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Buckle Up: Buck Showalter’s Traveling Road Show O’s Put an End to Rangers’ Misery 5-1 in Arlington

Wild Ones: O’s Win in Arlington (AP Photo-Tony Gutierrez)

“The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.” Earl Weaver

I had no doubts about tonight. The Rangers were not looking good and the plucky Orioles had nothing to lose. Buck Showalter’s stingy Orioles pitching and clutch hitting ending the defending two time American League Champion Texas Rangers season in the first American League Wild Card game.

The Rangers stumbled into the playoffs being swept by the amazing A’s and the Orioles played hard against the Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays and Red Sox in the final weeks of the season. The Orioles exuded a confidence that came from winning one run and extra inning games and not losing a game when leading after the 7th inning. Their bullpen was lights out and their starters, a collection that most people could not name and were not around at the beginning of the season were good enough to get them to the playoffs. They are 75-0 when leading after the 7th inning.

Joe Saunders (Reuters- Tim Sharp)

Buck Showalter started Joe Saunders who the O’s picked up in late August from the Diamondbacks. Saunders had a 0-6 record against the Rangers in Arlington before tonight but since coming to the Orioles has been reliable in important games. Saunders was not phased by history. He went in and aided by excellent defense shut down the potent Rangers offense.

Buck (Getty Images- j. Meric) 

The Orioles gave up just one run in the first inning and after that played great defense shutting down several potential Texas rallies with three double plays. The Rangers also had good pitching by starter Yu Darvish but the Orioles were able to make their hits count with Robert Andino, Manny Machado and Nate McClouth applying the coup de grace in the top of the 9th.

Former Ranger Darren O’Day pitched two innings of scoreless relief while former starter and now late season reliever Brian Matusz struck out Josh Hamilton on three pitches.

The Rangers loaded the bases against Orioles closer Jim Johnson in the 9th but Johnson and the O’s as always held giving up nothing.

Now the O’s will go back to Camden Yards to play the Yankees in the ALDS. They finished a close second to the Yankees in the AL East and were 9-9 against the Bronx Bombers during the regular season. They won 4 of the last 6 games they played against the Yankees in September.

I have known for a long time that this Orioles team is a special team. I felt it at the end of 2011 when they helped end the Red Sox season in  walk off fashion. I have also seen many of these players in the minors for the past few years playing on either the AAA Norfolk Tides or High Single A Frederick Keys. I have seen them develop and have watched the culture of the organization change after the hiring of Buck Showalter at the end of 2010 and GM Dan Duquette in the off season.

These guys are winners. I think that they have a good chance of taking the Yankees in a 5 game series. It certainly should be fun.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Holy Cow! Do You believe in Miracles? Padre Steve Does… Cardinals refuse to Lose

David Freese walk off Home Run

It is too late to write much but this is one of the most amazing World Series games that I have ever witnessed.  The Cardinals down by 2 in the 9th inning and down to their last strike tie it when David Freese hammered a two out triple.  Then in the 10th Rangers’ star Josh Hamilton hit his first home run of the playoffs to give the Rangers another two run lead in the top of the 10th.  The Cardinals came back again, the Rangers had them down to their last strike but native Texan Lance Berkman hit a single to tie the game.

The Rangers twice had the Cardinals down to their final strike and could not put the Redbirds away.  In the bottom of the 11th David Freese came to the plate to lead off the inning against Mark Lowe.  The St Louis native who had given up baseball at the end of high school and rededicated himself to the game came had hit four post season home runs.  In the 5th inning he dropped a pop up at third base which led to a Rangers run.  But in then in the bottom of the 9th with the season riding on it Freese hit the triple that tied the game.  Lowe got two strikes on Freese and then lightning stuck.  Freese hammered the next pitch over the center field wall.

This was one of the most amazing baseball games that I have ever seen.  The first 6 innings were marred by 5 errors but the game changed and became what will be called an epic game.  I will write more on this before game seven because there is so much more to say.  Holy Cow!

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Comeback: Rangers Win Battle of the Bullpens

Elvis Andrus scores the winning run in the top of the 9th (Photo By REUTERS/Jeff Haynes/REUTERS)

The World Series is coming down to pitching and defense.  The Texas Rangers shut out for 8 innings made a 9th inning comeback againstSt Louis closer Jason Motte who has saved five games this post season.

Both starting pitchers had great performances. Texas starter Colby Lewis pitched 6.2 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits with 4 strikeouts and 2 walks. St Louis starter Jaime Garcia went 7 innings allowing no runs and just 3 hits with 7 strikeouts.

Defense especially that of the Texas middle infield of Kinsler and Andrus who made an amazing 4th inning double play and equally impressive fielder’s choice to end the 6th inning.

The Cardinals scored first on a 2 out 7th inning rally.  Lewis gave up a single David Freese and a second to Nick Punto. LaRussa sent in Allen Craig to hit for Garcia. Ron Washington countered by bringing in Alexi Ogando to set up a rematch of game one.  The result was the same when Craig singled to score Punto to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.

Ian Kinsler hit a bloop single to leadoff the 9th against Motte and stole second with Elvis Andrus at the plate.  Andrus singled to right to send Kinsler to third and Andrus took advantage of a poor throw by Jon Jay which was touched but not cut off by Albert Pujols to take second.  At this point Tony LaRussa made what I think was his first mistake of the series. He took out Motte and brought in Arthur Rhodes to pitch to Josh Hamilton. Hamilton hit a sacrifice fly to right center which scored Kinsler. LaRussa then took out Rhodes and sent in Lance Lynn to pitch to Michael Young who also flied to right center to bring home Andrus to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. For Motte who had pitched 9 post season innings giving up just 1 hit and no runs it was his first setback. Of course he was not helped by his defense because Andrus took second and took away the chance of a double play.

The Cardinals blew a number of chances to score more runs and left 9 men on base some of which were do to bad execution on the part of the team.

Neftali Feliz gave up a leadoff walk in the 9th but shut down the Cardinals to secure the win. The Rangers scored 2 runs on 5 hits and committed one error and the Cardinals 1 run on 6 hits with no errors. Texas reliever Mike Adams got the win and Feliz the save while Motte took the loss.

The Series goes to Arlington where the resurgent Rangers who were one inning from going down 2-0 will be able to take advantage of their ballpark where they score an average of 2 runs more than they do on the road.  The Cardinals will start Kyle Lohse who went 14-8 with a 3.39 ERA in the regular season against the Ranger’s Matt Harrison who went 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA.

So far this has been a battle of pitchers and great defense. Will the return to Texas change this dynamic or will the big bats come out?  We’ll see what happens Saturday.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Cardinals in Seven: Padre Steve’s World Series Pick

Last Year I made picks for both the MLB Playoff series and the World Series that were very accurate. See the 2010 MLB Post Season Page link at the top of this page.  I try to look at all the stats in the regular and post season to make my picks.  This year I did not get around to picking winners for the Division or League Championship Series.  I plan on providing analysis of each game during the World  series.  Of course I could be wrong, but this is my pick.   

 

This is a really interesting World Series that I really believe will go the full seven games. I am picking the Cardinals but not because I think that they are the “better” team in the context of this season.  I think that in a 7 game series that Tony LaRussa will do just enough to beat the Rangers.  The majority of baseball commentators are predicting that the Rangers will win this in 6 or 7 games. If they were playing the Brewers, Diamondbacks or Phillies I would pick them in a New York minute. But they are playing a team that at the end of August was 10.5 games out of the Wild Card race in the National League and handily defeat teams in the NLDS and NLCS that were on paper better than them.

I believe that the Texas Rangers are the better team and I actually kind of want them to win the Series because I like Nolan Ryan, Ron Washington and would like to see the Rangers win their first World Series. Over the course of this year’s 162 game season I don’t think that there was a better team in baseball.  They have decent starting pitching, a great bullpen and hit the hell out of ball.  They have made mincemeat of some of the best pitchers in the league.  Ron Washington is one of my favorite managers, he is smart and really has shaped this team into the machine that they are.  They are at or near the top in almost every offensive category including stolen bases.  They have a better record than the Cardinals and the two teams pitching staffs have similar records and statistics for the season.  The Rangers held off a late season rush by the Los Angeles Angels and took the AL West for the second time in as many years.  They eliminated the Tampa Bay Rays in 4 games chewing up a very good Rays pitching staff and proceeded take down the Tigers in 6 games to reach the World Series for the second strait year.  Ron Washington is turning into a great manager who has proven that he can manage the game and inspire his players at the same time.

However the Wild Card so to speak is the “Wild Card” in this series. The Cardinals took advantage by the epic collapse of the Atlanta Braves in September and won the NL Wild Card on the last day of the season.  They then had to face the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS.  The Phillies had the best record in the National League but had fallen victim to the Red Birds 6 of 9 times during the regular season 3 of which came in September.  They dispatched the Phillies in 5 games after being down 2-1 in the series.  Then they went to their division rivals and NL Central Champion Milwaukee Brewers. They took the Brewers with whom they evenly split their 18 regular season games in 6 games.

These are both great teams with a lot of character and talent.  When one looks up and down the roster they are filled with great hitters.  The Rangers have the edge in overall quality but the Cardinals are also very good and had the best team hitting in the Division and League Championship Series.  Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina, Jon Jay and Matt Holiday highlight a line up that hit for a .274 batting average, .341 On Base Percentage and .425 Slugging Percentage in the regular season and produced 762 runs. The Rangers roster includes Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Nelson Cruz.  The Rangers hit a Major League leading team batting average of .283 On Base Percentage of .341 a .460 Slugging Percentage and which produced a MLB high 855 runs.

However the playoffs have been another story. The Cardinals led all the playoff teams in batting average (.288) and runs (111) while having .345 OBP and .448 SLG percentages.  The Rangers hitters were not as dominant in the playoffs hitting for a .259 team batting average producing 90 runs and achieving a .330 OBP and .434 SLG.  They were still potent especially Nelson Cruz the ALCS MVP who hit .364 with six homers and 13 RBIs.

The pitching performance of the two teams in the regular season was quite similar the Cardinals had a slightly better team ERA of 2.74 versus the Rangers 2.79 but LaRussa is unorthodox in his use of his bullpen when has performed magnificently.  Game one will feature the two teams’ workhorses, Chris Carpenter for the Cardinals and C J Wilson for the Rangers.  The bullpens are both excellent and the Rangers feature Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando.  Ogando has been particularly good and as a former starter can pitch in extended or short relief.  The Cardinals bullpen features Jason Motte and Octavio Dotel who have been excellent in the playoffs.

The hitters will challenge the pitchers of both teams and the starters will need to perform to protect their bullpens.  LaRussa will use his bullpen in ways that cannot be anticipated and the Rangers could face any pitcher in any situation.

The reason that I am picking the Cardinals is the fact that they have done so much that they were not expected to do this season. They overcame a lot to get to this point. The Rangers were expected by many to be here again, especially after the Red Sox collapsed in September and did not make the playoffs.  The key for me is Tony LaRussa and his ability to manage a game inning by inning batter by batter in order to deny the opposing team the opportunity to score runs in any single inning particularly “the last three innings of the game.”  LaRussa manages the details of a game probably better than anyone in baseball and though many criticize his “micromanagement” it certainly has worked.  Provided nothing really unexpected happens LaRussa will pass the great John McGraw on the all time managerial win list sometime during the 2012 season. None of this is to be disrespectful of Ron Washington, he too is an excellent manager and the Rangers would not be where they are without him.  Likewise the Cardinals have home field advantage and Busch Stadium is a pitchers park which plays well with how LaRussa uses his bullpen and bench.

The Rangers are an amazing team and I do think that they are the better team and really want to win this, but there is something about this 2011 Cardinals team.  Since the end of August they have played every day with their season on the line and risen to the occasion.  Besides they have the Rally Squirrel…. How can they lose?

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Giants Defeat Rangers 4-0 Stand One Win from Series Title as Bumgarner Shines

Rookie Madison Bumgarner became the 4th youngest player in MLB history to win a World Series game (AP Photo/Matt Campbell, Pool)

On a night that featured the appearance of two Presidents for the ceremonial first pitch’ the San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers and stand one win from their first World Series title since they played in New York’s Polo Grounds in 1954.  Once again it was pitching and timely hitting that won the day for the Giants with the Giants’ pitching staff led by Madison Bumgarner shutting out the Rangers for the second time in four games leaving the potent Rangers’ lineup in a state of bewildered befuddlement.  The young rookie held the heart of the Rangers’ order; Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz to 1 hit in 9 at bats and only allowed 3 hits in 8 innings work striking out 6 and walking just two. He became the fourth youngest pitcher to win a World Series game shutting down an offense that feasted on left-handed pitchers all season. He allowed just three singles and only one runner reached 2nd base for the Rangers.

Aubrey Huff homers in the top of the 3rd inning against Tommy Hunter (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Giants’ hitters had timely hits when they matter the most. They were led by journeyman Aubrey Huff who led the team in home runs in 2010. Huff plastered a pitch by Rangers’ starter Tommy Hunter deep into the right field seats in the top of the 3rd inning.  The Giants added another run in the 7th inning when Andres Torres doubled to score Edgar Renteria and a final run in the top of the 8th inning when Buster Posey hit his first ever World Series off Darren O’Day to deep center.

Defense: Freddy Sanchez makes a play on a fielders’ choice (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The Giants used closer Brian Wilson to finish the game in a non-save situation with Wilson mowing down the top of the Rangers order taking 11 pitches to get Elvis Torres to fly out and to strike out both Michael Young and Josh Hamilton to end the game leaving the Rangers perplexed and Nolan Ryan visibly bothered at the lack of hitting exhibited by the Rangers.

Former President’s George W. Bush and George H. W. Bush with Nolan Ryan during the ceremonial first pitch (Photo by Matt Campbell-Pool/Getty Images)

The Giants had 4 runs on 8 hits leaving and an error leaving 6 men on base. Edgar Renteria went 3-4 and Andres Torres 3-5 in the effort with Huff and Posey adding the home runs. Meanwhile the Rangers continued their dismal hitting with no runs on 3 hits and no errors leaving 3 stranded. Vladimir Guerrero struck out 3 times in 3 at bats against Bumgarner. They will have to solve the riddle of Giants pitching against Tim Lincecum in game 5 on Monday night.

Buster Posey looks on as his blast goes over the Center Field Fence in the 8th inning (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

With the exception of a booted ball by Juan Uribe in the 8th inning the Giants played spectacular defense, especially Second Baseman Freddy Sanchez.  It was like Earl Weave said “the key to winning is pitching fundamentals and three run home runs.  The Giants didn’t get the three run blast but they did get two homers while the pitching and defense took care of themselves.

Befuddled and beaten the Texas Rangers look on in the bottom of the 9th inning (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Bumgarner got the win while Tommy Hunter got the loss.  Monday night the teams meet for game 5 with a pitching rematch between Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee.  I expect the matchup to be good and for this to be another game of tortureball no matter which team wins as the Rangers stand at the brink of elimination and the Giants on the precipice of history.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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A Swing of the Bat and the Rangers defeat the Giants 4-2 in Game 3

Josh Hamilton and Rangers’ team mates celebrate after his 5th inning home run (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The World Series went to Texas and the Texas Rangers got out to an early lead off Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez and never lost it to give the Rangers the win and hope to come back in the Series.  Sanchez was not sharp and struggled in 4.2 innings work but the major damage was done with two outs in the bottom of the 2nd inning when rookie First Baseman Mitch Moreland fought off pitch after pitch with two strikes and belted a home run into deep right center field to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead.  Sanchez gave up a solo shot to Josh Hamilton in the bottom of the 5th inning which drove him from the game.  Giants’ relievers held the game close and the Giants threatened but could not come back.

Cody Ross hits a home run in game three (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Rangers’ starter Colby Lewis pitched the Giants well going 7.2 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits. Both runs were the result of Giants home runs by Cody Ross and Andres Torres.

The Rangers had 4 runs on 8 hits with no errors and the Giants 2 runs on 5 hits with an error. Colby Lewis got the win for Texas and Sanchez the loss. Neftali Feliz pitched a scoreless 9th inning to get the save as the Rangers drew within one game of the Giants.

The teams meet tonight with Madson Bumgarner (7-6 3.00 ERA) on the hill for the Giants and Tommy Hunter (13-4 3.73 ERA) on the mound for the Rangers.

See you after the game

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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And so the Giants Can’t hit….tell me about it: Giants Crush Rangers 9-0 go up 2-0 in Series

Matt Cain dominated the Rangers (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

So the San Francisco Giants can’t hit….tell that to the Texas Rangers who have given up 20 runs in the first two games of the World Series.  Of course when the opposition scores no runs it makes it a lot easier to win and in game two of the 2010 World Series the San Francisco Giants not only shut down the hitting machine that has been the scourge of the American League but clobbered their pitching staff for the second night in a row.

Edgar Renteria hits a 2 RBI single (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Giants’ starter Matt Cain was dominant in the second game of the series while Rangers’ starter C. J. Wilson pitched well but not well enough until handing the game over to the Rangers bullpen which imploded in the 8th inning.  Wilson allowed just two runs on 3 hits, one a costly solo shot with two outs in the bottom of the 5th by Edgar Renteria. Cain on the other hand was masterful getting hitter after hitter out allowing just 4 hits and giving up two walks in 7.2 innings work allowing just 1 hit in 8 attempts by Rangers’ sluggers Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz.

The game was a pitcher’s duel with the only mistake being committed by Wilson in the bottom of the 5th inning when he left a fastball in the middle of the plate for Renteria to put into the left field seats to give the Giants a 1-0 lead which it would remain until the bottom of the 7th when the Giants Juan Uribe singled to score Cody Ross who Wilson had walked to lead off the inning.  The walk to Ross was the end for Wilson who ceded the mound to Darren Oliver.  Oliver gave up the single to Uribe and the Giants led 2-0 after 7 innings.

Cain pitched into the 8th inning and after giving up a walk to Elvis Andrus was relieved by Javier Lopez with two outs.  Lopez got Josh Hamilton to fly out to end the Rangers’ half of the 8th inning. In the bottom from it all came apart for the Rangers’ bullpen. Darren O’Day got the first two Giants he faced, Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez out on strikes before giving up a two out single to Buster Posey.  Ron Washington chose not to use Neftali Feliz and instead sent in Derek Holland to relieve O’Day with Nate Schierholtz coming to the plate. Holland walked Schierholtz and followed with a walk to Cody Ross to load the bases and yet another to Aubrey Huff to score Posey.  That walk was enough for Washington who replaced Holland with Mark Lowe.  Lowe walked Juan Uribe to score Schierholtz and then gave up a single to Renteria which scored Ross and Huff.  With the game rapidly slipping away the Rangers reacted to Bruce Bochy sending up Mike Fotenot which Ron Washington countered not with Neftali Feliz but Michael Kirkman and Bochy once again countered with Aaron Rowland instead of Fotenot.  Rowland delivered a triple which scored Uribe and Renteria and then a double to Andres Torres which scored Rowland.  The inning ended with the Giants scoring 7 runs to make the game 9-0.  The Giants put Guillermo Mota into the game and Mota despite allowing a walk put the Rangers away.

It was another stunning blow to the Rangers who now go back to Arlington down 2-0 in the series and seemingly having no answer to Giants hitting or pitching. Matt Cain has not allowed an earned run in 21.1 innings and on Saturday the Rangers will send Colby Lewis against Jonathan Sanchez.  The Giants have done well on the road this post season closing out both Atlanta and Philadelphia in their houses. This could be a tough climb for the Rangers unless they dramatically turn things around.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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