Oct 18, 2011, 9:22 AM EDT
Boston beats Philly in six games. Mark it down.
Oh, wait. The accepted narrative was upset weeks ago. None of the 45 ESPN experts — and to be honest, none of us here — picked the Rangers to face the Cardinals back in the spring. It made some amount of sense to pick against the Cards given Adam Wainwright‘s injury. We probably all need to think hard about why we picked against the defending AL Champions. I suppose it was because we all thought Cliff Lee was God and that without him Texas was toast. Or maybe we should just fall back on the old “you can’t predict baseball” thing and call it a day, hmmm?
But even if we can’t predict baseball, we can at least lay out the parameters. So let’s take a look at what the Rangers and the Cardinals have in store for us during the World Series.
Texas Rangers vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Game 1 Wednesday in St. Louis: C.J. Wilson vs. Chris Carpenter
Game 2 Thursday in St. Louis: Colby Lewis vs. Jaime Garcia
Game 3 Saturday in Texas: Edwin Jackson vs. Derek Holland
Game 4 Sunday in Texas: Kyle Lohse vs. Matt Harrison
Game 5 (if necessary) Monday in Texas: TBA vs. TBA
Game 6 (if necessary) next Wednesday in St. Louis: TBA vs. TBA
Game 7 (if necessary) next Thursday in St. Louis: TBA vs. TBA
That’s all sort of up in the air, of course. At least beyond Game 1. And if we’ve learned anything in the playoffs so far it’s that the starting pitching with these guys is anyone’s guess, both in terms of who will be doing it what we can expect from them. Both the Rangers (6.59 ERA) and Cardinals (7.03 ERA) starters were awful, and both managers had quick hooks and relied more heavily on their bullpens than any successful playoff teams I can recall. So it would seem that if someone — anyone — can actually come through and pitch a solid seven inning game for once, their team would have a distinct advantage.
Another thing we know: the Rangers are lefty-heavy and the Cardinals hit pretty well against lefties. That could be the difference maker. Or we could simply have six or seven games in which the pens pitch 80% of the innings. Which would be all kinds of ugly fun.
We’ll get new ones every day, of course, but you know all the players by now: Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre, Josh Hamilton and their friends lead the Rangers attack. The Cardinals are led by Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman David Freese, Jon Jay and Rafael Furcal. Each team is capable of knocking the cover clean off the ball. Each team has a guy who, when he’s on, makes opposing pitchers reach for a clean pair of BVDs. There aren’t a ton of holes in either lineup, and even the Nick Puntos of the world are capable of an annoying hit in a key situation, it seems. The upshot: it doesn’t look like either team is capable of simply going to sleep on offense en masse, because there are just too many good hitters here.
This is where the magic happens. Both Tony La Russa and Ron Washington has gotten outstanding bullpen work this postseason. I mean, neither manager got a single quality start out of their rotation, and that’s just nutso. But while each has been fantastic, if I had to bet on one of these pens continuing to be fantastic going forward, it’s the Rangers’ pen.
La Russa has been a wizard, mixing and matching guys, gambling and winning with almost every call to the pen. But Washington — while also being quite savvy with his bullpen use — simply has more horses he can call on. In the middle of a game in which a starter creates a hot mess, La Russa can go to Marc Rzepczynski for a situational matchup or Octavio Dotel, which is great as long as they keep forgetting that they’re Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel and shouldn’t be as effective as they’ve been. Washington, in contrast, has Alexi Ogando for those middle innings. The same Alexi Ogando who was a starter on the All-Star team this year and deserved it. At the back end it’s the same story. Jason Motte has been fantastic, but if you had to bet your life on someone saving the next 100 games, would you bet on Motte or Neftali Feliz?
The Cards’ bullpen has been great and anything can happen in a short series. There is nothing at all which demands that the Cards’ pen turn into pumpkins or that the Rangers pen play up to its superior potential over the course of the next week. But if you have to grab onto something, don’t you grab on to the superior talents? If so, I think you have to go with Texas.
- The TV narrative is probably going to be all about Tony La Russa. Which I understand. But let’s not fall into the “La Russa is a genius and Ron Washington is overmatched” pattern here. La Russa has been on a good run lately, but as everyone knows, sometimes he’s too smart by half and things backfire. It’s high-risk, high-reward stuff that usually breaks his way, but not always. Meanwhile Washington — who has always been a great clubhouse guy who gets the best out of his players — has improved a good deal in the tactical department compared to where he was last postseason. Barring some absolutely historic brain lock, it seems silly to say that a series with two teams as talented as these two will be decided by some wily bit of managerial brilliance.
- Someone — probably several someones — will write the “no one cares about this World Series matchup” column in the next 48 hours. Please feel free to ignore them. In any other sport the unexpected championship matchup would be heralded as awesome. In baseball for some reason everyone without a stake yawns when the Big Boys of the East Coast are out of it. And of course if they were in it everyone would complain about baseball not being fair to the have-nots. And all of that is before you realize that neither the Cards nor the Rangers can be described as “have-nots.” Each team has a healthy payroll, great attendance, good marketing and local television deals and, in the Cardinals case, a nearly unparalleled historic tradition.
- If the pattern of poor starting pitching and heavy bullpen use holds, these are gonna be loooong games.
- We rarely talk about defense with these two teams, what with all of the bashing they’ve been doing. Each team has several good defensive players but the Rangers are the overall better defensive team in my view and in the view of some advanced defensive metrics I don’t really understand too well. Upshot: unlike the case with the Brewers or the Tigers, it’s not a great bet that a game will really turn on a defensive blunder. Unless, of course, it does. (see above verbiage about being unable to predict baseball).
This is a great matchup, and let no one tell you differently. Similar strengths, similar weaknesses. All kinds of moving parts due to some players who can play multiple positions, the DH and the likelihood that the bullpens are going to play a major role. Anyone who says that there is some obvious favorite here is smokin’ banana peels. That said, in a close matchup, I think the Rangers have slight advantages in terms of bullpen talent and depth and offensive firepower.
RANGERS WIN THE SERIES 4-3
May 22, 2013, 10:01 PM EDT
Josh Rutledge showed signs of promise in 2012 when he hit eight home runs, stole seven bases and registered a .775 OPS in 73 games as a 23-year-old. But the middle infielder has failed to meet the hype so far in 2013 and was officially optioned Wednesday evening to Triple-A Colorado Springs according to beat…
May 22, 2013, 9:13 PM EDT
The Cardinals learned today that Jaime Garcia needs what will likely be season-ending shoulder surgery. And now another starter is in trouble. According to MLB.com beat writer Jenifer Langosch, sinkerballer Jake Westbrook was unable to make it beyond 20 pitches in a bullpen session this evening because of lingering discomfort in his right elbow. He…
May 22, 2013, 8:27 PM EDT
Indians first baseman Nick Swisher was placed on the paternity leave list Tuesday following the birth of his daughter. After getting a few days to spend with his family’s newest addition, he will return to the Tribe’s starting lineup on Friday night in Boston. This according to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. Swisher, 32, is batting…
May 22, 2013, 7:34 PM EDT
David Freese suffered a gash on his right thumb Sunday when he lunged to tag Norichika Aoki on the left leg during a rundown along the third base line. It was only a minor cut, but he got stitches after the game and has not made an appearance since. Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that Freese is…
May 22, 2013, 6:40 PM EDT
Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that Orioles infield prospect Jonathan Schoop has been diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back and is likely to need 6-8 weeks of rest. He will meet with another doctor this week for a second opinion, but the initial diagnosis probably won’t change. Schoop is hitting .268/.331/.386 with three…
May 22, 2013, 5:32 PM EDT
Jered Weaver threw 5.2 innings of one-run ball in an extended spring training game today, potentially setting him up to come off the disabled list and rejoin the Angels’ rotation next week. Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times reports that Weaver threw 75 pitches, 62 for strikes, and struck out nine versus zero walks.…
May 22, 2013, 5:02 PM EDT
Superman has kryptonite. Matt Harvey has Zack Cozart. Despite being a nearly unhittable pitcher this year, the Reds’ Cozart got four hits off Harvey today en route to a 4 for 5, two-double performance. Overall Harvey had his worst outing of the season, allowing four runs on nine hits in six and a third. One…
May 22, 2013, 4:31 PM EDT
Kinda feels like a lot of Rays farmhands get suspended for drugs: The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced today that Tampa Bay Rays Minor League right-handed pitcher Angel Yepez has received a 50-game suspension without pay after testing positive for metabolites of Nandrolone, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug…
May 22, 2013, 4:16 PM EDT
UPDATE: Las Vegas police issued the following statement: The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is currently investigating a Sexual Assault case. Jose Conseco [sic] has been named as the suspect in this investigation. At this time no charges have been filed and our investigation remains ongoing. Per department policy neither victim information or investigation details…
May 22, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT
Even though they met in the World Series nearly 22 years ago, the Twins-Braves series still stirs up some emotions in partisans of each team. Mostly Braves fans, to be honest, as we are bitter and angry and all of that stuff even more than two decades later. Freakin’ Kent Hrbek. Freakin’ Kirby Puckett. Freakin’…
May 22, 2013, 3:45 PM EDT
It’s not often that you see an Opening Day starter sent to the minors, let alone demoted less than two months into the season, but that’s exactly what the Twins just did with Vance Worley. Worley got knocked around for eight runs in 3.2 innings against the Braves today, falling to 1-5 with a 7.21…
May 22, 2013, 3:00 PM EDT
Adam Eaton was diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in March and was playing in rehab games. Then this: #Dbacks OF Adam Eaton has returned to Phx to see doc after having soreness in elbow. — Steve Gilbert (@SteveGilbertMLB) May 22, 2013 Eaton hit .259/.382/.412 in his cup of coffee last year and was…
May 22, 2013, 2:44 PM EDT
Remember how Rafael Soriano called out Bryce Harper for blowing last night’s game by missing a catch in right field? Not surprisingly the Nationals closer took it all back today, telling James Wagner of the Washington Post that the comments came during what he thought was an off-the-record conversation with a reporter. Here’s more from…
May 22, 2013, 2:30 PM EDT
We’re talking phenoms on HBT Daily today.
May 22, 2013, 2:00 PM EDT
Jeremy Affeldt was interviewed about his new book. Which, it seems, reveals the deeply Christian Affeldt to have experienced a transformation on the matter of homosexuality: When Jeremy Affeldt came to the Bay Area as an opposing player, he refused to leave his hotel room aside from going to and from the ballpark. He was…
May 22, 2013, 1:48 PM EDT
Chase Utley was scratched from last night’s game with pain in his right side and Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports that the Phillies second baseman is getting an MRI exam. Utley complained of a burning sensation in his rib cage and Salisbury speculates that it might be an oblique strain, which would almost certainly require…
May 22, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT
I’m usually the last guy to call for a manager’s head, but I’m sorry, when you call out your own team’s toughness and your boss’ construction of the roster, you’re not long for your job. Here’s Bill Plunkett of the OC Register, quoting Mattingly today about what ails the Dodgers: Don Mattingly pregame seemed to…
May 22, 2013, 12:46 PM EDT
When the Cardinals placed left-hander Jaime Garcia on the disabled list last week they feared that he’d need shoulder surgery and sure enough Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that he’ll go under the knife. Garcia has a long history of arm problems and the possibility of shoulder surgery has been looming since last year, when…
May 22, 2013, 12:30 PM EDT
He didn’t actually use those words, but I kinda wish he did because I have a lot of fun with the “robot umps now” thing on Twitter. But Brenly does tell Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that he thinks the game is too fast, the technology is too good and the calls are too…
May 22, 2013, 11:51 AM EDT
Kyle Lohse has been scratched from his next scheduled start with what the Brewers are calling elbow irritation. Adam McCalvy of MLB.com reports that Mike Fiers will fill in for Lohse against the Pirates on Saturday. Lohse has an ugly 1-5 record since signing a three-year, $33 million deal with the Brewers late in spring…
- Jake Westbrook feeling lingering discomfort in right elbow 2
- Las Vegas police investigating Jose Canseco as a suspect in sexual assault case 56
- Rafael Soriano took back all that stuff he said about Bryce Harper 12
- Don Mattingly may be uttering his last words as Dodgers manager 48
- Jaime Garcia needs shoulder surgery 9
- MLB is putting players in camouflage uniforms on Memorial Day. Which is kinda weird. (117)
- Barry Bonds: Miguel Cabrera is the best … but not as good as me (110)
- And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights (81)
- Albert Pujols doesn’t matter anymore (74)
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights (70)
- Live Extra: Watch Penguins-Senators, Game 4
- LIVE: Heat host Pacers in Game 1 of East finals
- Tiger calls Sergio's comments inappropriate, hurtful
- Bears great Urlacher announces retirement
- HBT: Canseco suspect in Vegas sexual assault
- Posnanski on Golf: Sergio shows disdain for Tiger
- OlyTalk: Coach K will lead Team USA in Rio Games