Texas has Detroit outmanned in quest for World Series
Courtesy of Doug Fister, the Detroit Tigers survived their must-win game last night in Detroit. Now down, two games to one, the Tigers must find a way to win three more games with a makeshift lineup and getting just two more starts combined from Fister and ace Justin Verlander. So, where will the third win come from?
For the Rangers, the formula seems fairly simple: Win Games 4 and 6, which means avoiding seeing Fister again in Game 7.
Yet Texas hasn’t exactly set the baseball world ablaze with starting pitchers this series either. And now manager Ron Washington will ask Matt Harrison to keep the Tigers at bay tonight in a matchup of No. 4 starters. Both Harrison and Detroit start Rick Porcello were 14-9 during the regular season.
However, the real story for the remainder of this series will be the health of the Tigers and just how much of the load Miguel Cabrera can carry. Delmon Young, who injured his rib cage earlier in the playoffs, was taken off the roster for the ALCS. After Magglio Ordoñez suffered a fractured ankle, Young was placed back on the roster. That’s how few options the Tigers have for outfielders, especially those who hit from the right side, which is a nice commodity to have with the Rangers starting three lefthanders in this series.
Last night, the situation worsened with the oblique injury to DH Victor Martinez. The slugger hurt himself on a home run. He labored around the bases and appears to have trouble swinging from the left side, presumably the right side as well. That we will find out today.
The bottom line is that the Tigers pitchers — other than Fister and Verlander — cannot silence the Texas bats. So it may not matter how thin the Detroit lineup is in games they don’t pitch. What will be critical is that the Tigers find a way to score runs in games that Fister and Verlander pitch, assuming the Tigers can even get to a seventh game.
This doesn’t look good for Detroit. Expect the Rangers to wrap this series up sooner rather than later.
Three teams face elimination on day MLB dreamed of 20 years ago
by Charlie Miller
Today is a day that Major League Baseball had in mind when it expanded the playoffs for what was to be 1994, but due to the strike, actually began in 1995. Four playoff games, three of which could be elimination games. All in one day.
It will be tough to match last Wednesday night for a four-game set that ranked as the best ever, but with three teams’ seasons on the line, today is must-see baseball.
Beginning today at 2:00 ET, Tampa Bay will attempt to stave off elimination at home against Texas. Then at 5:00 St. Louis hosts Philadelphia in the only non-do-or-die affair. At 7:30 the Yankees will be in Detroit trying to extend their season another few days and force a Game 5 back in New York. Milwaukee and Arizona begin at 8:30, but I suspect most of the nation will catch only the last few innings after the Yankees-Tigers tussle. The Diamondbacks will try desperately to avoid the embarrassment of being swept at the hands of the Brewers.
Texas at Tampa Bay
Two veterans (using the term relatively) couldn’t get the job done on the mound for the Rays, so once again manager Joe Maddon will have a rookie on the hill in an effort to shut down the Rangers. In Game 1, Matt Moore, making his second-ever big-league start, held the Rangers scoreless through seven innings to jumpstart the series for Tampa Bay. James Shields, author of 11 complete games this season, was knocked out in the sixth and was charged with seven runs in the Texas beatdown. David Price made one mistake too many last night and gave up a timely home run to Mike Napoli in the Rangers’ 4-3 win. Now Jeremy Hellickson, with no previous postseason experience, will start the Rays’ elimination game at home.
If the Rangers are to close out this series and continue to advance, it will be their bullpen that will carry them. The acquisition of Koji Uehara, Mike Gonzalez and Mike Adams during the season has allowed manager Ron Washington the flexibility to not only shorten games in front of superb closer Neftali Feliz, but also play matchups as well. With Alexi Ogando, who was in the rotation all season, and veteran lefty Darren Oliver, the Texas starters have no pressure to pitch deep into games, allowing them to leave it all on the mound for just a couple of times through the order.
Ogando pitched a scoreless frame in Game 2 and got out of a bases loaded, one out jam in Game 3. Oliver bailed out Uehara in Game 2, then needed a little help from Ogando the next night. Adams pitched a clean inning in Game 2, left a mess in Game 3 before Gonzalez struck out Johnny Damon then gave way to Feliz to save. The point is that this deep bullpen gives Washington lots of options.
The Rays were second to the Tigers in the American League in one-run games, and the Rangers didn’t fare well over the course of the season. But once the bullpen stabilized, Texas became much better, going 11-7 in one- and two-run games since Aug. 4.
For the Rays to move on to the ALCS, they’ll need to win a couple of blowouts like they did in Game 1.