Sunday, October 31, 2010
Just a few quick points to consider about a game that breathed new life into the Rangers after dropping the Series first two games by the Bay:
+ Cliff Lee is great and all, but is there any doubt that Colby Lewis has been equally as important for Texas in this post-season. He now has all three home playoff wins in Rangers club history: Games 2 and 6 against the Yankees and now Game 3 against the Giants. Hopefully a couple of other Texas arms can pick up wins at Rangers Ballpark before the weekend is out.
+ Mitch Moreland's homerun with two outs was big for a few different reasons, but one of the more overlooked aspects of his shot was this: he is the No. 9 hitter. Now, it's not a big deal to get that kind of production for a No. 9 hitter. At some point, everyone who is in the lineup in there because they are capable of producing. It's because because if this game is in a National League park, Moreland is batting 8th and the pitching spot is ninth, which means that three-run homerun probably isn't coming.
+ Michael Young helped quiet the catcalls of "Roger Dorn" with a couple of nice stabs at third base. 1,500 regular season games before he finally makes the playoffs, and don't for a second think that he'll let his post-season legacy be defined by balls that fans think he coulda-shoulda-woulda gotten too.
+ Neftali Feliz had to wait until the Game 3 of the World Series for his first save opportunity. If people thought the young closer might falter on baseball's biggest stage, that certainly didn't show. His first pitch was a strong strike one, and he struck out the first and last batter's he faced in a 1-2-3 top of the ninth inning. There was a very long fly ball that Jeff Francour wrangled in at the warning track for Out No. 2, but Feliz went right back to work after the catch was made.
The Giants lead the Series, 2-1, but Texas seemed energized by the home crowd in Saturday night's game. If they can continue to feed off a fan base starved for success, the Rangers should be able to erase a 2-0 series deficit by the end of tonight.
And speaking of starving for success, I'm off to Arlington for today's Dallas Cowboys game...
Thursday, October 28, 2010
My initial reaction to that game is going to be one big blur plus the most embarrassing meltdown in DFW sports playoffs since the Mavs were up by 13 points with 6:28 left in Game 3 of the 2006 NBA Finals. This was worse than the Cowboys going down 21-0 in the first quarter to the San Francisco 49ers in the 1994 NFC Championship Game. The Texas Rangers bullpen looked like they were trying to raise money for cancer or AIDS or some other cause because they sponsored a walk-a-thon in the eighth inning, coercing a 7-run frame from the San Francisco Giants en route to a 9-0 loss in Game 2 of the World Series.
Texas is now down 0-2 in the best-of-seven series, and while this is not over by any means, we are coming to find out that Rangers starting pitching must be counted on to go eight innings and hand the ball directly to Neftali Felix. Don't even let another reliever breathe on the ball at this point.
[Bullpen] It was a strong effort by Darren O'Day in the bottom of the 8th inning to keep things close for Texas. Despite a lengthy at-bat by Andres Torres to lead off the inning, O'Day got him fishing for a slider outside for the first out. Three pitches later, he retired Freddy Sanchez before Buster Posey singled up the middle. Ron Washington went back to the bullpen for Derek Holland to face Pat Burrell. One day after O'Day looked rather ordinary in Game 1, it was nice to see him bounce back in Game 2.
On the flip side of that coin, Holland threw 11 straight pitches outside the strike zone and walked three consecutive batters to push a third run across for the Giants. It seemed the ghost of Rick Ankiel usurped the body of Derek Holland and went to work. Wash replaced a nervousfaced Holland with Mark Lowe, but Ankeil's spirit remained on the mound. Lowe walked Juan Uribe to make it 4-0 Giants, and Edgar Renteria worked the count full for before smashing the Giants into the win column in Game 2 with a two-run single through the left side of the infield. The Rangers could have scored two runs in the top of the ninth. Maybe the 3 or 4 they would have needed. But with Renteria's single making it 6-0, that pretty much iced this one.
And as if their was any doubt Michael Kirkman surrendered a two-run triple to Aaron Rowand as the Giants took an 8-0 lead in the bottom of the 8th. Andres Torres, who led off the inning seemingly a half hour earlier, singled to make it 9-0 before Sanchez struck out to end the embarrassment. FOX's Tim McCarver said it perfectly: "The Giants are winning with pitching again, but not theirs."
The Rangers bats went silent for the second straight night, and while it's not crazy to think they could have put two runs across in the top of the ninth inning with Cruz/Kinsler/Murphy due up (plus Vlad Guerrero available as a pinch hitter), they had no purpose in even stepping in the batters box in the ninth with the game already out of hand.
Even in the World Series, an 0-2 deficit is not insurmountable. Not all is lost. It only seems that way right now.
Had the Rangers not just taken all of us on emotional rollercoaster series against Tampa Bay and New York, perhaps I wouldn't be handling this as well as I am right now. It's not panic time yet, but it's getting close. With each playoff series, the losses hit extremely hard and the wins float the fans onto cloud nine.
But in a city where the prized Dallas Cowboys are 1-5, the Rangers bullpen appeared to be working their hardest to leapfrog them for the honor of Most Embarrassing Sports Entity in DFW.
Second-guessing baseball is such a crapshoot because you can have the exact right strategy that for whatever reason is executed near-perfectly and still lose in this game. But what I cannot understand is why Ron Washington felt compelled to lift Darren O'Day from the game with two outs and a runner on first with backup outfielder Nate Schierholtz due up. O'Day is a righty, Schierholtz is a lefty, so bringing in Derek Holland does ostensibly provide the benefit of a lefty-lefty match up, but if a guy is pitching well, then frankly it just doesn't matter what side of the plate the batter is on.
Some other thoughts on Game 2 of the World Series:
The San Francisco Giants handed Texas Rangers ace Cliff Lee his first career playoff loss, chasing him from the game in the fifth inning in their 11-7 Game 1 win. Lee, who had a two-run lead after two innings, had been lights out throughout the ALDS and ALCS but more than stubbed his toe in the World Series opener on Wednesday.
What amazes me though is how not only did everyone seem to pencil in two wins for the Rangers in this series based on Lee's otherworldly presence alone, but now that he has demonstrated abilities of yet another mortal or muggle, many seem ready to cast off the Rangers chances to bring home baseball's championship.
The Giants are now up 1-0 in the Series, but by no means is this thing over. And even though it was a loss to what others were ready to declare the godly Lee, Texas has been here before. In fact, you could make the case that the Game 1 loss in the ALCS to the New York Yankees was a much worse loss, a much more damaging body blow. In that game, the Rangers led 5-0 before surrendering six unanswered runs to NYY and falling to 0-7 at home all time in the postseason. In the World Series opener, they succumbed to one bad inning that broke things open for the Giants.
Unless the Rangers get swept, Cliff Lee will be making another start in this series. That means he might only *gasp* win one game for Texas in this Series ... just as he did in the ALCS for the Rangers. Yes, Texas desperately needed him to be everything he was and is to get past Tampa Bay. But this organization didn't not need to lean heavily on Lee to get past New York. They received one win from him. And if the Rangers can get just that one win from Lee in the World Series, then their odds to bring a championship to the Metroplex are strong.
Don't write off the Rangers because you think Lee turned back into a pumpkin.
He didn't. And they aren't done. It's a long best-of-seven series, and the Rangers will see the Series shift back to Texas after tonight's contest. If the offense can jump out to a healthy lead against Matt Cain, Texas is right back in the thick of things.
A few other thoughts on the first game in Texas Rangers World Series history:
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
When NYG linebacker busted through the offensive line untouched and drove Tony Romo to the ground, breaking his clavicle, that effectively ended the Cowboys season. As we learned in 2008, this is not a team with a strong backup quarterback since, what?, Bernie Kosar in 1993. There have been teams who have rallied behind a backup QB, but those typically aren't the teams that commit 10 penalties per game and drop to 1-5 despite having a 20-7 lead and forcing a bushel of takeaways.
Game over. Giants 41, Cowboys 35.
For the first time since 2005, the Cowboys won't be going down to the wire to determine their playoff positioning. Instead the 2010 campaign will focus on draft positioning more than anything. And just one year after winning a playoff game for the first time in over a decade, they officially will not have a chance to build on that accomplishment.
What is even more disappointing is that the Cowboys seemed to realize the trajectory of their season well before the clock hit zero. The "give up" was palpable and thus the season was over before the end of the game not because of Romo going down but also because of how the Cowboys responded to that challenge. If adversity is supposed to reveal the truth and character of a team, then the metroplex just got a rude awakening about America's Team.
With an opportunity to rally the troops, make a stand and fight off the division-leading Giants, instead the Cowboys defense crinkled, crumpled and crashed on five straight New York possessions, allowing four touchdowns and a field goal as the game -- and the season -- slipped away forever. It's not that the defense had to keep up their video-game pace of three takeaways on the Giants first four drives, but they allowed TD drives of 80, 56, 55 and 70 yards. The one time the defense effectively "held" was to turn a NYG short-field possession into only a field goal, but even by that point the handwriting was on the wall.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Dallas has been close in each defeat, losing by 6, 7, 7, and 3 points in their four losses. But they are officially out of life lines.
People talk about waking up on the wrong side of the bed, and that's exactly how 2010 began with Alex Barron's holding penalty that negated the last-second game-winning touchdown in Washington in Week 1. It seems like life has spiraled out of control since that flag hit the turf at FedEx Field.
The Cowboys went on to get picked apart by Jay Cutler -- the same guy who thew four interceptions today -- in a Week 2 loss to Chicago. And any spark from the Week 3 win at Houston was extinguished during the ensuing bye week, kicking off a string of every game is a must win game for Dallas. And they are responding to that pressure about as well as Terrell Owens responds to not getting the ball. Then came a string of "must win" malfunctions...
Friday, October 22, 2010
Much has been made of a number of Rangers' players. While Cliff Lee is the Rangers' unquestioned ace, a single (albeit exceptional) win in game 3 in no way qualifies him for ALCS MVP. Perhaps one looks to traditional big guns: Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero, or Nelson Cruz?
Not a chance. Cruz hit some big claws this series and Vladdy had some bit hits as well, including the bust-it-open shot in the bottom of the fifth. He had 3 RBIs today. Josh Hamilton (who was just named the actual series MVP) had 4 HRs this series, tying a record, but the Yankees basically put a stop to anything else he could do to them by intentionally walking him a record 5 times throughout the series.
Switching gears again, if you want to choose the best Pitcher this series: Colby Lewis. Just no doubt. Two huge wins. The first and the last. He allowed only 3 runs in those two games. Unfortunately, even Colby doesn't make the cut.
The Rangers won this series plain and simple behind Elvis Andrus. No doubt. No question. And here's why:
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
The Rangers bullpen answered its critics and atoned for what has been the only solid inning by the Yankees of the entire series. Derek Holland tossed 3 and 2/3 innings of relief to earn the win as Texas pulled away for a 10-3 victory in Game 4, pushing the New York Yankees to the brink of elimination. And while I'm sure the entire borough of the Bronx, not to mention all the Manhattanites as well, are buzzing about why the Yankees didn't pitch CC Sabathia on short rest instead of throwing AJ Burnett into the fire.
But until Bengie Molina's three-run homerun that leapfrogged Texas ahead of New York, Burnett had been pitching very effectively for the Yankees. He kept the Rangers off balance early, however all the fears of Yankees fans were realized not five seconds after TBS finished showing a montage of Molina's three homeruns from the 2005 ALDS against New York. Montage over. Bengie crushes one. Burnett goes bye bye.
Texas never looked back.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Except Cliff Lee.
Are you freakin' kidding me?
Lee shut out the Yankees through eight innings and could have worked the ninth had the Rangers not erupted for a 6-run 9th inning. His 13 strikeouts gave him a MLB record of at least 10 strikeouts in three straight games in a single post-season. But what blows my mind is that after hearing about what he's capable of and what he would do for a week, he still went out and did exactly that.
Monday, October 18, 2010
This team isn't finding new ways to lose. They are losing the same way each and every time: bogged down in penalties and missing out on a win by just one possession. This week, the Cowboys fell 24-21 in Minnesota, the site of last year's playoff exit and this season's essential elimination from any meaningful contention.
Dallas is now 2.5 games behind third-place Washington (3-3) with both New York and Philadelphia leading the NFC East at 4-2. It's no longer a case of Dallas fading fast. They have pretty much faded out, and barring one of the most meteoric rises in a second half of an NFL season, Dallas can look ahead to 2011 (if in fact there will be a 2011 NFL season).
Sunday, October 17, 2010
One day after the Texas Rangers couldn't hold onto a 5-0 lead against the New York Yankees, they again found themselves leading 5-0 in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series. Show of hands, who was nervous?
Kinda hard not to be nervous. The Yankees are a juggernaut of an offense capable of teeing off on anyone at any time. The Rangers bullpen is young (well, except for Darren Oliver) and new to the playoffs. But for 3 and 1/3 innings, they preserved a healthy lead over New York to take Game 2 of the ALCS, 7-2, for the franchise's first home playoff win.
Manager Ron Washington seems to be egging on the home crowd and the fans' antler craze, orchestrating a double-steal in the first inning which cashed Elvis Andrus from third base to put Texas ahead, 1-0. David Murphy demonstrated why he should be in the lineup, despite the broadcasters saying otherwise seconds before he took out his boomboom stick and went deep to right field. Three RBI-doubles later, Texas had more than enough runs, but against the Yankees, it never seems like enough.
Starting pitcher Colby Lewis finally got the run support that seems to evade him during the regular season, tossing 5 and 2/3 innings as Rangers starting pitching again stifled the Yankees. Washington went to the pen, giving the ball back to three of the five relievers involved in the Game 1 meltdown the day before. Clay Rapada, Alexi Ogando, Darren Oliver and Darren O'Day kept New York off the board until the ninth inning when Neftali Feliz took the ball.
While Feliz struggled with a pair of walks, he ultimately was able to record the final out, inducing a fly out to deep left field that Nellie Cruz tracked down to send this series to the Bronx, tied 1-1.
Since Game 5 of the ALDS against Tampa Bay, everyone and anyone around baseball has been chirping about Cliff Lee. Cliff Lee. Cliff Lee. Now is when the Rangers need him most, for him to be at his best to steal Game 3 at Yankee Stadium and put Texas ahead in the series. Lee is undefeated in the playoffs in his career and had great success against the Yankees last year in the World Series, pitching the Phillies to their only two series wins before eventually losing in six games.
For so long, the Rangers have given the metroplex a reason to doubt, a reason to worry. Game 1 of this series is a classic example. But could it be that Cliff Lee is the complete opposite, providing a reason for legitimate hope that Texas could in fact return to Rangers Ballpark for Games 6 and 7 and potentially take the American League pennant in 2010? The concept itself seems absurd to this longtime Rangers fan, but that is what Lee and this squad are doing.
They are running hard. They are aggressive both on the base paths as well as from the mound attacking the strike zone. They have the power at the plate. This is, in fact, a team that can compete for a World Series just three wins away.
This is the Texas Rangers? Believe it or not.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
No one said it would be easy. For either team.
When the Texas Rangers jumped on top of New York Yankees ace CC Sabathia early, perhaps the DFW metroplex was again lulled into a false sense of security, an eerily similar feeling to being up 2-0 over Tampa Bay in the Division Series. But just as the Rays put a serious scare into Texas by winning the next to games in Arlington, the Yankees beat up the Rangers' bullpen for six unanswered runs to steal Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, 6-5, at Rangers Ballpark.
Josh Hamilton, who struggled in the previous postseason series, blasted a three-run homerun off Sabathia in the first inning, and Michael Young added a two-RBI hit in the fourth, Sabathia's last inning of work. Texas held a 5-0 lead and had vanquished the Yankees aces, something that isn't likely to happen again in the series.
Blowing the lead -- thanks to the shaky relief pitching of Darren Oliver, Darren O'Day, Clay Rapada and Derek Holland -- is not only big because it cost the Rangers a playoff game, putting the Yankees a quarter of the way toward the World Series. But it also creates major concerns about pretty much any Rangers relief options from this point forward. And short of using starting pitchers on their 3rd day of rest to work a relief inning, Texas is stuck in the position of having to dance with who brung 'em.
Take a look at how the Rangers pitchers did last night:
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Perhaps the Rangers should give the entire $3 billion of the new TV contract to Cliff Lee... just throwing it out there.
The left-hander totaled a pair of wins and 21 strikeouts against no walks between games 1 and 5 of the best-of-five series, including a complete game in Tuesday night's 5-1 Rangers win at the Trop.
The first time the road team won every game of a MLB playoff series is so much more significant to the North Texas region than for it's anecdotal details. This is history for the Rangers. And with a guy like Cliff Lee, it's hard to completely dismiss their chances against the Yankees in the ALCS.
Tonight the Rangers ran with the urgency of a team on the brink and the reckless abandon of a franchise that had to simply "figure it out" by any means necessary. Each of the first three runs Texas scored were manufactured -- in every sense of the word -- by aggressive if not jaw-dropping base running.
I have a hard time believing today's report that Wade Phillips is keeping Marion Barber as the starting running back for the Dallas Cowboys over back up Felix Jones. It's not a matter of is this the right call or not -- on the surface it's not -- but rather the true issue is does this really matter?
The answer: No.
Marion Barber can be the "starting" running back in 2010, that's fine, just as long has he is the "starter" the same way that Julius Jones was the Cowboys "starting" running back in 2007. He can be on the first on the first play of the game. Good for him. But at the end of the day, it isn't a question who will receive the bulk of the carries.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Maybe I got caught up in the hype. I wanted to believe it could be so easy after too many crash-and-burn playoff performances from the Dallas-area teams. But there were the Texas Rangers, leading the Tampa Bay Rays 2-0 in the best-of-five series on the brink of winning the first playoff series in franchise history.
The Rangers needed to win just one game at home in two tries to secure a berth in the American League Championships Series against the New York Yankees.
Instead the Rays - five outs away from going home despite the AL's best record in 2010 - came from behind to win Game 3 and beat up on the Rangers in Game 4 to force the deciding fifth game back in St. Petersburg.
Texas is now 0-6 all time at home in the playoffs with two losses in 1996, and one in both 1998 and 1999, all against the New York Yankees. However the Rangers are going into a place for the deciding fifth game where they have already won twice and, despite dropping the last two games, will have their ace Cliff Lee on the hill.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Dallas (1-3) had its chances to win, but much like their neighbors at the Ballpark in Arlington, they came up short and extremely disappointing. Perhaps the most glaring of what became a comedy of errors was Mike Jenkins nearly allowing a quick-strike touchdown after a Tony Romo interception in the end zone. Romo's pass off Martellus Bennett's fingertips finding its way into Michael Griffin's hands was fluky, but Jenkins failing to make sure he touched down Kenny Britt was a microcosm for the entire game.
Vince Young completed what appeared to be an 80-yard touchdown pass to Britt before the Cowboys successfully challenged that he was down by contact, with Jenkins placing a gentle hand into his back before clutching at Britt's jersey as he went to the ground. Jenkins then meandered on without any regard for Britt, who got up and sprinted to the end zone. Maybe Jenkins *just knew* that he had him down, but the fact that he stopped playing because he thought the play was over is basically what the Cowboys did all game, and frankly all season, long.
Dallas isn't playing it out, playing until the whistle, and now they are going to be playing from behind in the NFC East as they try to secure what will most likely be a wild card berth at best into the 2010 playoffs. Several Cowboys defenders bounced away on tackling attempts and failed to wrap up on too many occasions leading to plenty of extra yards for the Titans.
Tennessee intercepted Tony Romo three times, the final pick coming with less than a minute left after the Dallas defense made a late stop to give the offense one last-gasp breath to try to tie the game. The defense failed to take the ball away at all for the third time in four games this season, and at the times when Dallas came up with big stops to halt Tennessee drives, the Cowboys offense came up short going the other way.
Dallas is quickly going from Super Bowl favorite to playoff outsider before the season's midway point. They could potentially turn it around, but the spark required to start that fire doesn't appear to currently be a part of the organization in any way. There are no easy fixes; only hard work and added hustle can fix what the Cowboys are ailing from. Finish plays, maintain focus, and cut down on penalties, and maybe just maybe this team can play a few extra games in January. If not, Dallas can watch the playoffs pass them by as the Super Bowl makes it way to Arlington without them.
A few other thoughts on a game that increased the sales of Rogaine in the DFW area:
Thursday, October 07, 2010
This season, the Rangers battled. Pitching. Defense. They could hit. They could run. This team did it all. It came to fruition on September 25 when they clinched the American League West and advanced to the postseason for the fourth time in franchise history. It gave the metroplex a chance to celebrate the Rangers, to recognize the Rangers. A tip of the cap and moving on.
Not. So. Fast.
The Rangers going into the playoffs was almost a novelty in North Texas. Three short series against the Yankees in 1996, '98 and '99 molded that perception. But with the Rangers now leading the Tampa Bay Rays 2-0 as the best-of-five ALDS shifts to Arlington, this is no longer a novelty act.
This is a team that has a shot.
And with a 6-0 shutout of Tampa Bay this afternoon, the lowly Rangers shed themselves of a losers light and put themselves in position to no longer be referred to as the only team in the Major Leagues never to have won a post-season series. Now, for the first time ever, this team has a realistic expectation of success.
Simply making the playoffs is no longer enough.
It wasn't something we could declare after the Game 1 win. Cliff Lee could have been just a hired gun, someone to win one game before the Rangers bowed out as they had in 1996 after taking the first game from New York. But C.J. Wilson's pitching performance let the baseball world know that this series would in fact be the Rangers official coming out party. They have arrived on baseball's October stage, and they aren't going to be taken lightly again.
In a region where football is king and everything else is fodder, the Rangers are rising up and demanding the attention of their market. The Claw. The Antlers. And now, a 2-0 lead in the American League Division Series. A win on Saturday completes a sweep and sets up Lee to pitch Game 1 of the ALCS. It also makes permanent the legitimacy the Rangers are forging this October.
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
The only member of this Rangers squad that would be able to recognize post-season success other than Lee would be the man behind the plate today to catch him. So isn't it fitting that while the majority of this roster is toe-dipping into the playoffs for the first time, Lee and catcher Benji Molina cannonballed into the deep end of the pool. Molina paced Texas with three hits including an early RBI single and a solo home run.
It's a great start to the ALDS for a couple reasons. Obviously it's a Game 1 win which means even more in this short best-of-5 series. But more importantly the guys without playoff skins on the wall had a chance to get a taste of the playoffs without being counted on in the clutch just yet. How much more comforting is it now that Neftali Feliz has worked in inning and bounced back after putting two men no. The answer: LOTS.
Hang on to your antlers, because the Rangers have the series lead.
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