Are the Rangers looking any better than they did last year, coming off an emotional series with the Yankees? Well, even though the Rangers opponent has not been decided yet since the Cardinals and Brewers are still battling it out, I can’t feel better about where the Rangers are at right now.
The Rangers are headed back to the World Series. So how is this year’s version different from last year’s? First and foremost, the Rangers have a very different pitching situation. Even with last year’s batting, the Rangers relied heavily on their starting pitchers to go as deep as they could, especially Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson. This ended up hurting them in the 2010 World Series when their bullpen had to make early appearances and they weren’t able to get the job done. There was nothing more painful than watching Holland come into Game 2 and throw 12 balls in a row as he had become allergic to the strike zone. The bullpen was a major weakness of last year’s team.
This time around, it looks as though the bullpen is actually a strength of the AL Champs. Ogando, Adams, and Feliz are very intimidating figures, and most Rangers fans probably get excited when they see them on the mound as opposed to last year when fans held their breath whenever the bullpen doors opened. Furthermore, after the Adams/Uehara trade, most analysts said that the Rangers had assembled the best bullpen in the MLB. So far, they haven’t proven them wrong.
As far as offense goes, the Rangers batters are indeed firing on all cylinders. In game 6 of the ALCS, other than Endy Chavez who was relieved by Craig Gentry in the 3rd inning, every single Ranger batter had a hit and seven of the nine had multiple hits. Is there any other way a team would want their batters to be going into a World Series? It has been said that there is no weak spot in the Rangers lineup, and after watching that game, I don’t know how anyone could argue otherwise. Everyone is going to have a night where their bat goes cold, but with so much power from top to bottom, this club should be feeling pretty good right now.
Finally, something that can’t be overlooked is the Rangers experience going into this final MLB series. Last year, the Rangers ventured into the playoffs for the first time since 1999, and going to the World Series was just icing on the cake. They were a young, inexperienced team that was making an astounding playoff push. When the actual games had to be played, the Rangers looked to be overwhelmed by the moment. However, now that they have tasted that cake with that icing they are coming back for that same dessert, but this time they want to take the whole cake, icing and all. They failed once and are back for more. (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)
Before they know it, Wednesday will be here, and it will be time for the biggest series in baseball to begin.. Ron Washington will get his men focused and ready to take another swing at winning the World Series. It is difficult to predict what direction the World Series will go. Just look at last season’s World Series as the Rangers were the favorite because up until the World Series, the Giants had trouble scoring. Then, out of the blue, they started piling on the runs all the way to a title.
Even with this sobering memory, the Rangers still have to be feeling good about where they are right now. As long as the starting rotation settles down, the bullpen maintains their dominance, Feliz keeps changing up his pitches, and the batters show why their ballclub is first in the league in batting average, it is very possible the Mavericks and Rangers might have to share a flight to Washington D.C.
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