rangers clubbed 13 homers, 20 doubles and scored 55 runs in their 10 post-season games so far, and they're hitting .276 with runners in scoring position. Josh Hamilton has hit safely in five consecutive postseason games, and he hopes to take that momentum into this World Series to erase the memories of last year against San Francisco: Hamilton was just 2 for 20 against the Giants and looked even worse than those numbers do.
The Cardinals, meantime, averaged 5.6 runs per game in the NLCS. They led the NL in runs scored this season, and their +70 run differential was third in the AL. Albert Pujols is coming off of a torrid NLCS, and Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday are doing a fine job of protecting him. Holliday, battling tendinitis in his right hand, says though it's about the same as it was in the NLCS, it's far better than it was against Philadelphia in the first round.
Both of these clubs are fairly experienced in October, the Rangers having gained theirs more recently. Michael Young talked extensively Tuesday about how this year should be better for Texas because the Rangers know what's ahead of them, know better what to expect out of the World Series. That no doubt goes for manager Ron Washington, too, who is has guided the Rangers to their second World Series in two years.
This is the sixth World Series for St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, and as the wind blew and the rain fell outside, he spoke of how he's changed from that first one with Oakland in 1988 until now.
"The first one, I wouldn't say I was clueless," La Russa said. "You have a little clue. But it was like in '83, the first time in the playoffs [managing the White Sox], you're just hoping you don't pass out during the game.
"That was painful in '88 because no doubt, Tommy [Lasorda, then the Dodgers' manager] did a much better job of getting his club ready for the World Series than I did for the A's."
All these years later, La Russa has become the master. And over in the Texas dugout, Washington has earned his stripes -- though he doesn't want to hear about "matching wits" with La Russa.
"I don't think I can ever live up to matching a wit with Tony La Russa, but what I will try to do is put my players in the right position," Washington said the other day. "And if my players perform, I don't have to worry about matching wits. They'll take care of things."
Rangers-Cardinals, we're just about there.
Well, as soon as they take the tarp off the field.
Posted on: October 4, 2011 6:04 pm
Here's the thing about the Texas Rangers as the champagne sprayed Tuesday in Tampa Bay: Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli, the Rangers early stars this October, were elsewhere when Texas made its first foray to a World Series last October.
And as the Rangers move on and prepare to meet either the Detroit Tigers or the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series, those two are just the latest examples of Texas' power both on the field and off.
Lots of people assumed the Rangers were done last winter when they couldn't retain Cliff Lee. But general manager Jon Daniels and his staff were creative enough to fill in the cracks of a very good core and the Rangers so far haven't missed a beat.
I don't know whether C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and the rest will provide enough pitching to slip past the Yankees or the Tigers and push the Rangers to their second consecutive World Series.
But I do know that under club president Nolan Ryan, Daniels and beyond, the Rangers never for a moment spent one time feeling sorry for themselves losing to San Francisco last fall. They never for a moment wasted time looking in the rear view mirror.
"The reality is, there are a lot of teams that have gotten there once," Daniels told me in March as the Rangers limbered up in Arizona. "That doesn't take anything away from it, but that's not our goal.
"First of all, we want to win it. And second of all, we don't want to be a one-hit wonder. And we need to prove that."
As the Rangers climb the charts again in 2011, they look far more long-term than one-hit wonder.
Posted on: September 24, 2011 12:40 am
Maybe if they run into the Phillies in this year's World Series the guy will return to haunt them. But on a wild Friday when the Rangers became the third team in one night to clinch a division title, a budding dynasty continued to grow without Cliff Lee.
Yes, C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando helped prove there should be no doubting the Rangers' rotation. Adding Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre to a core featuring Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Ian Kinsler was plenty.
And in the end, after beating Seattle 5-3 and then watching the Angels lose to Oakland 3-1, the Rangers proved it once and for all.
AL West champions for a second consecutive year, and that's not the autumn wind blowing in. It's a changing of the guard.
Where once the road to the AL West title led through Anaheim, that trail is now as dusty and abandoned as some of the old California gold mining spots. Where the Angels won five of six AL West titles between 2004 and 2009, the Rangers now have gone back-to-back for the first time since 1998-1999. Clmbing the charts with a bullet, and looking to finish with a better record than AL Central champ Detroit so they can open the playoffs at home on Friday.
Apparently, losing Lee didn't gut them as badly as just about everyone but the Rangers themselves thought it would. More impressively, Texas, 14-6 so far in September, is playing as well this month as it has all season.
Posted on: August 22, 2011 1:48 pm
All this talk about Dan Uggla, Andre Ethier and hitting streaks this season, the Rangers have had quite the hit streak of their own lately, you know:
Nearly two weeks ago, Aug. 11 to be exact, snapped a streak of 40 consecutive days of 100-degree temperatures in Dallas. A record? Close: It just missed the 1980 Dallas-area record of 42 consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures.
That the Rangers played on, unaffected, and continued to thrive is yet another testament to the current group of strong-willed players constructed by club president Nolan Ryan, general manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington: When was the last time you heard talk that the Rangers won't make it to October because they'll wilt in the heat?
Used to be an annual topic of conversation.
Yet this summer, the hottest on record in Dallas since Pat Corrales' Rangers went 76-85 and finished fourth in the AL West in '80, so far hasn't even come close to melting Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Co.
As the Red Sox arrive for a three-game series starting with an excellent pitching match-up Monday -- new Boston acquisition Erik Bedard vs. C.J. Wilson -- the first-place Rangers have produced their third-best record ever after 128 games (73-55).
"We monitor it," manager Ron Washington says of the heat. "We go out in it, we don't go out in it, we've still gotta play in it.
"You work in it less. We'll have weeks where we will have worked out in the heat for three days, and on four days we did not. But you've gotta get your work in to get used to it."
During the 40-day streak of temps of 100 or higher, the Rangers played 22 home games. They went 16-6.
"It's our home-field advantage," pitching coach Mike Maddux says. "We take our pitchers out in the heat of day. That's when we do our running, and throw in the bullpen.
"We see it as a challenge: 'I'm going to out-last the other guy.'"
The absence of third baseman Adrian Beltre, out since July 22 with a strained left hamstring, has hobbled the Rangers more than the heat has suffocated them.
And it remains scorching: When the 40-day streak of 100 ended on Aug. 11, it wasn't exactly with a cooling trend. The temperature reached 98 that day.
More of the same is awaiting the Red Sox and Rangers this week: Highs of 104 are predicted for Monday and Tuesday, 102 Wednesday and back up to 104 Thursday.
The Angels follow Boston in on Friday for another AL West showdown. Again, the high is predicted to be 104 on Friday.
"There are nights when we're dragging," Washington says. "But really, who wouldn't drag in that stuff?"
Likes: Absolutely fantastic job by the Padres on Sunday in the ceremony retiring legendary closer Trevor Hoffman's No. 51. One of the best I've ever seen. They presented him with a 1958 Cadillac convertible, based on the stories Hoffman has told regarding how his late father, Ed, loved to drive the family around in a convertible. They brought plenty of ex-teammates and coaches back. And in the best move of the day, the Padres tracked down an old video of Ed Hoffman singing the national anthem at Fenway Park on opening day in 1981 when Trevor's brother, Glenn, played for the Red Sox. Watching Trevor, his wife Tracy and his mother Nikki watch that video -- and brothers Greg and Glenn -- if your eyes weren't moist, then you weren't human. ... Reading the book ESPN: Those Guys Have All the Fun. Some entertaining stories, and it's written at a fast-moving clip (oral-history style). But it's a guilty read, too: I can't help but think, don't I have more important things to read? ... If you haven't seen it yet, make sure to Netflix (or rent or whatever) Win Win on DVD. It's terrific. Paul Giamatti as a small-town New Jersey lawyer and wrestling coach who is struggling in both areas. ... College football in less than two weeks.
Dislikes: Where, oh where, are the exciting playoff races?
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"In between the stops at the Cracker Barrel
"And 40 movies with Will Ferrell
"I need some way to occupy my time
"So I'm writing you a road song
"I sure hope you don't mind"
-- Fountains of Wayne, A Road Song
Posted on: July 12, 2011 7:33 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2011 8:16 pm
PHOENIX -- Talked to both All-Star pitching coaches during batting practice, Mike Maddux of the Rangers and Dave Righetti of the Giants, and here's the tentative pitching plans for tonight's All-Star Game:
AL starter Jered Weaver is only expected to go one inning. Angels manager Mike Scioscia talked to Rangers and AL skipper Ron Washington and requested Weaver go no more than one inning or 25 pitches because he's due to start Saturday during the Angels' doubleheader in Oakland.
Boston's Josh Beckett is expected to follow Weaver to the mound, according to Maddux. After that, look for either Michael Pineda of the Mariners or Texas' C.J. Wilson. The way things were set up going into the game, Washington and Maddux were planning to use Pineda as the third pitcher in.
After that it's less planned, though Angels rookie closer Jordan Walden has been told there is a good chance he'll pitch in the fifth inning. While that's not guaranteed, Maddux said he did speak with some of the closers because, obviously, not everybody can pitch the ninth.
"Guys used to pitching the ninth inning, we gave everybody a heads up because if we need them early, normally, they wouldn't have even gone to the training table yet," Maddux quipped.
As for overall pitching plans, Maddux had another good line: "The only sure thing is, if Weaver carries a no-hitter into the second inning, he's not gonna get it."
As for the NL, starter Roy Halladay likely will pitch two innings unless he goes through a long first inning. Phillies teammate Cliff Lee will follow him to the mound. Then, Righetti said, it will be either the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw or Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens -- probably Kershaw.
Posted on: March 12, 2011 12:00 pm
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Lefty specialist Arthur Rhodes is apparently just getting revved up.
Fresh from making his first All-Star team last summer, Rhodes, at 41, now has another milestone in sight as he limbers up to help the Texas Rangers defend their American League pennant in 2010.
"I haven't decided how long," I'm going to pitch," Rhodes said here Tuesday. "I keep telling everyone I want to catch Jesse Orosco in appearances.
"That's my goal."
Except Orosco is atop the all-time leaderboard with 1,252 career appearances.
Rhodes currently ranks 34th at 849.
"I haven't run into him lately," Rhodes said of Orosco, with whom he played in Baltimore from 1996-1999. "I told him four or five years back that I was going to catch his record.
"He started laughing and said, 'Keep going.'"
So far, Rhodes has. And he's gaining momentum.
The 69 appearances for Cincinnati last summer represented the third-highest total of his career, and the most for a season since 2001, when he pitched in 71 games for Seattle.
Last summer, he became the oldest All-Star "rookie" ever in the National League when he was named to the Midsummer Classic for the first time.
That came after he equaled a major-league record by working 33 consecutive scoreless appearances during the first half of last season.
So, what about it? Can the man who currently stands 403 appearances behind Orosco's record last a few more years and parlay that into an all-time record?
Um, highly doubtful.
Orosco pitched until he was 46. If Rhodes can do the same -- a big if -- he would need to average roughly 67 appearances every season to tie Orosco.
Then again, you know how lefty relief specialists can hang around longer than childhood memories. If he matches last year's workload, Rhodes will leap from 34th to 21st all-time in appearances.
"I think I shocked a lot of people last year," said Rhodes, who signed a one-year, $3.9 million deal with the Rangers this winter. The contract also includes a $4 million option for 2012 that becomes guaranteed if Rhodes makes 62 appearances and is not on the disabled list at the end of the 2011 season. The Rangers are his eighth organization.
"I feel good," Rhodes continued. "Everything feels good. My body feels good.
"I came over here to help them win, to help get them to where they were last year. The only thing you can do is have fun and play hard."
Sunblock Day: Scorching in the desert. Upper 80s. Bring lots of sunblock. And lots of water.
Likes: Texas lefty C.J. Wilson's work ethic. ... Hope closer Neftali Feliz never loses his smile. He's a classy, enigmatic kid. ... Rangers GM Jon Daniels getting a four-year contract extension. One of the game's sharpest executives. ... Retired Trevor Hoffman back with the Padres, but declining to sign one of those one-day contracts so he could retire as a Padre. He's no phony. ... The way fans have enthusiastically embraced the Giants after their World Series win. ... The Drive-By Truckers on Conan O'Brien the other night. ... Oregano's in the Phoenix area. Fabulous thin crust pizza, and the pizza cookie for dessert is a must, too.
Dislikes: Many prayers for Japan and all affected by the earthquakes and tsunami. It's just awful.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Do you know where I was at your age?
-- Arcade Fire, Building Downtown (Antichrist Television Blues)
Posted on: October 28, 2010 11:14 pm
Their first World Series threatening to get away from them, the Rangers were dropped 9-0 by the Giants thanks to a wicked combination of Matt Cain's continuing postseason brilliance, one jaw-droppingly bad break, a couple of missed opportunities and another searing bullpen meltdown.
Bottom line is, the Rangers are in trouble unless they figure out this masterful Giants pitching. You can rip the Texas bullpen if you wish -- and you should -- but San Francisco pitching is shredding this Texas lineup like wet toilet paper.
Anybody who's not yet ready to give San Francisco's pitchers full credit, maybe you'd better go back to whatever it was you were doing before this postseason caught your attention.
Cain entered the game as the first pitcher to not allow an earned run in either of his first two postseason starts since Atlanta's Steve Avery in 1991. He departed after 7 2/3 innings having not allowed a run in his first THREE postseason starts.
The Rangers went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position against Cain, who now is up to 21 1/3 scoreless postseason innings. Think October agrees with this young man? Opponents now are 0 for 17 against him this postseason with runners in scoring position. He's produced more bagels than Einstein's the past three weeks.
And the one time the Rangers thought they had him, well, that's where the jaws dropped. Ian Kinsler slugged a deep fly to center to start the fifth that appeared to be gone. But in an impromptu test of gravity, physics and geometry, the ball bounced off the top of the wall, and somehow angled itself off the padding to bounce backward toward center fielder Andres Torres.
Instead of a homer and a 1-0 Texas lead, Kinsler got a double. Then he got left at second when David Murphy, Matt Treanor and C.J. Wilson were mowed down behind him (Mitch Moreland was intentionally walked before Wilson grounded out).
The Giants broke the scoreless tie with Edgar Renteria's solo homer in the fifth, tacked on a run in the seventh after Wilson left with a blister and then turned it into a laugher with seven runs in the eighth against four 'B'-league level Rangers relievers with manager Ron Washington inexplicably slow to the switch.
Now, it's tough to tell which needs a change of venue more, the Texas Rangers or this World Series.
We'll get one for Game 3, back in Texas on Saturday. But unless the Rangers figure a few things out, this Fall Classic is destined for all the drama of a Saturday afternoon oil change.
Posted on: October 26, 2010 11:18 pm
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants will wait until Wednesday morning to finalize their World Series roster, but it is expected that Barry Zito, who has been left off of the roster in each of the first two postseason rounds, will remain on the sidelines.
As for a lineup, outfielder and leadoff man Andres Torres has been instrumental in making the Giants go this summer. But with lefty Cliff Lee starting Game 1 and with Torres having strained a muscle near his left hip in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series, indications are that the Giants may go with an outfield of Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand and Cody Ross in Game 1.
"The lineup, you'll probably see it get tweaked a little bit with the left-handers, as we did when Cole Hamels was throwing against us," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Again, you're going with match-ups, how lefties handle certain lefties.
"I know they have a couple going against us the first two games. You could see it teaked a little bit. As far as Torres, I'll know more [Wednesday]."
Torres has never faced Lee or Game 2 starter C.J. Wilson. Rowand, career, is hitting .280 (7-for-25) with one home run against Lee. Overall, the Giants only have a few players with a very small number of at-bats against Wilson -- Juan Uribe leads the team with four at-bats against him.