MLB

Texas could be the cure for Rangers

Ken Rosenthal talks with Matt Cain and Edgar Renteria after the Giants' 9-0 win in Game 2.
Ken Rosenthal talks with Matt Cain and Edgar Renteria after the Giants' 9-0 win in Game 2.
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Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal has been the FOXSports.com's Senior MLB Writer since August 2005. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX, FOX Sports Radio and MLB Network. He's a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter.

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SAN FRANCISCO

The first four questions to Rangers manager Ron Washington in the interview room were about his curious handling of the bullpen in the eighth inning. But Game 2 — and maybe the World Series — already was lost by then.

Washington should have pulled rookie left-hander Derek Holland after one hitter rather than allow him to walk three. He should have used closer Neftali Feliz, whose idle stretch now will extend to at least seven days.

A 2-0 thriller turned into a 9-0 rout and two-games-to-none deficit after right-hander Darren O’Day started the inning with two strikeouts. Washington kept waiting for the final out, and eight Giants hit before it came. Not good. But not the story, either.

My concern with the Rangers is that the Giants’ pitchers are going to stifle them the way they did the Phillies. It didn’t happen in Game 1, when the Rangers scored seven runs. It shouldn’t happen in Games 3 and 4, when the Giants will start lefties Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner against the Rangers’ predominantly right-handed lineup. At the hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark. With Vladimir Guerrero back as the Rangers’ DH.

But maybe this whole thing is coming full circle now. Just as the AL dominated with offense in recent years, maybe the NL will start to dominate with pitching in a more restrained offensive era. I know, I know — we’re talking about an absurdly small sample. Sanchez might be as bad as Giants right-hander Matt Cain was good in Game 2. The Rangers should somehow get back into this thing, if only because they’re not this inept.

Then again, I keep going back to a comment that Giants general manager Brian Sabean made after his team’s six-game triumph in the NLCS. Sabean was standing with his back against a wall in the visitors’ clubhouse in Philadelphia, speaking defiantly about what had just occurred.

“We deserved this because we pitched really well,” Sabean said. “Everyone is saying that Philadelphia didn’t hit. They didn’t hit because we pitched well. That’s why we won the series.”

Fast forward to the visitors’ clubhouse at AT&T Park on Thursday night, and Washington’s pregame meeting with the FOX broadcasters. Washington noted that Cain was a power pitcher, then added with a smile, “We like power.” Only that is not the way the game unfolded, not even close.

Cain mixed sliders and changeups with his low-90s fastball — nothing the Rangers hadn’t seen, nothing they didn’t expect, according to hitting coach Clint Hurdle. But the Rangers went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Fifteen of their 27 outs were on flyballs and popups, the wrong way to go about it at AT&T.

The Rangers players said all the right and predictable things afterward.

Catcher Matt Treanor talked about the certain boost that the fans in Texas will provide. Third baseman Michael Young offered no hint of negative thought, saying, “This is the most mentally tough group I’ve ever been around.”

Remember, the Rangers blew a two-games-to-none lead in the Division Series, then won Game 5 on the road in Tampa Bay. Remember, they suffered a crushing defeat in Game 1 of the ALCS, then won four of the next five against the Yankees.

In theory, winning four of five from the Giants should not be as difficult, but suddenly Bruce Bochy’s merry misfits — The Idiots, Part II — are hitting. The Giants scored just 30 runs in their first 10 postseason games. They’ve scored 20 in the first two games of the World Series.

Sanchez reverted to his old erratic self in Game 6 of the NLCS, lasting just two-plus innings. But in his eight starts before that — six regular season, two postseason — his ERA was 1.29. What happens if he is on in Game 3?

The Rangers, for all their brave talk, might start pressing. And then this sucker might be over quickly.

Nelson Cruz, the Rangers’ cleanup hitter in Game 2, conceded that he was “lost at the plate” and off with his timing after going 0-for-4 and failing to get a ball out of the infield.

Center fielder Josh Hamilton, the MVP of the ALCS, dropped to 1-for-8 with a walk in the Series. Javier Lopez, the Giants’ killer lefty, retired Hamilton on a fly to center with a runner on second Thursday night.

OK, enough. The Series can easily turn around. I will be surprised if it does not turn around. The Rangers, until the postseason, were a far better club at home than on the road. The crowd for the team’s first home World Series game Saturday figures to be completely nuts. And right-hander Colby Lewis, the Rangers’ Game 3 pitcher, has a 1.45 ERA in his three postseason starts.

The bad news is, the Giants have allowed only 87 runs in their last 38 games, including postseason. That’s an average of just 2.29 per game, and we’re talking now about the equivalent of almost a quarter of a regular season.

Rangers Ballpark — and the Rangers’ deeper AL lineup — present the next test. There is a lingering sense, even now, that the Giants just aren’t this good. But maybe, because of their pitching, they are better than anyone ever imagined.

Tagged: Rangers, Giants, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez

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