Thursday, October 28, 2010

Frantic-Lee? Take is easy (SF leads TEX, 1-0)

Apparently it's Armageddon for Rangers baseball. At least, that's the general sense I get from national sports pundits and any halfwit who started watching baseball in October.

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:

+ The Rangers were one bad inning away from leading the Series, 1-0. But that was the case against New York in Game 1 of the ALCS. What's more disturbing are the careless errors that Texas made throughout the night aside of bad pitches that the Giants took advantage of. People are beating up Vlad Guerrero for a comedy of errors in right field, but the goofy play that signified the Rangers looking out of their element in Game 1 was Ian Kinsler's base-running.

In the Top of the 8th, Kinsler bounced a ball over the pitchers mound and outraced an off-the-mark throw to first for a sure infield single. The throw pulled the Giants' firstbaseman off the bag, and Kinsler rounded the bag thinking he could advance to second base. To his surprise, however, Aubrey Huff sprung up and tagged out Kinsler. Instead of trailing by four runs with a runner now on first base and an opportunity for a late-inning rally, Texas never threatened the rest of the inning, and SF went on to put the game away with three runs in the bottom of the frame.

+ Guerrero's errors in right field were ugly, no doubt about that. Once he was able to wrangle the ball into his glove, he could throw it into the infield just fine, but Vlad certainly looked sluggish in the right lawn. It might have been ugly, and perhaps Ron Washington keeps him on the bench as a pinch hitter for Game 2 instead of starting his DH in the field for the second straight night, but Vlad did what you needed him to do at the plate: drove in a pair of runs going 1-for-4. They need to keep his bat in the lineup.

+ As dumb as some of Texas' fielding and baserunning errors were, I have never in four years of working as a minor league baseball broadcaster seen any player, pitcher or otherwise, look as dumbfounded and little league as Tim Lincecum on Nelson Cruz's first inning grounder back to the mound. Lincecum cut off the ball and looked toward Michael Young who was coming home from third. Young, accepting defeat started to head back to the 3rd base bag, waiting for the Giants pitcher to throw the ball to the base and oust the runner. Lincecum never threw, Young scampered back to the base safely, and Texas sat with the bases loaded and one out in the first inning. The proud pothead pitcher induced a 5u3 double play ball from Kinsler one batter later to keep the early Texas lead at 1-0 and avoid what could have been a big early inning from the Rangers.

+ For the first time in the post season, the Rangers didn't go deep. No home runs in Game 1. Say what you want about how this team has come around and don't live-and-die by the long ball as they did during their late-90s playoff appearances, but it sure doesn't hurt to break out the boomsticks, especially now that we know the Giants aren't the offensively impotent team that we'd heard about coming into this Series.

+ Elvis Andrus continues to be a strong table-setter, leading off the game with a single, and came around to score on Vlad's infield single. He was a force throughout the ALCS, and if the Rangers are going to drive strong to the hoop in the World Series, then the first player named Elvis to play in a World Series (worst tidbit of info that any network has used to lead off a broadcast) will need to keep it up.

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