When the media and baseball experts talk about the Texas Rangers, they tend to focus on the Rangers’ deep lineup. And who can blame them? With Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young, Mike Napoli, and Elvis Andrus, the Rangers can put a big number up on the scoreboard. But if the Rangers are to win their first World Series it will because of their starting pitching and bullpen.
There were a lot of people who didn’t think Texas would get back to the championship after losing Cliff Lee to free agency. But C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland all remained steady, and Alexi Ogando gave the team a big boost in the first half with his promotion to the starting rotation. Texas is now just four victories away from returning to the World Series, which they lost in five games to the San Francisco Giants last season.
The Rangers eliminated the red hot Tampa Bay Rays in four games in the first round division series, despite a poor performance in Game one from their #1 starter (Wilson). But Lewis limited the Rays to hit one over six innings, and Holland and Harrison threw five solid innings each. Though manager Ron Washington didn’t get a lot of innings out of his starters, he got effective innings, and the Rangers bullpen did a nice job of bridging the gap to closer Neftali Feliz.
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The staff did the job in the ALCS when they defeated the Yankees in the ’10 post-season. Lewis, who has been bothered by a sore hip this season, beat the Yankees twice and Wilson threw a solid seven before the bullpen blew the lead and the first game of the series. Holland came out of the pen to earn a pivotal win in Game 4 and will likely follow up Wilson with a Game 2 start in this year’s ALCS. Ogando was a key to the Rangers’ pen last season and could bolster the pen again this year, especially with Mike Adams struggling in his first post-season appearance.
Texas will still be looking for some offensive outbursts, not just solo home runs -though no one has complained about Adrian Beltre’s trio – like they hit in the final game of the ALDS. Even Beltre was a no-show in the first three games, going 1-11. Cruz (1-15), Andrus (2-14), Young (2-15), and Mitch Moreland (1-10) didn’t exactly have series to write home about either. The Rangers offense will need to produce more in case the starting staff and/or pen falters.
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Mike Napoli, who took a big hit in a home plate collision with the Rays’ Sean Rodriguez in Game 4, said that he’s fine and is ready to go for the ALCS. He did swallow his chewing tobacco though, not a pleasant experience.
Ron Washington is not expected to make any changes to his roster.