On Deck will be here all season to provide you with everything you need to know (and a few things you don't) about every Rangers series during the 2011 season. On Deck will be here all season to provide you with everything you need to know (and a few things you don't) about every Rangers series during the 2011 season. For the ALCS, we'll do things a bit differently to increase the focus on each set of games.
The Series So Far: We're headed back to Texas because the Tigers bats came to life all at once in the sixth inning and because Justin Verlander was able to last long enough for Detroit's lack of a bullpen to be a non-factor. That means they took two out of three in Detroit, about par for the course for Rangers visits in recent years and cause for some Rangers fans to panic. They shouldn't. The Rangers still have the advantage and now they've got home field back on their side as they try to close things out.
Pitching Matchups: Game Six - Max Scherzer (15-9, 4.43 ERA in regular season, 1-0, 2.70 in playoffs) vs. Derek Holland (16-5, 3.95; 1-0, 4.00); Game Seven (if necessary) - Doug Fister (11-13, 2.83; 2-1, 4.76) vs. Colby Lewis (14-10, 4.40; 1-1, 3.86)
What's Hot: Nelson Cruz.
What, you're looking for more than that? Okay, it's a bit of a copout just to drop two words and act like it covers everything. Cruz is as hot as any player has ever been in a postseason series and if there's any benefit to the Rangers getting pushed to more games it is that we get to watch more of Cruz.
The Tigers' medical staff deserves some kudos for the Game Five win. Alex Avila, who seems like he can barely move, hit a home run and Delmon Young, who wasn't even supposed to play this series with an oblique injury, hit two of them. Victor Martinez, who moves like a man who has to be experiencing great pain, hit a triple. All tough players, to be sure, but whatever help they're getting from the trainers should be recognized.
Josh Hamilton is playing through injuries as well and he's also doing a commendable job of it. He's rediscovered his stroke after a slow start to the postseason and he's doing a fine job of providing Cruz with a running mate in the middle of the lineup.
What's Not: C.J. Wilson has done nearly as much damage to himself as he's done to the Rangers in the postseason. Wilson is going to find it hard to convince teams that he's the ace of aces that they want to add to their rotation at a hefty cost after getting shelled again in Game Five. That's three mediocre or worse starts for Wilson in the postseason, a sobering way to end a season of so much growth.
One day down the road, let's hope Ron Washington writes an autobiography -- titled, obviously, That's the Way Baseball Went -- so that he can explain fully his take on facing Miguel Cabrera this season. Wash's decision to always pitch to Cabrera in spots where he can hurt the Rangers while walking him with no one on base remains one of the more baffling approaches to the game we've seen from a guy who has no shortage of baffling approaches to the game.
For those watching the game on TV, has there ever been anything worse than going from Terry Francona in Games One and Two to going back to Tim McCarver for the games in Detroit? The only analogy we could come up with is living life under a cruel dictator for 20 years, overthrowing him for a taste of the good life and then waking up one morning to find that the powers that be decided to reinstate the dictator. We know life can be better, FOX, so why must you continue to act like we haven't seen the light. Free Francona! Free Francona! Free Francona!
The X-Factor: Derek Holland's year has been one of thrilling highs and depressing lows. The Rangers need the high on Saturday night. Their starting pitching has been uniformly poor in this series and that's the biggest reason why we're back in Texas with the season on the line. If Holland can't break that spell, the Rangers are looking at their season coming down to Colby Lewis in a stadium ill-suited to his homer surrendering ways. Holland has to do everything he can to stop that from happening or the Tigers will have the advantage going into a win-or-die Game Seven.