Posted on: October 29, 2011 2:42 am
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Posted on: October 29, 2011 2:37 am
ST. LOUIS -- The innings added up. The innings caught up to them.
We don't know for sure if that's the answer for what happened to the Rangers bullpen, but it seems like a reasonable guess.
We do know the results.
In six American League Championship Series games against the Tigers, the Ranger relievers were basically unhittable, with a 1.32 ERA.
In seven World Series games against the Cardinals, the Ranger relievers were basically unwatchable, with a 7.43 ERA.
"The bullpen won the ALCS," general manager Jon Daniels said. "Then they struggled here."
The bullpen pitched too much in the first two rounds, because the starters didn't pitch enough. To be fair, the Cardinals had the same problem . . . and maybe that's why their bullpen leaked a little at the end, as well.
You could see it happening. I wrote about it when the Rangers lost Game 3. Mike Adams admitted then that fatigue could be setting in, especially with ALCS difference-maker Alexi Ogando (who would end up allowing 14 baserunners in just 2 2/3 World Series innings).
When it was over, Adams said he wasn't sure.
"You never know," he said. "I'm not sure you can say that's why we weren't as effective.
"The bullpen had a good run. We just didn't pitch as well [in the World Series] as we did in the last series."
You've got to think the workload had something to do with it. But it's not like they could have done much to lighten that load, short of risking an ALCS loss by forcing more innings from their rotation.
"You're aware of it," Daniels said. "But at that point, there's not much you can do about it."
He had tried. He was as active as any GM in seeking bullpen help in midseason trades, adding Adams, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez. But Adams seemed to run out of gas, Uehara was a complete bust in the postseason (three appearances, three home runs), and Gonzalez was only mildly effective.
And the bullpen that beat the Tigers never made it to the World Series.
The bullpen that won the ALCS basically lost the World Series.
Posted on: October 15, 2011 11:40 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2011 11:42 pm
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers needed one great starting pitcher to get to the World Series last year.
They needed no great starters to get them there again.
No great starters (and no Cliff Lee), but a great bullpen.
And a great lineup, led by the great Nelson Cruz, who out-Reggie'd Reggie and became the first player ever with six home runs in a postseason series.
To close out an American League Championship Series full of tense games, the Rangers turned Game 6 into a pennant-clinching blowout early on Saturday night, scoring nine times in the third inning alone to send a tough but ultimately overmatched Tiger team home for the winter. The Rangers went on to win 15-5, and (no surprise) Cruz was named the series Most Valuable Player.
The Rangers are the AL's first repeat champions since the Yankees' four-year run from 1997-2001, and they'll try to become the first team since the 1988-89 A's to win a World Series a year after losing one.
They got there last year with Lee leading a strong rotation. They got there this year despite a rotation that has been subpar from the moment the playoffs began.
Against the Tigers, the four Ranger starters combined for a 6.59 ERA. They still haven't thrown a pitch in the seventh inning in 10 postseason games, and have averaged fewer than five innings a start.
Saturday, manager Ron Washington pulled Derek Holland two outs into the fifth inning, with the Rangers holding a 9-4 lead.
Holland started twice in the ALCS, lasting just 7 1/3 innings in the two starts combined while giving up seven runs.
The Rangers won both of his starts.
But enough about what went wrong for the Rangers, because basically everything except for the starting pitching went right. What went most right Saturday was the Rangers' deep lineup, and especially cleanup hitter Michael Young.
Young doubled two times in the third inning alone, and later added a home run.
The other thing that went right the entire series, and for that matter the entire postseason so far: The Ranger bullpen.
In fact, for all the talk about the injuries that hurt the Tigers, the biggest difference between these two teams was that Washington had multiple relievers he could trust, and Tigers manager Jim Leyland basically had just two.
Look at Game 2, when Washington pulled Holland in the third inning with the Rangers down 3-2. The Tigers didn't score again, and the Rangers won on Cruz's 11th-inning grand slam.
In Saturday's Game 6, Leyland pulled Max Scherzer in the third inning with the Tigers down 3-2. The Rangers scored six more times in that inning alone.
The Rangers' top four relievers -- Neftali Feliz, Mike Adams, Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman -- were all brilliant in the series. The Tigers had Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit, and little else.
Last year, the Rangers rode strong starting pitching into the World Series, and lost when their starters got outpitched by the Giants once they got there.
This year, they won a different way.
The big thing is they won, and they're going back, to begin play Wednesday night in either St. Louis or Milwaukee.
This is a franchise that had no World Series appearances through its first 49 years, through two cities and 23 managers.
Now they have two straight.
One with Cliff Lee. One without him.
Posted on: October 13, 2011 7:43 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 9:13 pm
DETROIT -- The Tigers needed a big performance from Justin Verlander.
They also needed some breaks.
They got both, and this fantastic American League Championship Series is headed back to Texas for the weekend. And as unlikely as it seemed late Wednesday night and Thursday morning, there's now a real chance the Tigers could win this series.
The Rangers still lead the ALCS, three games to two, but you could argue that both remaining pitching matchups -- Max Scherzer vs. Derek Holland in Saturday's Game 6, and Doug Fister vs. Colby Lewis if it goes to Game 7 Sunday -- would favor the Tigers.
It should be a fascinating finish. This series deserves it.
There was more drama Thursday, with the Tigers trying to save their season on a day when manager Jim Leyland declared that both Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit -- the only two relievers he really trusts -- were unavailable due to too much work the last three days.
Leyland pushed Verlander to a career-high 133 pitches, finally pulling him after he allowed a two-run home run to Nelson Cruz (who else?) on the 133rd pitch.
Oh, and that 133rd pitch was a 100 mph fastball.
Kind of like the sixth inning, when this game (and maybe this series?) turned.
It was 2-2 when the sixth began, and the Rangers had the bases loaded with two out against a tired Verlander. But on Verlander's 113th pitch, Ian Kinsler hit a ground ball to third for an inning-ending double play.
On to the bottom of the sixth, which began with a Ryan Raburn single. Miguel Cabrera followed with a ground ball that seemed headed for third baseman Adrian Beltre, and for a double play. Instead, the ball hit the corner of the third-base bag, hopped over Beltre and rolled all the way into the left-field corner for a run-scoring double.
One break for the Tigers.
The next break: Rangers manager Ron Washington, who has gone to his bullpen early and often in every game of this series, was ultra-slow to get his bullpen working behind starter C.J. Wilson.
Washington inexplicably allowed Wilson to pitch the rest of the sixth inning. Victor Martinez followed Cabrera's freak double with a triple, and Delmon Young followed that with a home run.
With an off day Friday, with Verlander's pitch count soaring and with the Tiger bullpen spent, it was a strange move.
But what a game, and what a series.
Remember, Young wasn't supposed to even be playing, after he strained his oblique in Game 5 against the Yankees. Martinez is ailing, as is Alex Avila, whose home run gave the Tigers their first run of the day.
Incredible series. And now it goes on.
Posted on: October 12, 2011 10:33 pm
DETROIT -- Ron Washington pitched to Miguel Cabrera, and the Rangers lost Game 3. Wrong move.
Ron Washington walked Miguel Cabrera, and the Rangers won Game 4 in 11 innings.
Doesn't really matter at this point, does it? The Rangers are one win away from the World Series, up three games to one over Cabrera's Tigers in what has already been a fascinating and thrilling American League Championship Series.
Oh, and it's not Cabrera dominating this series. It's Nelson Cruz.
It's not Cabrera who had the biggest moments of Wednesday's game. It was Cruz -- and Mike Napoli.
Cruz threw Cabrera out at the plate, after Washington put him on base with a bases-empty intentional walk in the eighth inning. Napoli threw Austin Jackson out trying to steal, allowing the Rangers to strand Cabrera on deck in the 10th.
Then Napoli put the Rangers ahead with a one-out single in the 11th. And Cruz followed with a three-run home run, his second extra-inning homer of the series and his 10th career postseason home run.
He's had a great series. The Rangers are having a great series.
It's been a great series to watch.
And now Justin Verlander starts Game 5 Thursday with the Tigers trying to save their season and send the ALCS to Texas.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:14 pm
DETROIT -- The Tigers are back in this series.
Now, can they stay healthy enough to have a chance to win it?
It was another wild night in the American League Championship Series on Tuesday, and at the end of it the Tigers had their first win. They trail the Rangers two games to one, with a chance to tie the series in Game 4 Wednesday, and with ace Justin Verlander returning for Game 5 Thursday.
Not only that, but Miguel Cabrera's bat looks healthier than it has in days, after a tie-breaking double in the fifth and a towering home run in the seventh.
Speaking of health . . .
Victor Martinez strained an oblique muscle while hitting a home run -- and stayed in the game. Delmon Young, who was off the roster and then back on with an oblique strain, was scratched from the original lineup when he was too sore to play.
Oh, and Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre could barely walk after fouling multiple pitches off his knee and lower leg -- and stayed in the game.
The Rangers depend on Beltre, but at least they have other healthier middle-of-the-order hitters.
With Brennan Boesch and Magglio Ordonez out for the year, with Young more questionable than ever and with Martinez suddenly questionable as well, the Tigers may not.
But they're back in this series, because of Cabrera, because Martinez and Jhonny Peralta also homered (the franchise's first three-homer postseason game since the 1984 World Series), and in large part because of starter Doug Fister, who allowed just two runs in 7 1/3 innings.
Fister is healthy. Cabrera is, too.
Are there enough healthy Tigers around them?
Posted on: October 10, 2011 11:22 pm
ARLINGTON, Texas -- You can't blame the Tigers for thinking Nelson Cruz was the cold hitter in the Rangers lineup.
Four games against the Rays, and Cruz had one hit. One measly single.
Did you think he'd be the guy with three home runs in the first two games of the American League Championship Series? Did you think he'd become the first guy to ever end a postseason game with a walk-off grand slam?
The Tigers obviously didn't. The Rangers say they did.
"We said it was just a matter of time," Michael Young said.
I'm pretty sure he meant it was just a matter of time before Cruz got hot again, and not just a matter of time before he made baseball history.
But he did both.
"We really, truly don't get concerned about our guys offensively," Young said.
No need to be concerned about Cruz right now -- unless you play for, work for or root for the Tigers. Then he's a big concern.
His home run off Justin Verlander provided the winning margin in the Rangers 3-2 win in Game 1. His home run off Max Scherzer kept the Tigers from winning 3-2 in Game 2, tying it up in the seventh.
And Cruz's 11th-inning grand slam off Ryan Perry won it for the Rangers, 7-3.
And yeah, two innings earlier, Tigers manager Jim Leyland ordered Mike Napoli intentionally walked so that Jose Valverde could pitch to Cruz.
"Napoli swung the bat pretty well, obviously," Leyland explained. "Ironically, Cruz has been the guy who has been a little quiet, to be honest with you, up to this point."
He had been quiet, if you look back to the Division Series with the Rays. He hasn't been quiet, if you take his postseason career as a whole.
Cruz has now played in 22 postseason games, and he has hit nine home runs. Only one player ever homered more times in his first 22 postseason games -- Carlos Beltran, who had 11.
Oh, and by the way, when Leyland had Napoli intentionally walked, Cruz never really got a chance to hit, either. Valverde's first pitch hit him in the right forearm, loading the bases with nobody out.
Valverde somehow pitched out of that jam.
And all it did was give Cruz a chance to make history.
Posted on: October 10, 2011 8:45 pm
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ron Washington walked to the mound in the third inning to pull his starting pitcher.
Good news for the Tigers? Or for Washington's Rangers?
You know the answer, as strange as it is.
At this point, the best thing the Rangers can do is get to their bullpen.
Whenever, however, whoever.
At this point, the two Rangers starters in this American League Championship Series have faced 40 batters, and 20 of them have reached base.
And the Rangers lead the ALCS over the Tigers, two games to none, after Nelson Cruz won Game 2 with an 11th-inning grand slam.
Because in two games, the Tigers have just five hits in 42 at-bats (a .119 batting average) against the Rangers bullpen.
In Game 1, Washington used five relievers for 4 1/3 innings, and the only hit was a bunt single. In Monday's Game 2, Ranger relievers again gave up one single in the first 5 1/3 innings they pitched, and overall they held the Tigers scoreless for the final 8 1/3.
Game 1, it was Mike Gonzalez and Alexi Ogando getting the biggest outs. Game 2, it was Scott Feldman and Ogando (again).
It hardly seems to matter who it is.
Through six postseason games, the Rangers have had just one starter record an out in the sixth inning, and not one who has gone past the sixth.
The Rangers have won five of the six games, and they're two wins away from advancing to their second straight World Series.
And the one starter who really did pitch well, Colby Lewis, starts Game 3 on Tuesday night at Comerica Park.