ALCS: Rangers Aren't "Cruz-ing" to Victories, but in October...Just Win, Baby!
HEADS UP!!!...(THUD)...Wait for it...(THUD)...Ok, it's safe.
Sorry about that, but Nelson Cruz's two home runs from last night just re-entered the atmosphere and landed somewhere between far east Dallas County and Rockwall County.
What a night, last night was...what a night...what a game...what an experience...what a WIN!!!
Games, like Game 2 of the ALCS, are what make October. Postseason Baseball one of the most entertaining times in the entire year. I've heard too many people flip out that you can't have entertaining, successful baseball in October without some combination of the Red Sox, Yankees, Angels, Phillies, Mets, or Dodgers playing...well last night proved that wrong.
Playoff baseball is it's own animal, it's own brand, it's own season. Throughout the entire six-month regular season teams are constantly tinkering with rosters, lineups, rotations, and bullpens. Most of the teams are doing it for a shot at October baseball. As fans and analyst, there is a constant breakdown of what's working, what's not, what went wrong, and what needs to be changed. Come October, NONE of that matters.
Last night the Texas Rangers beat the Detroit Tigers 7-3 in eleven innings thanks to a Cruz walk-off grand slam. It's the first "official" walk-off grand slam in the history of MLB's Postseason. The Rangers rode to victory behind Cruz's 2 HRs and 5 RBI, and another masterful performance from the Rangers' bullpen. The game was not without flaws or concerns, but this is October and these flaws don't bother me any more.
Had last night been a regular season game...I'd be talking today about Derek Holland. 2.2 IP, 4 hits, 3 earned runs, 4 WALKS, 0 strikeouts, and all on 76 pitches. 21 of his 45 strikes were balls that were fouled off by Tiger hitters, he only missed TWO bats all night. Holland threw a first pitch strike to 9 of the 17 batters he faced. That's decent, but needs to be better, like Tigers SP Max Scherzer (18 of 25), CP Jose Valverde (6 of 8), and winning pitcher Mike Adams (3 of 4). Those are not good numbers and could be cause for some concern. BUT in the end, the Rangers won.
Had last night been a regular season game...I'd be more concerned about the Rangers bullpen that used five arms, threw over eight innings, and potentially has three more games the next three days. True, that the Rangers bullpen again shutdown the Tiger bats: 8.1 IP, 4 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts, threw 71 of their 119 pitches for strikes. BUT in the end, the Rangers won and are up 2-0 in the ALCS.
Had last night been a regular season game...I'd talk about the small annoyances in our hitting. 1) In the first 10 innings, the Rangers were 1-11 hitting with runners in scoring position (2-2 in the 11th). 2) Bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, no outs, winning run at third...you HAVE to score that runner from third...HAVE to in the postseason. After that inning had the Rangers lost Game 2, that failure would have haunted us the rest of the series, if not longer. 3) The "cold streaks" from some key Ranger hitters this postseason so far: Kinsler - .208/.325/.417, Andrus - .143,/.333/.143, Hamilton - .250/.280/.333, Young - .130/.200/.130, and Moreland - .118/.211/.294. BUT in the end, the Rangers won, lead the ALCS 2-0, and have won 5 of 6 postseason games so far.
During the regular season, last night's game was one that could easily be picked apart for the small failures, concerns, and "bad signs." But this is not the regular season, this is the postseason, this is October, this is win or go home. And when it comes to this point of the season, I don't care about all the little things, and I'll steal a quick line for the late Al Davis, "Just win baby."
This is postseason baseball, this is October baseball...just WIN!!!
The Rangers lead two games to none. The team has found a way to defeat the Tigers 1-2 starting pitching punch, Verlander and Scherzer. Texas just pulled off an incredible, emotional, and draining victory last night. They have momentum on their side, and since momentum in baseball is only as strong as your next days starter...I feel good with sending Colby Lewis to the mound on the road tonight. If you prefer the negativity approach, you can point to the continued struggles of Michael Young's bat. The near-complete ineffectiveness of Mitch Moreland. The back-to-back struggling starts from the rotation, CJ Wilson and Derek Holland have combined for 7.1 IP, 10 hits, 5 earned runs, 9 walks, 6 strikeouts, 6.14 ERA, and 2.59 WHIP! !! You can look at this series whichever way you want, fact remains, Ranges are up two games to none. Close games or not, did anyone real think there would be some blowouts?
And before anyone gets too worried, I would like to throw this out. Imagine real quick, how you'd feel if you were the Tigers? I know they are staying positive, they are confident in their team, and they have the next three games at home. But the Tigers are down two games, they HAVE to win four of the next five games, some of the Rangers more consistent bats have yet started hitting, two starters are already injured, your perfect closer is probably unavailable tonight, and potentially your ace Justin Verlander has only one start left. Despite the Ranger issues, I'll take our position any day of the week.
The final point I was going to make is that the Rangers do have some cause for concern as this team, historically, has not hit well in Comerica Park. However, this really is a case in which perception is NOT reality. Once I pulled the stats and compared, I found a much different story.
True, the Rangers are 2-4 in Detroit this year, but all four losses were by one run. One of the two wins was against Verlander. Hamilton was injured in the second game of the first series, and Beltre didn't play the second series at all.
In 2011 as a team the Rangers in Detroit (6 games) are hitting: .269/.303/.394 with 22 runs (3.67/game), 56 hits (9.33/game), 15 extra-base hits (3.5/game), 10 walks, and 20 strikeouts. The team combined to hit .273 (15-55) with runners in scoring position, which is semi-respectable. Individually, there are both some serious strugglers and those hot in Comerica. Struggling: Kinsler - .100 (2-20) with 2 BB, Andrus - .167 (4-24) with 2 BB, and Moreland - .227 (5-22) with 2 doubles, 3 runs, and 1 RBI. Thriving: Hamilton - .389 (7-18) with a triple, double, 4 runs, and 2 RBI, Young - .417 (10-24) with a triple, 2 doubles, 4 runs, and 3 RBI, and Cruz - .375 (9-24) with a Home Run, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 4 runs, and 5 RBI. Let's take that one step further, the Rangers projected 3-7 hitters (Hamilton, Young, Beltre, Napoli, Cruz) in Detroit this season are batting a combine: .359/.385/.565 with 3 HRs, 2 3Bs, 6 2Bs, 16 runs, and 15 RBI.
Again, I'm not trying to draw too many conclusions here, just facts. And these facts can or can not help prove trends. Either way, it should help with confidence.
In the end, normally, I would say that as long as we have strong starting pitching, timely hitting, and no small mistakes, we should win games. But this is October...this is Postseason baseball...and only one thing matters: score more runs than your opponent, and JUST WIN BABY!
LOOK OUT...(THUD)...THERE'S THE CRUZ MISSILE FROM GAME ONE!!!