Sizing up Cards-Rangers World Series
When Lance Berkman was on the free-agent market last offseason, the Texas Rangers made a strong push.
He declined. He said he was concerned that the Rangers’ run to their first World Series appearance in 2010 was a fluke.
Berkman opted to sign with St. Louis, in part because of a desire to play for manager Tony La Russa but also because of the Cardinals’ postseason successes.
Right now, he’s batting .500.
The Cardinals have won their 18th NL pennant, one less than the Giants, who hold the NL record since the formation of Major League Baseball in 1901, and tied for second with the Dodgers. St. Louis will open the World Series at Busch Stadium on Wednesday night against … that’s right, the Texas Rangers, making the second World Series appearance in two years and the second in the history of a franchise that was born as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961.
“I was wrong,’’ said Berkman, who at least can save face if the Cardinals beat the Rangers for the championship.
PAST ENCOUNTERS: These teams have the most limited history of any in the big leagues. They have met in only one regular-season series, in 2004 when St. Louis traveled to Texas and took two of three games. However, there are some familiar faces.
Berkman has seen a lot of the Rangers from his days in Houston. The Astros and Rangers are natural rivals in interleague play, and Berkman has hit .283 against Texas in 64 career games.
The Rangers aren’t strangers to the bulk of the St. Louis pitchers, many of whom spent time in the AL, including lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski and right-handed starter Edwin Jackson, both late-July additions as part of a three-team trade.
ADJUSTMENTS: The DH at Texas and pitchers hitting at St. Louis shouldn’t impact these teams. St. Louis has a DH in waiting in Allen Craig. Texas will keep DH Michael Young in the lineup in St. Louis by moving him to first base in place of slumping Mitch Moreland.
The Rangers figure to have Mike Napoli catch in every game of the World Series. Yorvit Torrealba has fallen out of favor.
Craig Gentry will start in center for the Rangers with Josh Hamilton moving to left against Jaime Garcia, the Cardinals’ one left-handed pitcher. The Cardinals will platoon left-handed-hitting Skip Schumaker, if he is healthy, and right-handed-hitting Ryan Theriot at second base. If Schumaker hasn’t bounced back from a rib cage injury, switch-hitter Nick Punto will share time at second with Theriot.
AT THE PLATE: The Cardinals led the NL in runs scored and struck out less than any other team in the NL. Texas ranked third in the AL in runs scored with 855, 93 more than St. Louis, and struck out fewer times (930) than any team in the big leagues.
Neither team slowed down in the first two rounds of the postseason, emerging as the top-scoring teams. Texas has hit only .259, but the Rangers have scored 55 runs and hit 13 home runs. St. Louis has only seven home runs, but has hit .279 and scored 50 runs.
Both got unexpected jolts from LCS MVPs: Nelson Cruz of Texas and David Freese of St. Louis. Cruz hit six home runs in the ALCS vs. Detroit. Freese has hit safely in his past 10 postseason games and had three home runs in the NLCS vs. Milwaukee.
FOR STARTERS: Neither team has a rotation to brag about.
The Cardinals became the first team to win a postseason series without a starting pitcher retiring a batter in the sixth inning. The starters averaged four innings in the six NLCS games and had a 7.03 ERA. St. Louis’ Chris Carpenter (Game 3) was the only starting pitcher for either team to earn a victory in the LCS.
IN RELIEF: The Cardinals bullpen had a 1.88 ERA in the NLCS and worked more innings (28 2/3) than the rotation (24 1/3). Manager Tony La Russa set a postseason record by making 26 pitching changes in the six games. Five of eight Cardinals relievers were unscored upon against Milwaukee.
Texas had a similar ALCS. The bullpen worked 27 1/3 of 56 innings and was 4-0 against Detroit. Mike Adams worked in five of the six ALCS games.
CARDINALS SPOTLIGHT ON: Right-hander Chris Carpenter. He is 2-0 in elimination games this year — the wild-card-clinching win in Game 162, and a three-hit, 1-0 win against the Phillies and former Toronto teammate Roy Halladay in the clinching Game 5 of the division series. In two other postseason starts he has allowed seven runs in nine innings.
RANGERS SPOTLIGHT ON: Michael Young has hit only .209 during the postseason, but he’s the cleanup hitter and a prime AL MVP candidate. He has a knack for getting productive hits, even though he doesn’t hit a lot of home runs. He led the Rangers during the regular season with 106 RBI despite only 11 home runs.
BOTTOM LINE: Take the team that’s hot and run with it. Both teams are playing well, but St. Louis has had to play well under pressure. Edge St. Louis, and make it five games.