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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: So much for the good old days when starting pitchers lasted three innings and posted ERAs that made you sick to your stomach. Through two games, we've gotten three great starts and one so-so outing from the four starting pitchers, but the reason we stand at 1-1 is still because of the bullpens. Alexi Ogando can't get Allan Craig out, which meant the home team had two leads to protect in the late innings. The Cardinals pen did its job in Game One, but they spit the bit in the ninth inning of Game Two with a lot of assistance to some aggressive baserunning by the Rangers. Two close, exciting games that came down to the final at-bat is about all you could ask for from a World Series. Let's hope things remain the same.
Pitching Matchups: Game Three - Kyle Lohse (14-8, 3.39 ERA in regular season, 0-2, 7.45 in playoffs) vs. Matt Harrison (14-9, 3.39; 1-0, 4.22); Game Four - Edwin Jackson (12-9, 3.79; 1-0, 5.84) vs. Derek Holland (16-5, 3.95; 1-0, 5.27); Game Five - Chris Carpenter (11-9, 3.45; 3-0, 3.52) vs. C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.94; 0-3, 7.17)
What's Hot: The return of good starting pitching has been a pretty welcome development. The rest of the postseason was interesting, but it felt more like July than October thanks to all the substandard outings we were forced to watch on the mound. But Chris Carpenter, Jaime Gacia and Colby Lewis brought things back in a major way over the last two nights so let's hope it continues down in Texas.
There's a very fine line between confident and stupid and Yadier Molina's throw to second base in the top of the ninth inning in Game Two pretty much represented it. If it was any quicker, Kinsler is out and we're lambasting Ron Washington this morning for trying such a risky play. Kinsler was safe, though, and his running forced a misplay by Albert Pujols on Elvis Andrus' single, leading to the two runs that tied the series. Kinsler's had a hot start to the series, a good sign for a streaky player whose production usually mirrors the Rangers' results.
Let's forget about the existence of Michael Young for a second and tip our collective caps to the Rangers defense. Kinsler and Andrus are so smooth in the middle of the infield that it was a shock to see Kinsler pick up an error in Game Two. Naturally, the baserunner was wiped out on a slick double play one batter later as if the baseball gods simply wanted to make sure that we saw something beautiful.
What's Not: Let's hope that the first two nights of this series put an end to any discussion about some crazy wide gap between the managers. Ron Washington has made some questionable calls, most notably losing David Murphy without actually getting him into the game in Game Two, but Tony La Russa's handling of the ninth in the Cardinals loss was as bad as anything we've seen. We all know Josh Hamilton loves hitting fastballs, but anyone who watched the first two games could tell he's physically unable to do much of anything with them at this point. Arthur Rhodes' slider was exactly what he needed to get a bat on the ball and then La Russa left himself with Lance Lynn against Michael Young in a tie game. Everyone would call him a genius if it worked, we're waiting to hear that he's an idiot since it didn't.
Ogando is clearly a talented pitcher, but you have to wonder about his approach in the two at-bats against Craig. Craig is clearly overmatched by fastballs up, but both nights have seen him get hits when Ogando throws the ball down in the zone. Whether it is Ogando missing spots, Mike Napoli calling the wrong pitches or something else, there's no acceptable excuse for getting beaten the same exact way two nights in a row.
Is it possible Pujols was distracted by the fact that he might not play in St. Louis as a member of the Cardinals again? It seemed like a totally fabricated storyline, not because it can't happen but because it seems like a stretch that Pujols would be thinking about at this point in time. After watching him go 0-for-6 and butcher the throw that allowed Andrus to get to second on Thursday night, though, we're wondering just where his head was in the first two games.
The X-Factor: Hamilton looked terrible in his first seven at-bats of the World Series before coming through with the sac fly that tied Game Two. And that wasn't some booming shot to the track, just a ball deep enough to score Kinsler from third base. There have been whispers about making a change to the lineup because Hamilton clearly isn't 100 percent physically, but that's not going to happen because, even wounded, Hamilton is better than Endy Chavez. If he can't figure out some way to put together decent at-bats, though, the Rangers offense is going to have a hard time sustaining or creating rallies.