MLB Playoffs - ALCS Q&A Update With Rangers Writers
The Texas Rangers lead the Detroit Tigers two games to none in the 2011 American League Championship Series thanks to strong relief pitching and some very timely hitting from outfielder Nelson Cruz.
For today, I caught up with two Ranger writers, who were happy to volunteer their time and insight.
1. Adrian Beltre hit three home runs in Game 4 of the ALDS, and Monday, Nelson Cruz blasted two key home runs in Game 2 including a walk-off grand slam in the 11th inning. Talk about the importance of having such a deep lineup filled with so many impact players who are capable of dominating games.
Andro: It's been huge, especially in the playoffs. Elvis Andrus, Michael Young and Josh Hamilton have yet to really have big impacts in the postseason. When you can get your No. 5 or No. 7 hitter to carry an offense, then that makes your team that much better. No team in baseball has a player hitting seventh like Cruz, who can carry the offense if he's hot. If the heart of the order gets going, there are no easy outs for opposing pitchers. That's why the Rangers have the best offense of any of the teams still alive.
2. Was Monday’s Game 2 ALCS finish the most exciting playoff finish you’ve ever witnessed first-hand?
Andro: Game 6 of the ALCS last year was pretty cool, just because it's something that no one had ever seen here. Game 5 of the ALDS last year was also nice. But for sheer drama, you can't beat Monday night. From the fact that it was delayed for no rain just adds to it. Lots of upset fans about that.
But once the game got going, there were so many dramatic moments. The bases-loaded chances where no one scored. The bobbling catch by Elvis Andrus. Cruz just missing a homer two swings before he finished it. Also a huge game because if the Tigers win, the Rangers have to go to Detroit where they have stunk with the Tigers having all the momentum.
Wilson: If not for the bullpen, the Rangers would be down 2-0 instead of up 2-0. Scott Feldman was the key piece in Game 2, with 4 1/3 scoreless innings from a guy who hasn't pitched much this season. The postponement Sunday made everyone available to manager Ron Washington, who used Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz (seen left) for more than three outs. It will be interesting to see how they are handled the next three games.
4. Rangers ace C.J. Wilson has been a little shaky as of late. How concerned, if at all, are you about C.J. Wilson and the rest of the Ranger starting rotation?
Andro: Very concerned. The bullpen has been awesome, but they can't continue to carry that workload. 11 1/3 innings over two games will get you killed eventually. CJ was an ace in the regular season but has been bad in the postseason. He's 1-3 and hasn't won a game since beating Tampa last year. If you're supposed to be the best free agent pitcher on the market and a $100 million man, these are the times you are supposed to step up. He hasn't done that yet. He needs to win a big game.
5. With Magglio Ordonez sidelined for the year with a fractured right ankle and Delmon Young not quite 100 percent with a strained oblique, how overmatched does the Tigers offense appear to be?
Wilson: The Tigers don't have as many right-handed-hitting options as they thought they would entering the series to combat three left-handed Rangers starters. Don Kelly, a left-handed hitter, has to play more. So does Ryan Raburn, which, judging by the first two games, doesn't seem so bad. But the injuries also forced Andy Dirks into Game 2, and the ball found him in the 11th inning. There are still some great bats in the Tigers' lineup -- starting with Miguel Cabrera, of course -- but their offense has taken a hit.
6. Jeff, you tweeted that Nelson Cruz was given right forearm x-rays, which came back negative. What’s your expectation of his status for the rest of the series?
Wilson: I'm guessing Nelson Cruz will be in the lineup. He was icing his wrist after Game 2 and admitted that it wasn't as bad as he thought it was. It didn't have much effect on his final swing.
(Editor's note: Cruz is in the lineup for Game 3.)
7. Colby Lewis allowed the most home runs in the American League, but only 37 percent of those home runs were surrendered away from Arlington. In Game 3, how can Lewis avoid giving up the home run ball?
Wilson: The ballpark should help. Comerica Park is a pitcher's park, no doubt. But Lewis still needs to make his pitches and make sure that he isn't giving up free bases. A solo homer isn't the end of the world. Lewis also hasn't fared well at Comerica the past two years, or against the Tigers at Rangers Ballpark. His playoff mettle is going to be tested.
8. Anthony, on Twitter, you cited this statistic: Since 1985, 18 of the 21 championship series teams that jumped out to 2-0 series leads ultimately advanced to the World Series. Although the odds are clearly in Texas’ favor, what could possibly derails the Rangers’ plan of a second straight trip to the World Series?
Andro: The Rangers have to win one of the next two games. You don't want the Tigers to win two and then have Justin Verlander going in Game 5. That changes the whole complexion of the series. There's a reason that stat says 18 of 21 have made it. If it were a lock, there would be 21 of 21. The Rangers are in good shape, but that can change in a hurry.
9. What do the Rangers have to do to take care of business and earn their second straight World Series appearance?
Wilson: The Rangers certainly don't need to change much. They could use a couple seven-inning outings by their starters, and their offense would be even more potent if their first four hitters got hot. Josh Hamilton had a good night in Game 2, and Young got a hit to start the 11th. If Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus heat up in the meat of the order, watch out.
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