What’s this? A bold prediction coming from 40-Year-Ranger-Fan following a blow-out loss in Game 1 of the World Series? You bet! And here is that bold guarantee: I guarantee the ratings of Game 2 of the World Series will be lower than those of Game 1!
Seriously. The World Series is baseball’s showcase event, the one time of year when even the casual fan will check out what’s going on on the diamond. We rabid Rangers fans and the equally rabid Giants fans will be glued to TV sets tonight. The casual fans nationwide, the ones with no dog in the hunt, probably watched last night’s game and came away with one of these responses: “Those are the two best teams in baseball?”; “Those are two of the best pitchers in baseball?”; or “Is CSI on tomorrow night?”
If the World Series is indeed when baseball puts it’s best foot forward, the casual fan most likely came away completely underwhelmed. We were treated to lots of runs, true. We were also treated to mostly bad pitching, even more horrid defense (mostly by the Rangers) and a very poor barometer of the caliber of both of these teams.
For my Rangers, it really started out well. The single runs scored in the first and second innings were textbook Rangers playoff baseball. In the first, an Elvis Andrus single, a Michael Young walk, a groundoutto advance the runners and and infield single scoring the run. In the second, a Bengie Molina single (who, by the way, was given an AWESOME reception by the San Francisco fans during the player introductions), a surprise double by Cliff Lee after faking the bunt and a sac fly.
But there was trouble in paradise. I’m sure I’m not the only Rangers fan who noticed that Cliff Lee was struggling with his command in the first two innings. It got progressively worse in the 3rd, when Lee had to expend over 30 pitches to get out of the inning and by then, the Giants had managed to tie the score.
San Fran exploded in the 5th and chased Lee, making him look very human after two years of looking invulnerable in post-season action. Then, after chasing Lee, the Giants iced it with a three-run jack off of Darren O’Day, capping a 6-run fifth and staking the Giants to an 8-2 lead which they never relinquished.
Not that Tim Lincecum was the light’s out pitcher everyone was expecting either. Lincecum gave up his share of hits and, after being staked to a 6-run lead, couldn’t follow up with a shutdown inning. Lincecum didn’t make it out of the 6th, but still left up 8-4.
I like to give broadcasters the benefit of the doubt, having been one once myself. Sometimes you make a stupid mistake with a name or something. As long as you quickly correct it, no harm no foul. Still, I had to chuckle at Tim McCarver last night when he said Lincecum pitched a good game. Really??? Maybe in relation to Cliff Lee he did, but rarely if ever do you hear a broadcaster refer to four runs in 5 2/3 innings a good game. Nitpicky, I know, but I found it funny…
We did have two innings of solid baseball by both sides. Alexi Ogando had his strongest post-season outing striking out four in two shutout innings, while San Francisco’s relief corps dominated the Rangers bats during the same stretch.
The Rangers made it real ugly in the 8th. Mark Lowe, on the post-season roster for the first time these playoffs pitched so well I almost wanted to bring Rich Harden back. Vlad Guerrero proved all those naysayers about his defense in right field absolutely right by butchering not one but two plays. The combination of those two let the Giants score three more times to make it 11-4 headed to the 9th.
But here’s where I give the Rangers credit and why Game 1 is not necessarily an indication of Texas being out of it by any stretch. They still came out in the 9th and battled. Battled so much that the Giants even brought their closer in in a blow-out game to finish it off. And the Rangers did some damage against him as well. They fought back from the Giants’ 6-run 5th with a 2-run 6th of their own and the answered the Giants 3 in the 8th with 3 of their own in the 9th.
And Cliff Lee? Well, now we know he’s not perfect. If there’s one knock I have on Lee now that I’ve had half a season to see him, is he is all about his command. When he’s on, he’s lights out. When he doesn’t have the command, he gets knocked around. Other pitchers can go out there and not have their best stuff and can sometimes figure out how to be successful without it. With Lee, I haven’t seen that. He has it or he doesn’t and there’s not much in between.
Game 2 has CJ Wilson against Matt Cain. Cain is perfect in the post-season himself, even to the tune of a 0.00 ERA. Maybe the Rangers can prove that he’s human tonight. Whether they do or not, this I guarantee. It may be a better played game by both sides, it could even be one of those classic 3-2 affairs, but it won’t be seen by as many people as saw Game 1 last night.