Rangers vs. Giants World Series Is a Major League Snoozefest

Better check the thermostat in hell. Consider this baseball’s version of Haley’s Comet colliding with a white whale. The Texas Rangers are playing the San Francisco Giants in the World Series?!? I haven’t been this confused since I first listened to a song by America (if anyone knows what “Ventura Highway” or “Sister Golden Hair” is about, lob me a call).

Unless you’re Rip Van Winkle (in which case just hit the snooze and wait another 20 years for the Dodgers to reach the Fall Classic), you’re probably well aware that our nation’s pastime is in the hands of these two Major League misfits. San Francisco hasn’t won a title since Godzilla first terrorized the streets of Tokyo. Even Mothra has had a better success rate. Texas has reached the goal of World Series bliss about as many times as I have split the atom while standing on one leg (not as easy as it sounds).

By the time someone from “Glee” sings the national anthem, and Ken Oberkfell throws out the first pitch prior to Game 1, the story lines will be more worn out than a show featuring one of the Osbournes or a midnight commercial starring the Hulkster. It’s Texas and San Francisco… Whataburger versus Levi’s. Cowboy boots and loafers. Oil tycoons and dot-com millionaires. The Bushes against Nancy Pelosi. Walker Texas Ranger karate-chopping Harry Callahan. J.R. and Nash Bridges. Top sirloin and tempeh tofu. Bounty hunters and hippies. ZZ Top and CCR. The Big D and the city once known as “Baghdad by the Bay” (I think they’ve shied away from that recently). Remember the Alamo? Are you going to San Francisco? Six Flags and the Golden Gate Bridge…

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Texas Rangers Are World Series Favorites Over the Giants

It’s a bunch of firsts in the World Series this year: the Giants are looking for their first World Series win since moving to San Francisco for the 1958 season while the Rangers are playing in their first World Series in franchise history. Somewhat surprisingly, the team with the least postseason experience is favored in World Series betting odds to bring home the Commissioner’s Trophy.

Both teams pulled off upsets in the LCS with the Rangers dominating the Yankees in all four of their wins while the Giants beat the Phillies by a narrow margin in all four of their victories. The way Cliff Lee, Colby Lewis, and C.J. Wilson are pitching the Rangers are deserving favorites. Lee is now 7-0 in eight career postseason starts, posting a 1.26 ERA and 9.56 K/BB ratio. Because Texas clinched against the Yankees in six games, the studly southpaw is set to start Game 1 against San Francisco.

C.J. Wilson threw a shutout in the ALDS against the Rays and lost both of his starts to the Yankees. Though he looked good in Game 2, he may be surpassed by Colby Lewis in the World Series rotation after getting hit hard in Game 5. Lewis went eight inning of three-hit ball to send Texas to the World Series with a Game 6 win. He’ll have five days of rest should Ron Washington decide to start him in Game 2 on Thursday. Not only has the pitching been consistent for Texas, their offense has been stellar.

Josh Hamilton homered four times against the Yankees winning ALCS MVP honors. He’s swinging the hot stick and the Rangers have so many other offensive weapons it’s hard to say they’ll be shut down. Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz both hit three home runs in the ALDS and are OPSing more than 1.000 in the playoffs. Additionally, both catchers (Bengie Molina and Matt Treanor) have been hitting for Texas, and Elvis Andrus has stolen seven bases and has a hit in every single playoff game. Except for their shaky bullpen, Texas is not showing any weaknesses. I’m going with the favorites to win the World Series in six.

Josh Hamilton Named ALCS MVP After Hitting Four Home Runs Against Yankees

He had burned the Yankees so badly in the previous five games they had no choice but to walk Josh Hamilton in Game 6. They issued Hamilton three intentional walks on Friday night, making the total five for the series which was an ALCS record. In all, Hamilton was so dangerous he was walked eight times in six games by the Yankees. When he wasn’t being walked, he was hitting home runs — four in all, including two in Game 4. Because of his dominance in the series, Josh Hamilton was named ALCS MVP.

The AL regular season MVP-candidate redeemed himself after a 2-for-18 ALDS against the Rays in which he only drove in one run. Hamilton blasted a big three-run home run in Game 1 before the bullpen imploded. In Game 2, he walked four times and stole two bases as the Yankees decided they wanted to avoid his big bat. Hamilton went 2-for-5 with two RBIs in both Game 3 and Game 4 that put Texas up 3-1 in the series. After going 1-for-4 in Game 5’s loss, Hamilton grabbed a hit in his first at-bat of Game 6 before being walked intentionally three times.

Hamilton, who gave all the glory to the lord for winning the ALCS MVP, did exactly what big-time players do in pressure situations — step up. Facing the best competition around on a do-or-die stage, Hamilton gave us his best — four home runs and seven huge RBIs in only six games. This is the exact type of performance the best players in the game are expected to display in big-time situations and it’s the exact reason why Hamilton was once taken first overall in the MLB draft. Josh has put his stamp on the postseason and cemented his place as one of the most superior players in baseball. The Rangers can only hope it continues in the World Series.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

Colby Lewis Delivered in Game 6 for Texas

Who could have figured that a man who spent the past two seasons pitching in Japan could turn out to be such an impact player for the Texas Rangers this year? If Jon Daniels and the rest of the team’s front office says so, I wouldn’t believe them. 31-year-old Colby Lewis who only had 34 career starts entering the year turned out to be an anchor on the Rangers’ pitching staff and especially clutch in the post-season.

Lewis went eight innings of three-hit one-run ball to beat the Yankees in Game 6 of the ALCS, sending the Rangers to their first World Series. He walked three and struck out seven and seemed to get out of trouble any time there was a threat. When the Yankees scored their first run in the 5th (on a b.s. call), Lewis stranded Jorge Posada on second with two outs following Posada’s double. When Lance Berkman tripled in the 7th with two outs, Lewis induced a flyout to end the inning. Even when Lewis had passed the 100-pitch threshold, he managed to strike out Derek Jeter in the 8th — the last batter he faced.

Colby Lewis beat the Yankees twice in the ALCS — once in Game 2 and on Friday night in Game 6. Each outing he threw 102 pitches, but the difference was he went eight innings in Game 6. Lewis gave the bullpen a break and made it possible for the team to open up the World Series with the unconquerable Cliff Lee on the mound in Game 1 by coming up with the big start.

Phil Hughes turned out to be an exposed weakness for the Yankees, but who could have ever expected Colby Lewis would be such a strength for Texas? The man now has a 1.45 ERA in three postseason starts. He sure has been impressive and will make the Rangers more insurmountable if he keeps it up in the World Series.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Matt Cain Finally Got Some Run Support

The phrase “Cained” has been springing up throughout major league clubhouses over the past few years as a word to describe losing a close ball game, perhaps 1-0, or 2-1. This has come about in reference to Matt Cain, the San Francisco Giants starting pitcher. For those who watch him on a regular basis he is truly the man that makes the Giants staff go. When he takes the ball every fifth day, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. In a rotation with two former Cy Young award winners and a wicked lefthander with a no-hitter under his belt, Cain stood out this season as the only pitcher to record an ERA under 4 for every month of the year, finishing at 3.14. Go figure.

Over the past 4 seasons just 17 pitchers have compiled an ERA under 3.50. All of them except for Cain have winning records. Most are not even close to .500. But Cain is just 42-47. He is known for losing the close ball game. For whatever reason, the Giants hitters simply have not been able to come up with the big hit when they need it with Cain on the mound. Hence getting “Cained.”

In game 3 of the 2010 NLCS, Matt Cain had the fortune of ending up on the other side of a pitcher getting “Cained” as he shutout the Phillies for 7 innings en route to a 3-0 Giants win. It was his coming out party. Cain dominated Phillies hitters on a national stage, locating his fastball with precision, mixing in some deadly sliders, a hard-breaking curve, and a sinking changeup.

Cole Hamels wasn’t so lucky. Hamels looked nearly un-hittable through 4, but the Giants’ sporadic offense picked the perfect time to try and earn Matt Cain a new nickname. Cody Ross delivered another clutch hit to give the Giants a lead Cain would not relinquish. Maybe next year they can start to call it getting “Hameled.”

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Bruce Bochy Pulled Jonathan Sanchez Too Early, Paid the Price in Game 2

In what seems to be a continuing theme in the 2010 MLB playoffs, Giants manager Bruce Bochy pulled starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez early in Game 2 of the NLCS and saw his bullpen blow a 2-1 game. Sanchez was pitching well, allowing just two runs through six innings. He had walked in a run in the first and gave up an RBI sac fly in the 5th. Yet after having the lefty start the 7th, Bochy brought out the quick hook after Sanchez gave up a single to fellow pitcher Roy Oswalt to lead off the inning.

Sanchez had already thrown 100 pitches at that point, but there was no reason to not let him go through the lineup again. Instead, Bochy pulled Sanchez and brought in reliever Ramon Ramirez who gave up a sac bunt, intentional walk, and run-scoring single by Placido Polanco. Next, Jeremy Affeldt entered the game and he struck out Ryan Howard before intentionally walking Jayson Werth. Of course Boch wasn’t done there, and he brought in Santiago Casilla who gave up the big blow — a bases-clearing double by Jimmy Rollins to make it 6-1.

We saw Rangers manager Ron Washington make the same mistake of pulling his starter early on Friday night. I know you’re probably saying that there’s a difference between the two — the Giants were already down 2-1 so it’s not like they blew a win, while the Rangers were up and blew a lead. True, but that’s not the point.

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Ron Washington Pulled C.J. Wilson Too Early and Bullpen Blew it for Texas

If you’re a Texas Rangers fan walking out of the Ballpark in Arlington or done watching Game 1 of the ALCS on TV, you have to be asking yourself “how the heck did that just happen?” The Rangers were up 5-0 in the 7th and on absolute cruise control against the Yankees but wound up losing 6-5. The momentum change in the game was unreal and could cost Texas a chance at the series. Fans are lucky they have their manager Ron Washington to blame for things unraveling so quickly.

Starting pitcher C.J. Wilson was awesome for the first six innings of the game and only got touched up by Robinson Cano who hooked a change up around the right field foul pole for a home run. After the home run in the 7th, Wilson got the next three batters out. Then in the 8th, Wilson allowed an infield hit to Brett Gardner who beat out a ball in the 3-4 hole. Derek Jeter hit a hard ground ball down the left field line right after that, scoring Gardner from first. It was one of the few hard-hit balls Wilson allowed the entire game, yet Ron Washington thought that was the proper time to remove his effective starter. Wilson left with a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the 8th with Derek Jeter at second. And that’s when everything fell apart for the Rangers.

Lefty Darren Oliver walked Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira to load the bases. Washington pulled Oliver after 13 pitches in favor of Darren O’Day who gave up a laser by Alex Rodriguez that scored two making it 5-4. The very next pitch, Robinson Cano smashed a line drive up the middle off reliever Clay Zapada to score Teixeira and tie the game. Keep in mind that’s two pitchers who made two pitches and gave up three runs. Washington then figured Derek Holland could be the answer. Holland gave up the go-ahead single to Marcus Thames but managed to get the next three men out, not to mention pitch a scoreless 9th. By that time it didn’t matter because the damage had been done.

Ron Washington went through five pitchers in the 8th inning. C.J. Wilson left with a 5-2 lead and only a man on second but Washington thought it was time to pull him. Maybe next time he’ll let his starter keep going, and maybe next time the rest of the bullpen will do their jobs.

Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images