Mike Napoli and Neftali Feliz celebrate winning.
The Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals are as unfamiliar as two baseball teams can possibly be with each other. They've played three times. Ever.
But the teams are essentially mirror images of each other. Great lineups, once-a-generation players, good, not great starting pitching, very solid bullpens, etc., etc.
The Cardinals have been called the team of destiny. They were down 10 games in the Wild Card race with a month to play, but their solid play coupled by an epic collapse by the Atlanta Braves, rivaled only by the Red Sox collapse in the AL Wild Card race, put the Cardinals in the playoffs after Game 162.
That same thing went for the Tampa Bay Rays. And when the Rays beat the Rangers in Game 1 of the ALDS, the talk of "destiny" was widely used. Then the Rangers won the next three to beat the Rays in four games because they were the better team.
The same goes for this series, but don't expect a walk in the park for the Rangers, by any means.
Like Rangers president/owner Nolan Ryan said, the Rangers will win this thing in six games. Here's how:
Game 1 — Chris Carpenter, inflammed elbow and all, will out-pitch C.J. Wilson in a low-scoring game in which both pitchers shine, and the Cardinals win the opener in their home park.
Game 2 — Colby Lewis gets back to his postseason awesomeness and improves to 5-1 all-time in the postseason as Jaime Garcia struggles for the Cards. Michael Young and Nelson Cruz are the offensive stars, and NC-17 goes deep yet again.
Game 3 — Derek Holland will get the ball once again in favor of Matt Harrison back in Arlington and will build on his better-than-Game 2 performance in Game 6 of the ALCS. Holland's command was better in that game, but he got bit by the long ball by not trusting his fastball. That will change. He'll go 5 or 6 innings before Alexi Ogando/Scott Feldman finishes the game off in a non-save situation. Rangers win to take 2-1 series lead.
Game 4 — In a run-fest, Albert Pujols will show Rangers fans what the best player in this generation looks like. Seriously, folks, get out to a game if at all possible, it might be the only time you ever get to see Pujols in person, unless of course, he ends up in Arlington next season. Cardinals win to even series.
Game 5 — Once again, C.J. Wilson and Chris Carpenter take the hill. This time, Carpenter struggles as the Rangers jump on him early. Cruz goes yard again and Ian Kinsler drives in a few runs. Wilson goes into the seventh inning before handing the ball over to Mike Adams, and then Neftali Feliz. Rangers go up 3-2 and head back to the Lou.
Game 6 — Once again, Colby Lewis takes the mound against Jaime Garcia. Lewis entrenches himself in Rangers lore forever when he goes out and pitches like the bulldog he is. He goes 8 innings, gives up five hits and one run. The Rangers put up three runs. Feliz comes in for a perfect ninth, striking out the last batter before he and Mike Napoli embrace and Rangers fans go crazy.