Ten straight post-season losses vs. the Yankees: OVER!
Zero wins in 7 home playoff appearances: OVER!
The 2010 Rangers rewrite team history again.
Even diehard Rangers fans had to be wondering how the team would come back after losing the way they did in Game 1. Never mind that they’ve shown the ability to bounce back from disappointment time and time again this season. THIS IS THE PLAYOFFS!!! EVERYTHING IS MAGNIFIED IN THE PLAYOFFS!!!
I should do that- write in all caps the rest of the way because THIS IS THE PLAYOFFS!!!
Never mind. I won’t.
The answer to the burning question was answered in inning #1 when Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton pulled off a perfect double steal, plating Andrus with the first run of the game. When David Murphy followed with a second inning solo home run, it seemed safe to say the Rangers had bounced back nicely, thank you very much. By the time it was all over, Texas had made a big statement: We’re not going anywhere (except to New York for Games 3, 4 and 5)!
The bullpen still made things, shall we say, adventurous, but they still came away with 3 1/3 innings of scoreless ball. As a bonus, everyone who was a part of the 8th inning debacle Friday night got to atone for it Saturday. Clay Rapada’s strikeout of Marcus Thames to end the 6th was probably the turning point of the game in terms of stopping Yankees momentum.
Alexi Ogando saw his first action and, while it wasn’t easy, it didn’t result in scores either. The faithful at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington were noticeably pensive when Darren Oliver came on in the 8th after his two walk performance on Friday. They grew even more restless when he walked the first batter. A 3-pitch strikeout of Jorge Posada relaxed them a bit and Ian Kinsler’s great play on Lance Berkman’s grounder had everyone forgiving Darren for his previous sins. Darren #2, Mr. O’Day, closed out the 8th getting Marcus Thames to ground out, setting the crowd off on their traditional variation on the soccer anthem, singing “O’Day O’Day, O’Day O’Day”!
Neftali Feliz came to the mound for the first time in the 9th and, as in the ALDS, caused many moments of frustration for the fans who were ready to celebrate a win. Feliz struck out Derek Jeter to start things off, but walks to Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira stirred the restlesness pot once again. Instead of Mike Maddux, this actually prompted a visit to the mound from Ron Washington, who seldom does such a thing without pulling the pitcher. Whatever he told Feliz, it worked, because he got A-Rod out on a ground ball and Robinson Cano skied to left for the final out.
For the first time in the playoffs, we saw the respect for Josh Hamilton. Hambone walked four times in the game, two of those intentionally. The Rays had Josh when he was still working on getting his timing back after missing almost a month to injury. After Friday night’s 3-run first inning home run told them he just might have that timing back, you can tell the Yankees, if they can, will avoid Hamilton in key situations.
What more can you say about the Rangers starting pitching? CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis have just shut down the Yankees attack. Meanwhile, Texas has teed off against New York’s #1 and #3 starters in the first two games. On the other hand, the Yankees bullpen has outshone the Rangers relief corps by a wide margin so far.
Did anyone else notice how worthless the TBS PitchTrak system is? I’d say about half the pitches showing outside the right margin of their box was called a strike. When it’s that consistent, it’s not the ump, it’s the electronics!
Thanks to this win, the national narrative for this series can now take a different shape. Disappointed as I was with the Game 1 loss, I could not believe some of the talking heads that pass themselves off as experts were sounding. They were already talking about the series being over. The most egregious of these were two guys on MLB Radio today. I wish I knew who they were but I didn’t catch the names. One was the on-air guy at the time. He closed his segment up by predicting a Yankees blow-out in Game 2. OK, that’s an opinion, so maybe that wasn’t so bad. The other guy, though, I think was one of the newspaper reporters who follows the Yankees. When asked about how the rest of the series was going to go, he said, in no uncertain terms, that Friday morning he was planning on being back in Arlington next weekend, but now he was CERTAIN he wouldn’t have to leave New York next week.
Mathematically, that’s still a possibility, but it was obvious from the way he was talking he already had Game 2 as a slam-dunk no-doubter from the get go. He was right. He was just thinking about the wrong team!
I spoke earlier of a shift in the narrative of the series. Think about this. Not trying to get ahead of myself, but if the Rangers win Game 3 with Cliff Lee on the mound to go up 2-1, there will be a shift in what you hear about the Series. Instead of, “The Rangers 8th blew Game 1 with a horrible 8th inning” we’ll start hearing more along the lines of “If not for one bad inning in Game 1, the Rangers would be up 3-0 on the defending World Champions!” Already, the narrative is shifting the Rangers way with talk about how well the offense has handled CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes. A solid effort against Andy Pettite on Monday (no easy feat, to be sure) and you’ll actually hear some serious doubt raised about the Yankees chances.
That is one narrative I sure would like to hear at the end of the night Monday. On to New York!
7PM CDT October 15,2010. No matter how many games this lasts, it will be the latest the Rangers have ever played in a calendar year.
Four steps need to be made, each one putting the team closer to what longtime fans once thought unfathomable- the World Series.
Will the 2010 Texas Rangers successfully walk up those steps in 2010? The next 4-7 games will tell.
Funniest thing I heard: Listening the MLB Radio on the XM on the way to work as I always do, I heard a Yankee fan call in to Jim Memelo and Jeff Nelson. His complaint? “Cliff Lee this, Cliff Lee that. Can we please stop talking about Cliff Lee?” Hysterical. Pot, meet kettle. No disrespect intended, but sir, do you realize how much the rest of the nation hears about the Yankees day in, day out? Especially in the off-season? And you can’t take someone talking about someone else for a change for even three days? Please. Wonder if he’d be complaining if Lee had gone to the Yankees instead of Texas back in July.
What 40 years of futility does to one’s mind set: Yesterday I followed two links via Lone Star Ball and read two articles picking the Rangers to beat the Yankees in the ALCS. I didn’t know what to do with this. I’m so used to nobody picking the Rangers, I don’t know how to respond to someone picking for them. I even started thinking it has to be bad news for someone to say the Rangers are favored. This team seems to perform better as underdogs. One regular Rangers blogger was certain we would lose Game 5 against the Rays. That’s how used to failure we are. That’s why success smells so sweet right now.
Sizing Up The ALCS: OK, time for some serious comparisons. Despite home field advantage for Texas, it’s easy to see why the Yankees should be favored. History is definitely on their side. They have a scary offense. They’re sound defensively. Their pitching is pretty good.
I don’t think there’s any doubt the Yankees, around the infield, are the stronger team. Texeira vs. Moreland, no contest. Kinsler-Cano. Edge to Cano because of Kinsler’s 2 DL trips, otherwise a push. Jeter vs. Andrus, edge Jeter. A-Rod vs. Young. Sorry, Michael. You’ve been our rock but A-Rod’s power is the difference there.
On the other hand, the Rangers have the upper hand in the outfield, especially in outfield depth. Hamilton and Cruz certainly top Granderson and Swisher. Plus we have Borbon, Murphy and Francoeur to counter Gardner, Thames and Kearns.
Behind the plate is a wash. Posada and Cervelli are better offensively than Molina and Treanor, but I give the defensive/play calling edge to the Rangers.
DH is easily in the Rangers column with Vlad Guerrero, although he hasn’t been hitting with a lot of power lately. He’s still someone who can change a game in a hurry.
Offensively, then, it’s pretty much even. That brings us to pitching.
To me, this series comes down to how Andy Pettite performs. Pettite missed a big chunk of the season with a groin injury. He’s made four starts since he returned. Pettite pitched well in his first start. Then he got shelled in his second and third appearances before pitching a good game against the Twins in the ALDS. Pettite has given the Rangers fits in the past and he has a sterling post-season record. Still, two good starts and two bad starts since coming off the DL makes him a wild card. Plus, he’s the one who has to contend with Cliff Lee in the ALCS.
To be sure, CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis HAVE to perform well for the Rangers to have a chance. Like Pettite for the Yankees, I’m not 100% sure either pitcher can do it twice in this series. And the Game 4 match-up? I think both Rangers fans and Yankees fans have absolutely no idea who comes out on top in a Hunter-Burnett match-up. From what I can gather, fans on both sides are expecting their guy to LOSE this one!
Bullpens are pretty equal as well. You have to give the Yankees the closer edge with Rivera against the Rangers rookie Feliz, even though Texas has had success against Rivera in the regular season. I think the Rangers have more quality set-up guys than the Yankees, so that puts the bullpens as a wash.
Overall, that spells a pretty even series to me. The keys for the Rangers are Josh Hamilton starting to hit again and the Rangers as a team not letting the Yankees get into their heads. If they stay level-headed and Hambone gets his timing back, they can win this thing and go to the Ultimate Show.
The Prediction: The history of this ballclub says to me (unfortunately) if this is just a 4 or 5 game series, that probably means the Yankees have won. Six or seven games tells me Josh is back on his offensive game and the Rangers will be on top in the end.
In 1996, Texas made the playoffs for the first time in their history. They won the season series from the Yankees, 7-5. They lost to the Yanks in the ALDS in four games.
Despite winning four of their last five against the Yankees (the last three without Josh Hamilton), regular season success does not necessarily mean post-season success.
Time to prove it can!
When I first beame a Rangers/Senators fan, the Yankees were in the same boat as the Senators. Hard to believe it, but back then the Yankees sucked. I think Ralph Houk was the manager back then.
That was then, this is now and the Yankees are now the “Evil Empire”. If there’s ever a good time to face the Yankees, early in the season is it. Mark Texeira is a notoriously slow starter so now’s as good a time as any to face him.
I think the Rangers can run on the Yankees. I’ve only caught a few snippets of Yankees games here and there, but it sounds like Jorge Posada is at the age where he’s not the same catcher he used to be. As long as we can get on base, we can try to exploit that vulnerability.
Don’t like what we’ve done much against southpaws so far and we’ve got one of the best tonight in CC Sabathia, countering with another lefty, CJ Wilson. Hopefully CJ’s stamina is good tonight after suffering through food poisoning in Cleveland. Sabathia is like Texeira. I’d rather face him earlier in the year than later. He’s off to a better start this year than 2009, but I still think he’s more vulnerable in April.
Big series for a team with big dreams. Time to start realizing them tonight.