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 26, 2011 6:27 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Will Chris Carpenter start for the Cardinals if the World Series goes to Game 7?
I'm not sure about that, but I do know that Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams and the rest of the strong Rangers bullpen is better rested and more prepared now that a rainout delayed Game 6 by a day.
"That's a huge advantage for us," Adams said Wednesday. "It can only help us. We've pitched a lot, and now [on Thursday], we'll be fully rested.
"Any day of rest, we'll take it."
And more rest for the talented but heavily worked Rangers pen makes the rainout a slight advantage for Texas, no matter whether it puts Carpenter in play for Game 7 or not.
The Rangers will also have starters Derek Holland and C.J. Wilson available out of the bullpen for Thursday's rescheduled Game 6, as well as for a Game 7, if needed, on Friday. Manager Ron Washington repeated Wednesday, for the third straight day, that Matt Harrison will remain his Game 7 starter.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, for the third straight day, was mum on his Game 7 plans. He said he discussed it with pitching coach Dave Duncan, but that they opted not to make a decision until after Game 6.
"[They'll] want a probable," La Russa said. "Bob Gibson's here, so we'll send Bob."
With the schedule pushed back a day, Carpenter becomes a possibility, but the Cardinals ace would be starting on three days' rest. He has started on short rest just once in his career, in Game 2 of this year's Division Series against the Phillies, and he allowed four runs in three innings.
The recent history of starters used on short rest isn't good.
"I was told by Carp he'd be ready to go," La Russa said.
It's possible that La Russa could stick with Game 3 starter Kyle Lohse as his starter for a Game 7, with Carpenter available at the first sign of trouble. By doing it that way, he could shorten the innings Carpenter would be asked to throw on short rest.
La Russa said Wednesday that he expects Game 4 starter Edwin Jackson to be available in the bullpen for Game 6. As for Carpenter's availability out of the bullpen Thursday, La Russa hedged.
"No chance," he said, before pausing and then adding, "little chance."
La Russa said that in his opinion, the rainout won't be a factor in who wins the World Series.
"I don't think it adds anything to our competitive chances, or theirs," he said.
If the Cardinals win Game 6, Washington will no doubt face another round of questions on starting Holland, who was brilliant in the Rangers' 4-0 Game 4 win. Don't expect Washington to make a change, though.
"Harrison is my seventh game pitcher," he said emphatically. "I am not changing the things we've done all year. That's why we're here."
Washington knows that as good as Holland looked on Sunday night, the 25-year-old left-hander's season was marked by inconsistency. Remember, this is a guy who threw a four-hit shutout on July 30 in Toronto, then followed it up five days later by getting knocked out in the second inning against the Indians.
Besides, Washington believes that the best thing a manager can do is to show his players a consistent front, and not be seen to be uncertain or panicky. He chose Harrison before the World Series began to start Games 3 and 7, and he won't change because Holland outpitched Harrison the first time around.
The Rangers players don't expect him to.
"Harry's been a massive part of our team," Michael Young said Wednesday. "He's earned it. But that's getting ahead of ourselves."
Up three games to two in the Series, the Rangers would obviously prefer that there isn't a Game 7.
They also would have preferred that Game 6 wasn't rained out. But if there's any advantage that comes from the rainout, I'm saying it goes to Texas -- Carpenter or no Carpenter.
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.
Posted on: October 9, 2011 1:03 am
Edited on: October 9, 2011 1:46 am
ARLINGTON, Texas -- With Justin Verlander available for Game 1, the Tigers had an edge in this American League Championship Series.
As long as he won.
He didn't. You can argue about why he didn't -- another rain-interrupted game? Verlander's atypical lack of command? the Rangers' strong lineup? home-plate umpire Tim Welke's small and sometimes inconsistent strike zone? -- but you can't argue the result.
You can't argue that whatever Verlander edge the Tigers had before the series began has already disappeared.
You can even argue that it's already been replaced by an Alexi Ogando edge for the Rangers, because their reliever-turned-starter-turned-reli
ever turned in the pitching performance of the night. After the second of two rain delays, Ogando pitched two hitless innings, setting up the Rangers for their Game 1 win.
Either way, one game into the ALCS, the Rangers have a bigger edge than one game to none, a bigger edge than any home team should have when it wins the opener, which the Rangers did, 3-2.
In fact, one Tigers person went so far Saturday afternoon as to say that Game 1 was almost must-win for the visitors, a truly unusual situation in a best-of-7 series. His reasoning: To win the ALCS, the Tiger pitchers must slow down a very hot Rangers offense, and Verlander was the guy with the very best chance of doing it.
The Rangers didn't exactly beat up on Verlander. Before he left the game at the first of two rain delays, he had pitched four innings and allowed three runs.
But this is worse for the Tigers than Verlander's rain-affected start in the Division Series against the Tigers. He threw just 25 pitches that night at Yankee Stadium, so he was able to come back for Game 3.
Verlander threw 82 pitches Saturday night, meaning the soonest he could return would be for Game 4. It's just as possible that manager Jim Leyland would hold to his original plan and pitch Verlander in Game 5.
Either way, it's likely he'll start just once more in this series.
And it's a series that the Tigers already trail.
They could win Game 2 Sunday, and come home with a split. That's not bad.
But the Verlander edge seems to be gone. The Tiger edge may be gone with it.
Posted on: September 2, 2011 10:42 pm
BOSTON -- Friday in the Boston Globe, columnist Dan Shaughnessy called Red Sox-Yankees the "overdue dream ALCS matchup."
Spend enough time in this part of the country, especially during Red Sox-Yankees week, and you can get sucked into believing that an all-AL East ALCS is not only overdue and dream, but also inevitable.
Until the Rangers come to town and remind you that they are the defending American League champions.
Friday's reminder was a loud one, with three home runs and a 10-0 win over the Red Sox.
Yes, there is another AL team capable of going to the World Series, and it's the same team that went there last year.
The Rangers themselves would rather not talk about it, because unlike the Yankees and Red Sox they're not yet close to guaranteeing their spot in the playoffs. Their 3 1/2-game lead over the Angels, entering play Friday, gives them the most tenuous hold of any of the eight teams currently in playoff position.
"I don't think that far ahead, because there are no guarantees in this game," manager Ron Washington said. "We haven't won anything yet."
But while winning the West is not an insignificant issue, it's reasonable to assume that the Rangers will hold off the Angels. It's also reasonable to think that they could pose a real threat to the Red Sox and/or the Yankees.
The lineup is basically the one that eliminated the Yankees last October, with Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba in place of Vladimir Guerrero and Bengie Molina.
Yes, but Cliff Lee is gone.
Yes, he is. But the Rangers' rotation is deeper than you think, and the Rangers have strengthened their bullpen so much that they can limit the outs they need from those starters.
"You make the best of what you have," pitching coach Mike Maddux said Friday. "And I like what we have."
The Rangers made the best midseason move in baseball last year when they traded for Lee. They made the best series of midseason moves this year with their deals for relievers Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez, as colleague Scott Miller detailed a few weeks back.
With strong lineups all around the American League -- and rotation questions all around, too -- this year's AL playoffs could well be decided by the bullpens. The Rangers, who read the trade market well, could be in as good position as anyone.
The challenge for Maddux and Washington is to keep their starters from getting too worn down before October begins.
C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis both pitched through October last year, and you wonder about how that will affect them. Alexi Ogando is a converted reliever who has already pitched more than twice as many innings this year as he did all of last year.
Derek Holland, who beat the Red Sox by throwing seven shutout innings and allowing just two hits Friday night, has pitched more innings than he did a year ago.
"I'm not concerned," Washington said. "But of course we're looking at it. There is some drawback to these young guys not being there before, but it is also something they have to experience. Every starting staff in baseball that makes it to the postseason, consistently, they have to go through it before they figure it out.
"So we're going through it."
Wilson said Friday he feels better physically than he did entering September a year ago, saying he "refined" his workouts and has seen the effect.
Privately, the Rangers hope that they can create some distance between themselves and the Angels soon, in part because it would enable them to give their starters (and even some of their position players) extra rest before October.
Publicly, they say they don't expect the Angels to go away.
But the Rangers also believe that they're more ready for what's ahead, this month and probably next, than they were a year ago.
"Last year, we were constantly talking about staying focused," Michael Young said. "This year, there's no need to talk about it, because we know. We just know it."
They know that, and they know they're good.
And if everyone in the Northeast (and a bunch of people elsewhere) want to assume that this year is all about the Red Sox and Yankees, the Rangers aren't going to worry about it.
"That doesn't bother us at all," Young said. "It's a great rivalry (Yankees-Red Sox). I think if you go to our part of the country, I think you'd find that a lot of people are talking about us."
Win again in October, they'll have people talking everywhere.
Posted on: May 5, 2011 7:43 pm
You might think this is the worst time to face Andre Ethier.
R.A. Dickey thinks it's the best time.
"The percentages are in your favor the more games his streak goes on," the Mets knuckleballer said. "I'd rather he had a 50-game streak. You think, this is going to end sometime."
It's hard to know whether it will end this weekend, and not just because an inflamed elbow kept Ethier out of the Dodgers' Wednesday game against the Cubs, and has his status in some doubt for this weekend's series against the Mets.
What we do know is that Ethier has a .147 career average against the Mets, easily his lowest against any National League opponent.
We also know that Ethier's hitting streak is at 29 games, which gives the next couple of games extra significance. The longest hitting streak in Dodger history is 31, by Willie Davis in 1969.
Davis' 30th and 31st games came against . . . the Mets. His streak ended in the next series, in San Diego against the Padres.
If Ethier gets a hit Friday, he could tie Davis with another hit on Saturday night. While Ethier has bad career numbers against the Mets, he has great numbers (12-for-29, with six home runs) against Chris Young, the Mets' Saturday night starter.
"I'll just pencil him in for a hit," Young said with a smile.
Young said he met Ethier last year in the Dodger Stadium weight room, when Young was with the Padres.
"He came up and asked how I was doing," said Young, who was coming back from an injury. "He's first and foremost a nice guy, a great player, who has a ton of success off me.
"I had to apologize to him, because by getting hurt I cost him some hits."
If Ethier can carry his streak until Sunday, he'll face Dickey.
By then, the percentages may be in his favor.
On to 3 to watch:
1. The Giants and Rockies have played some fascinating games the last couple of years. And any matchup of Matt Cain and Ubaldo Jimenez is interesting, even if Cain gave up six runs the last time he faced Colorado and Jimenez has a 7.20 ERA. It'll be Cain and Jimenez, in Rockies at Giants, Friday night (10:15 ET) at AT&T Park.
2. Young can joke about his lack of success against Ethier, but his first four starts for the Mets have been no joke. He's just 1-0 (losing two potential wins to blown saves), but he has a 1.88 ERA and has allowed just 12 hits in 24 innings (with a .146 opponents batting average). Young faces Jon Garland in Dodgers at Mets, Saturday night (7:10 ET) at Citi Field.
3. Rangers fans probably don't need many reminders that their team went to the World Series last year, for the first time in its history. But having the Yankees in town for the first time since the American League Championship Series can't hurt. This hasn't been the best of times for either team, as both the Rangers and Yankees had their first three-game losing streak of the season. It's still a big-time series, and maybe the most interesting pitching matchup of the series will be CC Sabathia against Alexi Ogando, in Yankees at Rangers, Sunday afternoon (2:05 ET) at Rangers Ballpark.
Posted on: April 14, 2011 9:49 pm
Edited on: April 14, 2011 9:53 pm
Remember last winter, when the Rangers were going to sign Cliff Lee, or trade for Zack Greinke or Matt Garza?
Remember this spring, when the Rangers began spring training with just two spots set in their starting rotation?
Remember the end of spring training, when Tommy Hunter's injury left a hole in the Ranger rotation?
Well, forget it. All of it.
Forget that anyone was ever concerned that the Rangers wouldn't be able to pitch enough to support their great offense.
While the Yankees worry about Phil Hughes and the Red Sox worry about Daisuke Matsuzaka, this is what the Rangers have gotten from the back end of their rotation: six starts, six wins, and a 1.15 ERA.
Red Sox people raved about Matt Harrison after he shut down the Sox in his first start. Orioles people raved about Derek Holland after he held the O's scoreless in his second start. And in two starts, Alexi Ogando has yet to allow a run to anyone.
"The way they've been throwing, they don't need anyone [else]," Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis said.
"I don't think people realize the depth they have in pitching," O's manager (and one-time Rangers manager) Buck Showalter said. "They've covered the what-ifs very well."
The Rangers visit the Yankees this weekend for the first time since last year's American League Championship Series, and they won't start any of the four starters they used in the ALCS. Instead, it'll be Harrison, Holland and Ogando.
And that's not bad.
On to 3 to watch:
1. Remember, Troy Tulowitzki is a notorious slow starter. In his first four full big-league seasons, he hit seven April home runs. That's seven in four years. Now he has seven home runs and 14 RBI, with 14 April games still remaining on the Rockies schedule. The next six of those will be home games, starting with Cubs at Rockies, Friday night (8:40 ET) at Coors Field. For his career, Tulowitzki has a .926 OPS at Coors, vs. .804 on the road, but this year he has five homers in his first seven road games. One more Tulowitzki fact to think about: Over his last 41 games, dating back to last Sept. 2 (basically one-quarter of a season), he has 22 home runs and 54 RBI.
2. Things have been so bad in Boston that the Red Sox welcomed a Wednesday rainout that basically gave them back-to-back days off. "I don't think that will hurt one bit," manager Terry Francona told reporters. So it'll be interesting to see how the Sox react this weekend against the Blue Jays. It'll be even more interesting to see whether Josh Beckett follows up on his strong start last Sunday against the Yankees, when he starts in Blue Jays at Red Sox, Saturday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Fenway Park. Beckett wasn't good against many teams last year, but he hasn't beaten the Jays in six starts since 2007, going 0-3 with an 11.85 ERA.
3. Of all the new Rangers starters, Ogando is the most interesting, and not just because he has yet to allow a run (and, in two starts, has allowed just a .298 opponents OPS). Ogando is the guy who replaced Hunter in the rotation at the end of spring training. He's also the guy who signed with the A's as an outfielder, got caught up in a visa fraud and couldn't get out of the Dominican Republic for five years, was converted to a pitcher by the Rangers, and got to the big leagues last year. Now he's in the rotation, maybe to stay. Some Rangers officials see a 2012 rotation that includes both Ogando and Neftali Feliz, who for this year remains the Rangers' closer. Ogando faces CC Sabathia in Rangers at Yankees, Sunday night (8:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium.