Another great round of baseball has concluded. We’ve got a great matchup in the Cards and Rangers, but both Game 6 LCS games were great for fans who dig the long ball. I went 1-1 in my picks, bringing me to 4-2.
Texas Rangers vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Game 1: Oct. 19, 8:05 PM ET: C. Wilson vs. C. Carpenter
Game 2: Oct. 20, 8:05 PM ET: C. Lewis vs. J. Garcia
Game 3: Oct. 22, 8:05 PM ET: E. Jackson vs. D. Holland
Game 4: Oct. 23, 8:05 PM: K. Lohse vs. M. Harrison
*Game 5: Oct. 24, 8:05 PM ET: C. Carpenter vs. C. Wilson
*Game 6: Oct. 26, 8:05 PM ET: C. Lewis vs. K. Lohse
*Game 7: Oct. 27, 8:05 PM ET: D. Holland vs. J. Garcia
The Rangers are the first AL team to win back-to-back pennants since the Yankees did in 2000-01. St. Louis is gunning for their 11th world championship, which is second-most all-time to the Yankees’ 27. This series is sure to bring the following: poor starting pitching, excessive bullpen use, lots of homeruns and lots of runs.
The Rangers had a starters’ ERA of 6.59 in the ALCS, the second-highest for an AL team that went to the World Series; however, the other four teams in that top five went on to win the World Series. No Rangers starter went more than six innings in their 10 postseason games this year. Texas’ ace, LHP C.J. Wilson, allowed 14 hits and eight earned runs in 10 2/3 innings. In his past five postseason starts, he is 0-3, has pitched 28 2/3 innings, surrendering 18 earned runs, walking 15 and serving up seven home runs. On the flip side, in the NLCS, no Cardinals starter went more than five innings, making them the first team ever to win a postseason series of at least five games without a starter going more than five innings.
The benefit though, is that the Cards will have RHP Chris Carpenter ready to go on Game 1 on full rest. Double C threw a 3-hit shutout against Phillies’ RHP Roy Halladay in a 1-0 Game 5 NLDS win to advance. It was Carpenter’s third shutout in the past month, but there were also a pair of starts where he was off–in the first, he lasted only three innings, but it was the first start he’d ever made on short rest; the other lasted only five innings, and even though he got the win in Game 3 of the LCS, he wasn’t sharp.
One player we must touch on is NLCS MVP Nelson Cruz. What a story. Cruz went 1-for-15 with no RBIs in the LDS, then went nuts and hit .364 with six homers and 13 RBIs in the LCS, the latter two becoming postseason records. Talk about clutch–Cruz is the only player to hit 12 total home runs in consecutive postseasons, and is the only player ever to go for the home run cycle (solo, two-run, three-run and grand slam) in one postseason series. He’s also the only player to hit a walk-off grand slam in the postseason, and the only player to hit two extra-inning home runs in the same postseason.
While not as powerful as the Rangers’ lineup, the Cards offence is still lethal. They led the NL in runs scored this season, but despite their outburst in Game 6 of the LCS, there are a few questions: 1B Albert Pujols remains the best hitter in the game, but OF Lance Berkman was awful, while OF Matt Holliday remains affected by his hand injury. For anyone who’s been following the Cardinals all season, 3B David Freese is no surprise, but to the casual fan, he’s an emerging superstar. The oft-injured Freese has to all parts of the field, especially when hitting fastballs opposite field. If he can remain healthy for the series (and the season), Freese will emerge as a stud in a protected lineup.
Since Texas’ starting pitching was so bad, they relied heavily on their bullpen, and they didn’t disappoint. Against the Tigers, the ‘pen’s like is as follows: 27 1/3 innings, 15 hits, four earned runs (1.31 ERA), six walks and 25 strikeouts. While RHP Neftali Feliz has been great, the guys between the starters and the closer have helped out, and their main assets have come as trade deadline acquisitions. RHP Alexi Ogando was arguably the LCS MVP, while RHP Mike Adams has been lights out with an ERA under 2.00 in the past three seasons combined. LHP Darren Oliver is their lefty specialist, but one question mark has been RHP Koji Uehara, who was excellent with the Orioles, but hasn’t been able to replicate that in Texas just yet, especially in October. Uehara is the only pitcher ever to allow a home run in three consecutive relief appearances in the postseason.
The Cardinals’ bullpen has been awful this season, losing 11 games after leading in the ninth inning or later; the other three NL playoffs teams lost six such games combined. The big trade that saw them deal OF Colby Rasmus for RHP Octavio Dotel and LHP Marc Rzepczynski has paid dividends already in the ‘pen, in addition to acquiring LHP Arthur Rhodes. RHP Jason Motte, the fourth closer this season, has also improved after a shaky stretch to close out the season. Motte has recorded seven innings pitched, one hit, no runs and a fastball in the high 90s through the postseason thus far. The Cardinals became the second team to win a best-of-seven postseason series with more innings from their bullpen than from their starters, and look for the trend to continue. Manager Tony La Russa has shown no fear in using his bullpen, pulling his starting pitching early a number of times so far–no Cardinals starter went longer than five innings in the NLCS, but the club still won in six games. Even more proof? In Game 5 of the LCS, LHP Jaime Garcia was pulled after 4 2/3 innings, giving up just one earned run and eliminating any chance of him recording the win, because La Russa was uncomfortable in the situation.
Bottom line: Over the course of a full season, Texas has the better team. A 7-game series, however, doesn’t sum up a full season, and in that time, it’s easy to be out-managed, and no one is better at doing that than Tony La Russa. In addition, La Russa is good friends with Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland, who was just eliminated by the Rangers–don’t you think he’ll be sharing notes and game tape? If this series does come down to managing, the Cards have the edge. Because of the bad rotations, it’s going to be one of those series where, whoever homers last, wins. Texas has the advantage in the batter’s box. I see this series going the distance, but it’s the 2010 World Series losers who come out on top to avenge last season’s defeat.
Pick: Rangers in 7
2007-08: 12-3 (80%)
2008-09: 10-5 (67%)
2009-10: 9-6 (60%)
2010-11: 8-7 (53%)
Total: 39/60 = 65%
2007-08: 11-4 (73%)
2008-09: 9-6 (60%)
2009-10: 11-4 (73%)
2010-11: 11-4 (73%)
Total: 42/60 = 70%
2008: 5-2 (71%)
2009: 4-3 (57%)
2010: 3-4 (43%)
2011: 4-3 (57%)
Total: 16/28 = 57%
2008-09: 9-2 (82%)
2009-10: 7-4 (64%)
2010-11: 8-3 (73%)
2011-12: 8-3 (73%
Total: 32/44 = 73%