EVAN GRANT’S MATCHUPS
Three things that will determine the outcome of the American
League Championship Series:
Rangers’ running game big part of
Rangers run like a deer or be hunted
In winning the division series, the
Rangers served notice they will be
aggressive on the basepaths when presented with the opportunity.
The Yankees already knew that. In a
Rangers’ three-game sweep in
September, Texas stole five bases without being caught against
Jorge Posada, who will probably start vs. lefties, and Francisco
The question is whether they can continue to run now that the
entire nation is familiar with the sign of the antlers.
If anything, the success in the division series is only likely
to make the
Rangers more aggressive on the
basepaths. They led the majors in times going from first to third
on a single this season, and were seventh in the majors in stolen
bases, but they were also among the leaders in “unforced
baserunning errors,” which tries to calculate how often a team ran
into outs on the bases.
The Yankees pay attention to details. Last year, they faced the
equally aggressive Los Angeles Angels in the ALCS. The Angels stole
four bases in five attempts. And they still went home in six
Rangers, who have stolen 33 bases in
39 attempts since Sept. 1, to try to put pressure on the Yankees in
the same fashion they did against Tampa Bay.
Rangers are successful, expect them
to keep doing it until the Yankees show them they are capable of
The Yankees ranked last in the AL in caught-stealing percentage,
a stat the
Rangers may try to exploit in the
AL Championship Series. A look at the bottom five steal-stopping AL
teams by percentage and how the
Rangers ran against them:
Rangers Team SB Pct SB CS Pct. New
York 132 88.0 8 0 100 Boston 169 85.4 22 5 81.4 Oakland 88 83.8 12
7 63.2 LA 133 82.6 20 6 76.9 Chicago 105 82.0 4 3 57.1
Is Josh Hamilton ready to produce?
Josh Hamilton believes he’s ready to return as a force in the
Rangers lineup. The way he’ll do
it: He’ll try to do a whole lot less.
With Hamilton, less is often more. Less effort plus less thought
equals less stress and that equals far more production.
Hamilton said the problem with his swing during the AL Division
Series was not so much his fractured ribs – oh, they’ll be sore for
several more weeks after the end of the season – but rather his
desire to immediately step in and try to be a key run producer
after missing 25 days in September. Hamilton ended up going
2-for-18 during the ALDS. He had just one RBI. That came on a
groundout, and he only got credit for it because Elvis Andrus
dashed all the way from second to score.
“The swing feels the best its felt all year,” Hamilton said. “I
feel good at the plate, mechanically. The biggest thing has been
trying to do too much. The past couple of games, I tried to start
focusing back on seeing the ball out of the pitcher’s hand and not
letting too much adrenaline build up. I feel like I saw the ball
well in the last couple of games.
The ALDS also offered a “perfect storm” of bad statistical
splits for Hamilton.
He is far better at night, than during the day, but four games
were played in daytime hours. He’s far better at home than on the
road, but the majority of the games were played in St. Petersburg,
Fla. And he’s far more successful in Yankee Stadium than he has
been at Tropicana Field. If the series goes seven games, the
majority of games will be at night and in Arlington.
Throw strike one … and strike two
Against Tampa Bay, which led the AL in strikeouts, simply
getting ahead of the hitters was enough to give
Rangers pitchers a distinct
With the Yankees, you’ve got to further.
While the Rays’ batting averages and on-base percentages dropped
sharply after pitchers got ahead 0-and-1 or got to two strikes, the
Yankees make it much tougher on pitchers to get the out even when
the pitchers are ahead in the count.
The Yankees drive pitch counts higher and higher and force
starting pitchers to work harder and harder. It often forces early
exits by starters, allowing the Yankees to prey on the weakest part
of every club – the middle of the bullpen. C.J. Wilson, for
example, led the
Rangers in innings pitched during
the season, but he averaged less than five innings per start
against the Yankees.
“The thing that hurt me in all three of my starts was just the
high pitch count from walks and stuff like that, from falling
behind in the count,” Wilson said. “I think I’m just going to get
that knuckleball over the plate first pitch and see where we go
from there. This is obviously a good hitting team and they are
Wilson walked three in each of his starts against the Yankees.
Colby Lewis, whose Game 2 start will be his first outing against
the Yankees , walked five in Game 3 of the division series on
Unlike the Rays, the Yankee hitters make pitchers earn every
out, by putting pressure on every pitch.
A look at how the Yankees’on-base percentage changed in certain
pitcher-friendly counts compared to Tampa Bay and the AL average in
Team Overall After 0-1 With 2 strikes Yankees .350 (1) .302 (1)
.289 (1) AL avg. .327 .271 .257 Rays .333 (6) .264 (8) .249 (9)