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 World Series, we'll do things a bit differently to increase the focus on each set of games.
The Series So Far: If you haven't been watching, it has been your loss. The Cardinals and Rangers have treated us to the best World Series in a long time, with Monday's weird, compelling Game 5 earning a spot for itself in the upper echelon of individual games. The sheer diversity of outcomes that we've seen so far makes it very hard to guess what might be coming next, which is both fun and unsettling for Rangers fans who have never been this close to the ultimate celebration.
Pitching Matchups: Game 6 - Colby Lewis (14-10, 4.40 ERA in regular season; 1-1, 2.95 in playoffs) vs. Jaime Garcia (13-7, 3.56; 0-2, 3.97); Game Seven (if necessary) - Matt Harrison (14-9, 3.39; 1-1, 5.02) vs. TBA. Tony La Russa hasn't confirmed Kyle Lohse will return for a second start. He could go with Edwin Jackson on short rest, Jake Westbrook on super-extended rest or someone else entirely. Either way, it will be all hands on deck for both teams if we get to Game 7.
What's Hot: In this intentional walk happy series, it is a wonder that Mike Napoli and Albert Pujols have even seen a pitch to hit. We're glad that they have, though, because seeing them crush pitches has been one of the great thrills of this series. That Napoli has done this in front of a huge audience after his breakout season is all the better because he deserves the recognition.
The Rangers couldn't ask for a better pitcher to start Game 6 than Lewis. Yes, he's had his ups and downs this season but he's consistently answered the bell in the postseason and he's done his best work on the road all season. We don't expect Lewis and Garcia to offer a reprise of their Game 2 gems, but it isn't too much to ask for a close facsimile.
We mentioned it up top, but what a series this has been. It's hard to even think about which memory will be the one that lingers the longest. Napoli's double on Monday night? Derek Holland's shutout? Adrian Beltre homering off his knee? Pujols joining the Babe and Mr. October as the only men to hit three homers in a World Series game? And it's a safe bet we'll have at least one more contender coming our way.
What's Not: Rain is in the forecast for Wednesday night and the last thing anyone should want to see is a rainout. There's no reason to think it would give either team a notable advantage, although it would put C.J. Wilson and Chris Carpenter into the mix to start a Game 7 on short rest. After seven months of buildup, we don't need to kill any more time before the grand finale.
The unusual twists and turns of Game 5 turned the total spotlight of this series onto La Russa. We told you back before this even started that the managers were going to get an oversized amount of credit or blame for what went down and it is sad to see it come to fruition. Celebrate Napoli, Pujols, Holland and the other guys on the field because they are the ones who decide whether the managers are heroes or goats.
Injuries have clearly limited Josh Hamilton and Matt Holliday throughout this series and that's a shame because they are two of the players we'd most like to see strut the full extent of their stuff on the big stage. Watching Hamilton right now is painful, because you respect the toughness he's showing by going out there as much as you know that he's probably hurting the team. It would be nice to see one of these guys get the big moment they deserve, but one doesn't seem to be coming.
The X-Factor: Moments seem to have a way of finding Yadier Molina. His home run in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS sent the Cards to their last title and he hit three infield singles in Game 5 despite being slow for a catcher. He's a great defensive catcher with a knack of finding a way to make big plays with his bat and it wouldn't be surprising to see him come up with another one before all is said and done.