ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers began this postseason as the only

one of the current 30 teams never to win a playoff series and

entered the division series with an 0-12 road record against the

three AL playoff teams.

Naturally, Texas won all three road games in the division

series, eliminating the Rays at Tropicana Field on Tuesday


Now the Rangers have another monster to slay. They are 0-3 in

the playoffs against the

Yankees. Minnesota entered the

division series with the same 0-3 record and the belief that it had

graduated to a deeper roster capable of finally overcoming the

Yankees. But the Twins ultimately

could not handle the length of the

Yankees lineup and the reemergence

of Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes and are now winless in four

postseason series against New York.

Texas – full of confidence and Cliff Lee – believes it now can

eliminate the

Yankees. Here are five key scouting

areas that should be vital in the ALCS:


It is not just that Texas has the first two games at Rangers

Ballpark in Arlington. It is that when the series comes to New

York, Cliff Lee is pitching Game 3 and A.J. Burnett is scheduled

for Game 4. So there is instant pressure on the

Yankees to break through in Texas.

Which makes C.J. Wilson an intriguing figure.


Yankees won their games against

Twins lefty starters Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing, but

before that they had closed the regular season with nine straight

losses in games started by lefties.

That included an eight-inning, onerun masterpiece by Lee. But in

that streak, the only start by a lefty that was not at least five

innings and fewer than three runs was by Wilson (three innings,

four runs).

In his first full major league season as a starter, Wilson did

not look as if he was working on fumes in shutting out the Rays

with seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings of Game 2. He is very

competitive and a good athlete with strong stuff, especially in

throwing his cutter to both sides of the plate and by – in the

words of an AL personnel man – “being fearless with his fastball.”

The key is the

Yankees must be the

Yankees on offense: Patient atbats,

which means putting together patient at-bats.

“Count the three-ball counts early,” one AL advance scout said.

“You can’t let him get cheap outs early, if he does, you look up he

is sailing in the seventh inning. You have to make him throw

strikes and build up that pitch count early.” Alex Rodriguez is

1-for-13 in his career off Wilson. Manager Joe Girardi will have to

decide if he wants to bench Curtis Granderson (0-for-6, 3 Ks) or

Brett Gardner (0-for-5, 2 Ks) and start Austin Kearns (3-for-7). In

general, Wilson defuses lefty power.

He has not allowed a lefty to homer in 276 regularseason

at-bats, dating to June 3, 2008, by Cleveland’s Shin-Soo Choo.


A pitcher can win commanding one good pitch, dominate with two

and go to the Hall of Fame with three. So what do you call a guy

who has four pitches working: Cliff Lee in the postseason. Remember

how the Mets felt they had to win the 1986 NLCS in six games

because nemesis Mike Scott was sitting in Game 7. Well, Lee would

be the Rangers’ Game 7 starter. So the

Yankees are strongly compelled to

figure out how to get this done in six or less.

“Here is the problem when you face Lee,” an AL advance scout

said, “he can hit a dime with any of four pitches. So you want to

attack him early in the count because he is never walking you. But

if you don’t get hits, you fall right into his game of low-pitch

innings. And if that is not bad enough, he is better at pitching to

a scouting report than anyone in the majors.

(In Game 5 against Tampa Bay) Lee pitched backward from his norm

by going in hard early and then soft away. So he has no


But because he can throw any pitch wherever he wants, that means

if the most recent scouting report, for example, says throw Alex

Rodriguez hard in early, he can do that. He really can do



Unlike the Twins, the Rangers lean significantly to the right

aside from their main man, Josh Hamilton. Boone Logan is going to

get his opportunities against Hamilton, perhaps the best low

fastball hitter in the sport. Hamilton used to be susceptible to

off-speed stuff, but he has made adjustments using the whole field

with what one NL scout called “his extremely short, quick swing and

freakish strength.” But the rest of the Rangers’ main power

suppliers are righties. That would suggest a return to action for

Joba Chamberlain, a missing man in the division series.

Chamberlain’s numbers are worse against Texas (1.010 OPS against)

than any opponent. The main righties all have had success off Joba:

Ian Kinsler is 3-for-9 with a double, a triple and three walks.

Michael Young is 4-for-11 with a homer. Nelson Cruz, Jeff Francoeur

and Vladimir Guerrero have combined to go 5-for-12 with three


That means more work for Wood, except the free-swinging

Guerrero’s .533 average off Wood (8-for-15 with three walks) is the

best against the righty reliever for anyone who has faced him 15


A lot could fall to the curveballs of David Robertson because

not only are Young and Cruz a combined 0-for-8 with five

strikeouts, but he has handled Hamilton, as well (0-for-4, three



The Rays had a way of unnerving the

Yankees with their on-base

aggression. But in the decisive Game 5, Texas outTampa-ed Tampa Bay

by scoring three manufactured runs, including two when runners

scored from second on infield grounders in which David Price was

indecisive in covering first. Keep in mind that CC Sabathia is

perhaps worse than any other starter in the majors at covering


These Rangers are not the all-ornothing bashers that were

eliminated by the

Yankees in the late 1990s (think

Dean Palmer, Juan Gonzalez, Mickey Tettleton). These Rangers led

the AL in sacrifices, and Julio Borbon and Elvis Andrus will try to

bunt for hits.

These Rangers will not be like the Twins, who never attempted a

steal in the division series and, thus, did not probe a

Yankees weak spot. Texas stole 123

bases, going 8-for-8 against the

Yankees in the regular season.

Particularly against Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, Andrus and the

underrated Cruz will look to steal third.

“They will run, almost to a fault,” said an NL scout who covered

the Rangers. “They are very aggressive on the bases.

Players who shouldn’t run, do, especially Vlad Guerrero. He will

think double out of the box and get thrown out when he shouldn’t

have tried. They really have gotten away from the stationtostation

stuff. They play hard, they run with abandon, they go first to



Texas lacks what one AL personnel man called “a lefty mechanic”

– the kind of southpaw who matches up with the Robinson Canos or

Curtis Grandersons of the world. Darren Oliver is unflappable and

versatile and ageless – he was the ALDS Game 3 starter for the

Rangers vs. the

Yankees in 1996. But he is not an

uncomfortable at-bat for lefties.

Cano is 6-for-10 off of him in his career, and Granderson is

4-for-10 with a homer.

Conversely, Texas does have a righty killer, and now is the time

for Mets fans to cover their eyes because since they let him go in

April 2009 to get Nelson Figueroa on the roster, Darren O’Day has a

.192 batting average against, including.173 vs. righties, the best

for anyone who has faced 300 righties in that time. That includes

Rodriguez striking out in both at-bats vs. O’Day.

Neftali Feliz, the 22-year-old closer, did not look steady vs.

the Rays. His control was iffy. His curve is fine, but can get

sloppy. Mainly he trusts what one NL personnel man called “the

easiest 98-99 mph you will see.” He had a blown save against the

Yankees, but he also has nine

strikeouts in 24 batters vs. them and didn’t allow an extra-base