Tag:ALCS
Posted on: October 17, 2011 11:17 am
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Alex Avila reveals sprained knee in July

By Evan Brunell

Alex Avila, who broke out as one of the best catchers in the game this season, revealed that he sprained his left knee in July.

"I have tendinitis," he told the Detroit Free-Press. "I don't think I have any ligament damage."

The Avila4-year-old's right leg also gave Avila trouble, as it buckled under the pressure of compensating for the left knee. After hitting .295/.389/.506 for the season, he slumped in October and collected just two hits in 25 at-bats, driving in one run. Avila's struggles were a major reason the Tigers lost in the ALCS, especially as he wasn't able to lengthen the lineup in the absence of Magglio Ordonez.

"He never once complained," starter Justin Verlander said.

Avila had a MRI on Sunday, but the results haven't come back yet. The diagnosis of tendinitis is expected to be confirmed. At that point, he will rest for a month, then begin a workout routine to get ready for spring training.

"I will be as good as new," he said.

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Posted on: October 16, 2011 1:11 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 1:25 am
 

In elimination game, Max Scherzer comes up short

Scherzer

By Evan Brunell


ARLINGTON, Texas -- "It's a tough pill to swallow," said Max Scherzer on the Tigers' Game 6 loss in the ALCS to the Rangers, ending Detroit's season.

Scherzer was perhaps most responsible for the Tigers losing, coughing up six runs in just 2 1/3 innings, walking four and punching out just one. Scherzer was erratic from the get-go, and it all caught up to him in a third inning from hell, when he recorded just one out, allowing three runs to cross the plate, plus an additional three charged to him after exiting the game, as Daniel Schlereth and Rick Porcello couldn't stop the bleeding.

"You want to come up huge for your team and be in this type of situation with the World Series on the line," Scherzer said, no doubt flashing back to his days as a child imagining this very situation. "To not pitch to your ability ... when that happens, that's a tough pill to swallow. ... You always want to be the guy to step up and help the team win."

ALCS Coverage
Scherzer, who was clearly hurting from the loss, recorded the third-shortest start of his career over 103 games across the regular season and postseason. His other two shortest stints actually came this year, going just two innings on May 26 against the Red Sox and July 2 against the Giants. However, that was a long time ago. Following the All-Star break, the light came on for Scherzer, posting a fielding-independent ERA in the low 3.00s and checking in with a sterling 4.33 K/BB. For comparison, across the entire year, only eight pitchers bested that mark -- and Justin Verlander was at 4.39. Given his success as of late, it's easy to see why Scherzer said he beat himself on Saturday, with three of his four walks coming in the third and all coming around to score.

"Anytime you start walking that many batters, it's bound to catch up to you," Scherzer said. "That's something I've done a pretty good job of this year, is minimizing the damage. For that to happen at this stage, at this moment, is extremely frustrating for me."

It's not as if Scherzer had struggled earlier in October, either. The right-hander defeated the Yankees in Game 2 of the ALDS, pitched 1 1/3 innings of perfect relief in Game 5, then held the Rangers to three runs in six innings in Game 2 before Nelson Cruz destroyed the Tigers with a walkoff grand slam. All told, going into Game 6, Scherzer's postseason debut saw him post a 2.70 ERA in 13 1/3 innings, walking five and striking out 13. Well, now those numbers are going to be pretty bad.

"He was out of whack for the most part all the way," manager Jim Leyland said. "His control was not good from the get-go, really. And he had a tough time. And we just couldn't stop the bleeding."

One of the most pivotal parts of Game 6 came in the third, when Scherzer thought he had Nelson Cruz struck out on a 2-2 pitch. The first-base umpire disagreed, causing Leyland to howl with rage and Fox announcers to openly question the call. While it's debatable that Cruz did offer, Leyland didn't pull any punches when asked his opinion after the game.

"I do and still will always question the check swing on Cruz," he said. "I thought that was definitely a strike. I thought he definitely swung.'

Cruz would go on to walk, and Scherzer would issue one final walk before being pulled from the game. If Cruz strikes out, the inning may have unfolded a very different way. Recreating the inning around Cruz's whiff projects a score of 6-2 after the inning instead of 9-2. Factor in Detroit scoring two runs in the top of the fifth, and suddenly it's a 6-4 game and anyone's ballgame.

"I thought he went," Scherzer admitted, noting he hasn't seen the replay. "At the end of the day, it still came down to how I managed the rest of the inning and I didn't do a good job of keeping them off the bases. I made more mistakes than just that one."

He made a ton of mistakes, and for that, Detroit is going home earlier than it wanted to.

"It's hard right now," Scherzer admitted, struggling with being able to look ahead to next season. The Tigers will return much of the team, and while Scherzer notes that "we have a pretty darn good team," he just can't think ahead.

"This isn't a good moment. I know life goes on, but ... it's just ... it's tough."

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Posted on: October 16, 2011 12:18 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 3:11 am
 

Nelson Cruz rides dominating ALCS to MVP award

Cruz

By Evan Brunell



ALCS Coverage
ARLINGTON, Texas -- What cliche should I attach to Nelson Cruz's exploits?

Whoa, Nellie?

Cruz control?

Either works, really, because Cruz's exploits were not only deserving of a "Whoa!," but also seemed to come with ease to the 31-year-old. It's no surprise that he was named the MVP of the series after hitting .364/.440/1.273 in 22 at-bats. Let's take a look ...

  • Cruz's six homers and 13 RBI in the ALCS set a record. All told, Cruz has hit 12 homers in the postseason over the last two seasons, which is already tied for 14th in MLB history. His 8.08 ratio for homers per at-bat (12 HR, 97 AB) is second all-time behind Carlos Beltran's 7.45. Cruz is the first player in MLB history to have at least six homers in two separate postseasons.
  • Cruz is just the fifth player in LCS history to hit at least five homers in a single series, joining Reggie Jackson (1977 World Series), Ken Griffey, Jr. (1995 ALCS), Juan Gonzalez (1996 ALDS) and Chase Utley (2009 World Series).
  • Elias Sports Bureau reports that Cruz's 12 homers over the last two postseasons are the most anyone has hit in consecutive postseasons, snapping Jim Thome's mark set from 1998-99, when Thome had 10. Cruz is also the first player to hit each of his teams' first five homers in any postseason series. The only other man to hit his team's first four homers was Babe Ruth in the 1926 World Series; some rarefied company.
  • Cruz is the first player in postseason history to hit two extra-inning homers in the same series. One of them was a walkoff grand slam, also a postseason first. Those two extra-inning homers also match the record in the entire postseason, with three other players accomplishing the feat. That would be Javy Lopez (1995, 1996), Bernie Williams (1996, 1999) and David Ortiz (2004 ALDS and ALCS).
  • And of course, Cruz threw out Miguel Cabrera at home plate in the bottom eighth of Game 4 to preserve a tie before hitting a three-run blast in the 11th to seal the game for Texas.
  • Less impressive, but no less a slouch are some other records, including hitting the fourth grand slam of the 2011 postseason, and the first in a ALCS game since J.D. Drew in Game 6 of the 2007 ALCS for the Red Sox. With two homers in Game 2, he became the 20th player to accomplish that feat in an ALCS game since teammate Josh Hamilton did it last season in Game 4.
  • Cruz didn't just hit a ton of homers, he also added two doubles and now ranks second for the most extra-base hits in a playoff series, behind Hideki Matsui's nine for the Yankees in 2004.
  • Cruz also began his LCS career with a 10-game hitting streak. Greg Luzinski holds the record with 13, doing it from the 1976 ALCS through Game 1 of the 1980 ALCS. Opponent Miguel Cabrera is working on 13 straight, having tied Luzinski with an opposite-field homer in Game 6.
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Posted on: October 16, 2011 12:09 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 1:22 am
 

ALCS Series Grades: Cruz, bullpen hot for Rangers



By Evan Brunell


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers are headed to the World Series while the Tigers are headed back home now that the ALCS has concluded. Let's grade the series...

ANelson Cruz. A no-brainer.Cruz was a one-man wrecking machine the entire ALCS, and was voted the series MVP. Cruz became the first player in postseason history to hit two extra-inning home runs the same series. Both won games for the Rangers, with the first one making history as the only walkoff grand slam ever hit in October. His six home runs and 13 RBI both set LCS records. He already has 12 postseason home runs in his career over two seasons, which a franchise record and already in the top 15 all-time. Seriously, what more can you say about Cruz?

BThe Rangers bullpen. Seriously, how insane was the Rangers bullpen? Let's count the ways. The Rangers bullpen was responsible for all of the Rangers wins, allowing just four runs in 27 1/3 innings (1.32 ERA). The relievers -- headlined by Alexi Ogando (pictured) and Scott Feldman -- allowed just 21 baserunners while punching out 25 en route to becoming the fifth team with at least three wins in a LCS, the last being the 2003 Marlins. Only the 1997 Indians matched the Texas bullpen with four victories. And Ogando? He won his second game of the series in Game 6, the fifth reliever to win two games in an ALCS. He joins Sparky Lyle (1977), Tom Henke (1985), Gene Nelson (1988) and Francisco Rodriguez (2002).

CJustin Verlander. Look, Verlander had a regular season to remember and deserves to win the AL Cy Young, and it will probably be unanimous. But can anyone really look at Verlander's performance in the ALCS and say it was "good?" It wasn't bad, sure, but it certainly wasn't good. In Game 1, Verlander was far from top-notch before he was yanked thanks to weather problems. He lasted four innings and gave up three runs and two walks, striking out five. Then, in Game 5, Verlander tossed 133 pitches over 7 1/3 innings, giving up four runs including a two-run homer to Nelson Cruz, who would be his last hitter of the night. Verlander's pitches were still registering at 100 when he was done, true, and if he didn't come out for the eighth, he would have given up only two runs in seven innings. But that's not what happened. The fact is that he gave up four runs in 7 1/3 innings and that's not particularly great, especially given that it's often very difficult for a team to win in the postseason with their starter giving up four runs. Verlander did fine, but really no more than just fine. Hence this grade.

D
ALCS Coverage
Jim Leyland's managerial decisions. Leyland is a fantastic manager, but one has to wonder how this series would have looked if not for some curious decisions. In Game 4 alone, Leyland presided over two brutal baserunning decisions that, frankly, shouldn't have been made. In the 10th inning, Austin Jackson was on first base and chose to run on his own and was nabbed stealing. That was a colossal mistake, as it took the bat out of Miguel Cabrera's hands and took away a chance for Miggy to come through with a potential game-winning hit.

Speaking of Miggy, he was standing on third base in the 8th inning with a chance to cross the plate with the go-ahead run. But he was sent home on an outfield fly, with all the speed and agility of a freight train, and easily thrown out by Nelson Cruz. Leyland said if the throw was off-line, Cabrera still scores. Yes and no. If the throw was wildly off the mark, anyone could have scored ... but even a bounce, or a trajectory that took Napoli away from the plate still could have been good enough to nab Cabrera, who has zero speed. Yes, Cruz "sometimes" throws erratically. Yes, Alex Avila was up next. I don't care. Bad move.

Leyland also made some curious decisions with the lineup composition and didn't touch Wilson Betemit once the entire series, despite Betemit's bat being better than many who got playing time. And, frankly, he left Max Scherzer in the game far too long in Game 6. It was an elimination game. When something's not working, you move on fast.

FWeather. Rain was a constant presence during the ALCS, with two separate rain delays in Game 1 fouling up both Justin Verlander and C.J. Wilson's starts. Fortunately, however, the pitching rematch of Game 5 was able to be played without any delays. It was only the second game of the series that wasn't affected by rain, although the skies opened near the end of the game and became a deluge shortly after conclusion. Game 2 in Texas was postponed outright, while Game 4 in Detroit saw a pregame delay of just over two hours.

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Posted on: October 16, 2011 12:07 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 1:21 am
 

Eye on Photos: Rangers win ALCS over Tigers



By Matt Snyder


The Texas Rangers have taken down the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS, four games to two. They have now advanced to the World Series for the second straight season after having never gone before. Let's take a look at the series that was, in pictures.

Click on any photo below to enlarge.

Beautiful pre-game festivities for Game 1 in Texas. (Getty Images)
Tigers ace Justin Verlander discusses things with home plate umpire Tim Welke after allowing a Nelson Cruz home run. (Getty Images)
Game 1 had a few rain delays, which affected the work of both starting pitchers -- Verlander and C.J. Wilson. (Getty Images)
Neftali Feliz records the final out of Game 1. (Getty Images)
Game 2 was called well before the scheduled time due to expected inclement weather. Instead, it was sunny and the grounds crew even watered the field. (Getty Images)
Scott Feldman's effort out of the Texas bullpen in Game 2 was paramount to the Rangers victory. (Getty Images)
Wait, Nelson Cruz hit a home run? Really? (Getty Images)
Priceless shot of the Rangers' dugout immediately after the crack of the bat on Nelson Cruz's Game 2 walk-off grand slam. (Getty Images)
Cruz celebrates the big blow of the series as he approaches home plate. (Getty Images)
Doug Fister made sure this series wouldn't be a sweep with a huge effort in Game 3 for Detroit. (Getty Images)
Game 3 was rough for Adrian Beltre, as he just couldn't quit fouling the ball off himself. (Getty Images)
Close play, except the ball was jarred loose. (Getty Images)
Jose Valverde's subdued reaction -- for him -- to closing down Game 3. (Getty Images)
Yes, weather was a major player in this series. (Getty Images)
Believe it or not, this was a successful double-play turn by Ian Kinsler. (Getty Images)
Miguel Cabrera was thrown out by a country mile at home, and the ensuing collision with Mike Napoli was one of the more awkward ones we'll ever see. (Getty Images)
The biggest hit in Game 4? Why, a Nelson Cruz home run, of course. (Getty Images)
Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre share a laugh after Cabrera's grounder hit third base and jumped over Beltre's head for a go-ahead RBI double in Game 5. (Getty Images)
After Cabrera's double, Victor Martinez tripled as Cruz couldn't come up with a diving catch. (Getty Images)
And then Delmon Young put the game out of reach with a two-run homer. Wanna find the ball? Look at the red ad in the scoreboard, specifically the letter "f." (Getty Images)
Cabrera's solo homer drew first blood for the Tigers in Game 6. (Getty Images)
But the Rangers would go on to put nine runs on the board in the third inning alone to break the game wide open. (Getty Images)
Max Scherzer had two good innings in Game 6 before falling apart in the third. (Getty Images)
Josh Hamilton sacrifices his body in order to make a spectacular catch, ending the top of the fifth inning of Game 7. (Getty Images)
And then the first play of the bottom of the fifth showed the difference in the two ballclubs Saturday night. (Getty Images)
Really? Again? That's six home runs and 13 RBI in the series for Cruz. (Getty Images)


ALCS Coverage
Up next for the Rangers: Either the Cardinals or Brewers in the World Series. Due to the American League's All-Star Game loss, the Rangers won't have home-field advantage, despite having a better regular-season record than St. Louis and being tied with Milwaukee. Of course, Rangers' ace C.J. Wilson was the losing pitcher in that All-Star Game by virtue of allowing a three-run home run to Milwaukee's Prince Fielder.

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Posted on: October 15, 2011 11:41 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2011 2:06 am
 

Anatomy of a loss: How Detroit fell in ALCS

Cabrera, Napoli

AnatomyBy Evan Brunell


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Tigers had a massive implosion by Max Scherzer ruin Game 6, and as a result, their season is over as the Rangers advance to the World Series.

Let's take a look at the anatomy of the Tigers' series loss...

1. HEAD: Throughout the series, Detroit talked about taking it one game at a time, battling back from adversity, doing what it could to win each and every contest and not worrying about the past. All that is great, but actions speak louder than words, and the Tigers were horribly demoralized after Game 4's shocking extra-inning loss. In fact, after every loss, malaise filled the Tigers' clubhouse, and how could it not? The team gave its all and every game save the last was close. Every Tiger loss outside of Game 6 came either by a single run, or in extra innings. It was the narrowest of margins ... but they were losses all the same. That wears on you, and even winning Game 5 couldn't wash away all the stink once the series shifted back to Texas.

2. ARM: The Tigers couldn't ride their starting pitching to the promised land, despite entering the series with arguably three aces. Of course, there's Verlander fronting the rotation, but he didn't pitch like an ace in the ALCS. His start in Game 1 was cut short by rain, but by his own admission, his mechanics weren't quite right to start the game, and he ended up giving up three runs in four innings. People like to follow the narrative of Verlander as a great pitcher, but he still coughed up four runs total in 7 1/3 innings in Game 5. As for the other starting pitchers, Max Scherzer was fantastic in Game 2, but gave up a run in the seventh to allow the Rangers to tie, and eventually win, the game... and then, of course, he completely fell apart in Game 6. Doug Fister pitched brilliantly in Game 3, Detroit's first victory. In Game 4, Rick Porcello also turned in an incredible effort, but imploded at the wrong time. Even the bullpen was lacking aside from the heroics of Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde, and Valverde got burned in Game 4.

3. OBLIQUE: The Tigers had two instances of obliques hurting the team. First, Delmon Young was left off the ALCS roster entirely due to suffering an injured oblique in ALDS Game 5 against the Yankees. However, the Tigers lucked into Young improving to the point he was able to replace Magglio Ordonez on the roster when Ordonez needed to be removed due to a fractured ankle. Young played in Games 2, 4 and 5, but racked up a 0-for-9 streak, the most at-bats of any player in the series without a hit. He snapped that distinction with two pivotal homers in Game 5, but it proved to be too late for Detroit to win out in the series.

In addition, Victor Martinez hammered a crucial home run in Game 3 to pace the Tigers to victory, but pulled his oblique in the process. The next at-bat, he didn't even offer at one pitch or take swings in the on-deck circle, so you knew he was hurting. He looked stiff and sore in Game 4, so the Tigers lost two of their most important offensive pieces thanks to the oblique injury, which has ravaged baseball all season.


ALCS Coverage
4. LEGS: At this point, I feel guilty for bringing this up for what is probably the billionth time, but I'm still incredulous at the decisions that the Tigers made in Game 4 with regard to baserunning. There are two particular situations that got me. The first was in the bottom eighth after the Rangers tied the game. Miguel Cabrera is on third base with one out. Delmon Young lofts a fly ball to right field, inhabited by Nelson Cruz who is a fine fielder with a rifle for an arm. Cabrera was sent home and was out by a mile. After the game, Jim Leyland said that if the throw was off-line, Cabrera scores. That's a cop-out -- that throw would have had to be incredibly off-line to the point where anyone could have scored. Even a five-hopper would have been enough to tag Cabrera out. It was a dumb move. Period.

In the bottom of the 10th, Austin Jackson stood on first base with one out. Improbably, he opted to steal second base and was gunned down by Mike Napoli. Leyland said he supported the decision -- which Jackson made on his own -- but he better just be covering for his player because that was another bone-headed move. With the throw out, the Tigers removed a man on base and the chance for Miguel Cabrera to hit that inning. Instead, Miggy watched as Ryan Raburn made the third out, then the Rangers put up a four-spot in the top of the 11th.

5. FOOT: Losing Magglio Ordonez was a brutal blow for Detroit, when he re-fractured his surgically-repaired foot in Game 1. Already hobbled due to Young's injury, losing Ordonez severely depleted the Tigers' offense to the point where it was, frankly, a non-entity aside from Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez in the 3-4 spots. There's no telling what Ordonez could have done after hitting .365 after Aug. 12 in the regular season and .455 in the ALDS.

Related video: Tigers manager Jim Leyland speaks on the crushing Game 6 loss:



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Base photo: Wikipedia

Posted on: October 15, 2011 11:41 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2011 1:23 am
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Detroit Tigers

DetroitBy Evan Brunell

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Detroit Tigers
Record: 95-67, 1st place AL Central. Lost ALCS to Rangers, 4 games to 2
Manager: Jim Leyland
Best hitter: Miguel Cabrera -- .344/.448/.586, 48 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBI
Best pitcher: Justin Verlander -- 24-5, 251 IP, 2.40 ERA, 57 BB, 250 K

2011 SEASON RECAP


ALCS Coverage
The Tigers were expected to be competitive, but not this competitive. Prior to the season, all the attention was on the Twins and White Sox. In the early going, the prognosticators looked to be correct as Detroit fell to a 12-15 record at the close of April. Things looked bleak on May 3 when the Tigers dropped to eight games behind first after running up a seven-game losing streak, the largest deficit the team would deal with all season. Following that, the light flipped on and Detroit ran up a 16-11 month, following it up with a 16-12 June that left the team 1/2 game behind Cleveland for first.

The second half of the season saw the Indians fade into obscurity and Detroit take its place behind the bat of Cabrera and arm of Verlander. Even more impressive was the fact Detroit was playing without a second baseman and third baseman much of the year. Carlos Guillen's injury troubles continued, while Brandon Inge found himself demoted to the minors at the end of July. Fortunately, the club weathered adversity, battled through a .500 July and then went bananas down the stretch, finishing with a 38-16 record in the final two months, including a 12-game winning streak from Sept. 2 to Sept. 14.

In the postseason, the Tigers needed the full five games of the ALDS to vanquish the Yankees, then entered into a pitched battle with the Rangers. While Texas walked away with a significant margin of victory by winning the ALCS four games to two, the series was much closer than it looked and if a few lucky bounces had gone Detroit's way, this R.I.P. wouldn't yet be here.

2012 AUDIT

Detroit is fairly settled for an attempt at a repeat division title next year. The pitching is, by and large, settled with a front four of Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. The bullpen, likewise, is fairly stable and the offense will only be needing a second baseman and right fielder. Detroit has some good money coming off the books in Guillen's $13 million salary along with Magglio Ordonez's $10 million pact, so the club should be able to bring in an impact hitter.

FREE AGENTS

Wilson Betemit, 3B
Carlos Guillen, 2B
Magglio Ordonez, RF
Brad Penny, SP
Ramon Santiago, 2B
Jose Valverde, CL (team option: $9 million)
Joel Zumaya, RP

R.I.P. series
OFFSEASON FOCUS
  • Frankly, it would be a mistake for the Tigers to tender Delmon Young a contract. However, given the home run power he displayed for the team and how much the Tigers invested in him by making him the No. 3 hitter, he'll be back. So be it.
  • Re-sign Jose Valverde to a contract extension. The Tigers should be able to lock Valverde in for two or three more years at a lesser annual salary than the $9 million he would make on the team option. If Valverde balks, simply pick up the option. It's close enough to market value, plus it will only tie the team to him for one more year. Any time you have the chance to retain a strong pitcher for one year, don't you have to do it? Also bring back Zumaya on a make-good deal. Zoom-Zoom wants to stay and won't cost much given he's been a non-factor for quite some time now.
  • Sign Jamey Carroll to play second base. Ramon Santiago filled in ably all season, but Santiago is no one's idea of a starting second baseman. There isn't that much on the market, but Carroll would be a great fit as someone who could hit for a high average and generate some speed on the basepaths. Detroit finished last in the AL in stolen bases in 2011, and they need to make their offense more dynamic.
  • With all the money saved so far -- after all these moves, plus arbitration raises, the Tigers should be looking at roughty $20 million free to spend -- Detroit should bring in some thump into the lineup. It just so happens there's a vacant spot in right field opening up, and Michael Cuddyer would look nice in that role. (Yeah, yeah, Brennan Boesch. Not sold.) If Cuddyer heads elsewhere, the Tigers should take a look at Carlos Beltran. If that's a no go -- and I expect Beltran wouldn't care for playing in Detroit unless the Tigers ponied up more money than anyone else -- signing David DeJesus to a low-risk, high-reward deal makes sense. There's always the trade market too.
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Posted on: October 15, 2011 11:40 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2011 1:20 am
 

Rangers are clear team to beat in World Series



By Evan Brunell


ARLINGTON, Texas -- At this point, how can anyone pick against the Rangers to win the World Series?

It doesn't even matter whether St. Louis or Milwaukee comes away with a victory in the NLCS, because no one can stop the runaway train that is Texas. The Rangers' offense was in rare form during the ALCS, paced by Nelson Cruz's awe-inspiring feats. Even Michael Young, who couldn't hit his way out of a brown paper bag all postseason, got in on the fun in Games 5 and 6. Even with Milwaukee and St. Louis both gaining the ability to use a DH (but only the Cardinals benefiting from it, able to slot Allen Craig in the lineup), neither team can hope to out-slug the Rangers, who have Cruz batting No. 7, for crying out loud.

ALCS Coverage
Texas also has sensational defense and while its starting pitching wasn't quite up to snuff, the bullpen more than made up for the lack of any dominant performance by the rotation. When skipper Ron Washington can wave a wand and roll out Scott Feldman, Alexi Ogando, Darren Oliver, Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz in relief, who cares if the starting pitcher can't go six strong? In addition, if the NLCS has shown anything, it's that the Cards and Brewers have their own problems with starting pitching. So then it becomes a battle of bullpens, and the Rangers have to be the heavy favorites there as well.

Momentum-wise, can anyone doubt that the Rangers hold the edge over whichever NLCS team advances? Not only did Texas handle Tampa Bay with relative ease, the ALCS versus Detroit seems to have come right out of Hollywood. A walkoff grand slam, a crucial throw at the plate, the bullpen coming up nails ... what more can you ask from this Rangers team to prove that they are the deepest, strongest and most confident team left in the playoffs?

Running a comparison of all three teams, the Rangers win the battle of the offense. They win the battle of pitching, too, off of their strong bullpen and the lack of any separation in the three teams' starting rotations. The fielding belongs to Texas, too. The confidence and momentum pendulum swings toward Texas as well. There is just nothing here to indicate that the Rangers aren't the heavily favored team to win the World Series, even without home-field advantage. Given the NL won the All-Star Game, that means that Texas will host Games 3, 4 and 5, and it wouldn't be surprising at all if the World Series was won in Texas.

This article has been one entire broken record. Texas this, Texas that. But there's a reason for that. For the Rangers will be left standing tall at the end as your 2011 world champions.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com