Welcome to the latest edition of Daniel's Minions, a weekly roundtable of writers who follow the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have finally won their first playoff series in club history, but don't think for one second they're happy winning one series.
The Rangers are ready for the next challenge in front of them, trying to advance to the first World Series in club history. Our writers this week dive head first into the questions surrounding the team going into the American League Championship Series.
Our writers this week are myself, Bo Reed, Let's Talk Rangers contributor Matthew Irby and KZNE 1150 reporter Stephen Rhodes. Let's dive right into some ALCS talk.
1) The biggest development from the Division Series was how effective the left handed starters were against the Rays lineup, especially with the struggles of the two right-handed starters. Considering the Yankees are very similar to the Rays in terms of struggling against left-handed pitchers, should the team start Derek Holland in game four instead of Tommy Hunter.
Bo Reed: I've been going back and forth on this since the game ended Tuesday night and it's entirely possible my opinion will change again before I finish typing this answer. Which of course suggests the answer is either one could start and the Rangers would likely get the same result.
As much as I love the idea of tossing three left-handed starters at the Yankees in the first four games, Holland is much more valuable in the bullpen. Ron Washington showed no hesitation is using the kid in tough situations and while the results were mixed, Holland should have a lot of confidence when called upon again.
Matthew Irby: Numbers and breakdowns say yes, but my gut says no. In the future, and I mean near future, Holland is going to be a staple piece of the rotation. But right now, when talking about Game 4, Tuesday night in New York City, I would rather see Tommy Hunter start. But this comes with a leash shorter than the one on second half Rich Harden. Maybe one inning of work for Derek in game 1 or 2, but then keep him available in case “Big Game” struggles early on Tuesday night.
Stephen Rhodes: That's a tough one. They both pitched four innings on Sunday. They both allowed two earned runs. Neither had walks. Hits were about the same. Hunter had more strikeouts but Holland was much more efficient. Hunter had about 70 pitches to get through four innings and Holland had about 50 to get through four. I think Hunter was having a good game, but I think Holland had an even better game. That homer that Holland allowed should have been a solo because the man that got on base should have been struckout but there was a no call. Here's what I think they should do. Keep on saying it's going to be Hunter but flip it on game day. Have Holland start and have Hunter ready to come in like Holland did, if necessary. I haven't watched the Yankees close enough to know that they have trouble with lefties, but knowing that, it anchors my position.
2) Having Cliff Lee starting in game three provided a few headaches for the Yankees in determining their rotation for the series and they opted to go with Andy Pettitte. If there's another pitcher that has dominated in the postseason more times than Lee it's Andy Pettitte. Does this actually help the Rangers having Lee on the mound against Andy Pettitte instead of C.J. Wilson or Colby Lewis?
Bo Reed: If the Rangers can take one or both of the games in Arlington to begin the series then starting Lee in game three becomes a huge advantage for the Rangers. This explains why the Yankees are saving their own playoff dominating starter for game three to counter the Rangers.
Anyone that thinks game three is an easy win for the Rangers because Lee is starting needs to watch some video of Pettitte. The guy is close to a 20 game winner in postseason games alone for a reason so game three is the most important game of this series and the Rangers are much better off starting Lee in game three than game one.
Matthew Irby: Yes, I think this helps. With Pettitte the Yankees get one of the most dominating postseason pitchers in history and he still has some of that good stuff in the tank. What better way to stop that than with Cliff Lee; you remember 6-0 1.44 ERA in the postseason Lee. If Pettitte is on and the Yanks can scratch 2-3 runs off Lee then they will have a legit shot at winning Games 3 and 7. But I fully believe that the move to have him pitch against Lee is based on Game 7; think about that from a Yankee standpoint. If it goes to Game 7 and you have to face Lee, who would you rather have taking the ball for you a young Phil Hughes, a CC on 2 days rest, or Andy Pettitte?
Stephen Rhodes: I don't really care when we face Pettitte because I think our bats will destroy him. I can't find the statistics of our batters vs. him this year, but I'm just going with it anyway. Our bats are rolling and Hamilton and Young are due to explode. I do like having Lee pitching that game 3 in NY though.
While it's clear Wilson and Lee are the key pitchers for the Rangers this series, what do you expect from the other two starters? Which one is more likely step up and make a series defining start?
Bo Reed: I’ve said repeatedly that C.J. Wilson is the key player for the Rangers in this series. He wins his two starts and Lee wins game three this series could be over in a hurry. However, the one guy who I think will rebound from the Division Series is Colby Lewis, whether it’s to rebound from a loss in game one or to go to New York up 2-0; I believe Lewis will answer the bell in game two.
Tommy Hunter is scheduled for game four in New York and I agree with Matthew Irby on this one, I just don’t think he’ll win that game. However, Hunter has a knack of proving me wrong so we’ll see what happens. I think Lewis is more likely to make a series defining start in game two, but Hunter is also capable and could surprise us all.
Matthew Irby: I have a feeling that the Rangers are going to see a step-up performance from Colby Lewis in Game 2, even if it’s not a win. A confident, quality start from Lewis could set-up a win in either Game 2 or later in the series in Game 6, if it goes that long.
I would like Tommy Hunter better, had his start been in Texas, especially in the day time. But a night start in New York worries me a little bit with Tommy. It’s more than likely that Lee and Wilson will be on their games again, but in order for the Rangers to have the best chance to defeat the Yankees, I really think at least one solid outing from the Cobra is necessary.
Stephen Rhodes: I believe that Colby Lewis will step up on Saturday. He had a really good game this past Saturday. I think that he takes it even further this week and gives us seven solid innings with plenty of Ks. I think the Tommy Hunter/Derek Holland 4th start will be good but Lewis will be the one to really step up and get the home win.
The Rangers played five tough games in the Division Series giving them only two days of rest for the ALCS while the Yankees have had all week to get ready. That being said, can the Rangers take advantage from that lack of rest and carry their energy over from the Division Series into the ALCS? Especially in the first two games at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Bo Reed: Any other opponent and I’d consider it an advantage, but the Yankees have way too much experience to think the Rangers energy level will affect them too much. However, Josh Hamilton said the Rangers didn’t have the same level of intensity in games three and four that they had in Tampa Bay so I do think the quick transition will keep that from being an issue again.
The Rangers are going to be aggressive and they are not going to be scared of the Yankees, but the Yankees know this and will not make the same mistakes Tampa Bay did in the Division Series.
Matthew Irby: When it comes to playing beyond Game 162 rest is always a key and the Rangers only got two days as opposed to the Yanks five days. But in this case I think this works more in the Rangers favor because of what happened in both series. The Rays, after falling behind 0-2, came back strong and nearly won the series, this was key for the young Ranger team to see how important that killer mind-set is when finishing out a series. Give a team a second chance and they might pounce and beat you, and no team is better at that than these Yankees.
Also, the Twins basically keeled over and let the Yankees walk all over them. 3-0 sweep and outscored 17-7, only the Reds put up less of a fight. And I think that lack of quality baseball might put just a little bit of rust on some Yankee bats, enough so that it could make a difference early on in this series.
Stephen Rhodes: Going into last Saturday's game I was really hoping for the same amount of rest because I thought the Yankees would be finishing the sweep that night as well. However, I kind of like not having the huge break. I do think that we'll take the energy over from game 5 and carry it right into Arlington tomorrow night.
The Yankees have been sitting there on their high horse thinking to themselves that they're the best of the best and whoever they face will bow before them and lose because they always do and they've been before so no big deal anyway. On the other hand you've got the Rangers. A team with chemistry, friendship, and who are humble yet confident.
They know the odds but they know each other. They can do this. I can guarantee you that they have more energy than the Yankees. I believe the advantage here goes to the team with less playoff experience. I kind of just rambled a lot there but my point is yes, less rest will equal more energy and give us the advantage.