ALCS: Rangers stack up well vs. Tigers
A year ago, the Texas Rangers advanced to the World Series for the first time in the franchise’s existence.
This year, the Rangers have their sights set on accomplishing even more.
The lone goal in the Lone Star State is a world championship this time around.
First, however, the Rangers are going to have to get past Detroit in the AL Championship Series, which opens in Arlington, Tex., on Saturday night.
General manager John Daniels began a major overhaul of the franchise four years ago, and it was enhanced when Nolan Ryan came aboard, first as the president of the franchise and then as the head of the new ownership group, reinforcing the idea that the franchise needed to be built around scouting and player development.
"Hopefully we will be able to look back in 10 years and say, 'We did something special,'" Daniels said.
Having disposed of Tampa Bay in four games in the AL Division Series, the Rangers' next challenge to creating that special moment for 2011 is a Detroit team that went the full five games to knock off the New York Yankees in the other AL Division Series.
And to make sure nobody overlooks them, the Tigers won the clincher at Yankee Stadium, where the Yankees won 52 regular-season games, matching Texas for the best home record in the AL.
Now the Rangers and Tigers look ahead, but not too far.
ALCS Schedule: Games 1-2 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Saturday and Sunday. Games 3, 4 and, if necessary, Game 5 at Comerica Park on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Games 6 and 7, if necessary at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Oct. 15 and 16.
How the Tigers got here: The Tigers struggled early but went on a late-season rush. Detroit had a two-game lead in the AL Central after the games of Aug. 17, but won 29 of their final 38 games, and wound up with a 15-game margin at season’s end. Detroit was a season-worst five games below .500 on May 2, and the next day found itself eight games below .500. Detroit beat the Yankees in five games in the AL Division Series, winning twice by one run and once by two runs. Magglio Ordonez hit .455, but Alex Avila only hit .063 and Austin Jackson .125.
How the Rangers got here: The Rangers pulled away in the AL West in the final weeks of the season, winning 14 of their final 16 games. They spent 168 days in first place, the exceptions being April 20 and May 5-15, when they slipped to third place for a day (May 9). Texas knocked off Tampa Bay in four games in the AL Division Series despite being outhit .236 to .211. They rebounded from a Game 1 loss in which C.J. Wilson gave up six earned runs in five innings, winning the next three. Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis combined to allow four earned runs in 16 innings. Mike Napoli (.357) was the only Rangers regular to hit .300. Andre Beltre had three home runs, all in the 4-3 Game 4 win.
Arms race: The Rangers were fifth in the AL with a 3.79 ERA – only third best in the AL West. The rotation ranked third in the AL with a 3.65 ERA and led the AL with 74 victories. All five primary starters had 13 or more victories. The Tigers ranked seventh in the AL with a 4.04 ERA despite Comerica Park being considered a pitcher-friendly environment. The Tigers only had four pitchers make as many as 15 starts.
At the plate: Texas led the AL with a .283 average, ranked third in runs scored with 855, and had the fewest strikeouts (930) in the majors. Beltre and lead-off hitter Ian Kinsler had 32 home runs apiece, and Napoli hit 30. Michael Young led the team with 106 RBI, even though he hit only 11 home runs. Elvis Andrus stole 37 bases and Kinsler 30. The Rangers were second in the AL with 210 home runs and fourth with 807 RBI. … Detroit ranked fourth in the AL with 787 runs. Miguel Cabrera led the way with 30 home runs and 105 RBI. Jackson had 22 stolen bases, the only Tiger with more than five.
Earlier this year: The Tigers won six of nine from the Rangers during the regular season, hitting .317 and posting a 3.71 ERA. Miguel Cabrera hit .421 with three home runs and eight RBI, and Ryan Radburn hit .423. Alex Avila also had three home runs and a .385 average. Tigers closer Jose Valverde was 2-0 with two saves in four appearances. Nelson Cruz led the Rangers against the Tigers with three home runs and nine RBI. Adrian Beltre hit .381, but Elvis Andrus hit only .206 with a team-high six strikeouts. The Rangers had 4.96 ERA in the nine games against Detroit.
FYI: Tigers Game 1 starter Justin Verlander doesn’t care where he pitches. During the regular season he was 14-2 with a 2.43 ERA on the road and 10-3 with a 2.37 ERA at Comerica Park. … Tigers manager Jim Leyland used five lineups in five Division Series games, including inserting Don Kelly at third base in Game 5 because he felt he could benefit from a short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium, and Kelly did that with a first-inning home run. … Rangers have won 11 of their last 12 road games, including both games at Tampa Bay in the AL Division Series. … Alexi Ogando started and had all three wins the Rangers managed in nine games against Detroit, compiling a 1.29 ERA, but he looked tired late in the season and has been relegated to bullpen duty in the postseason. … Rangers SS Elvis Andrus has had his problems during his career against Tigers starters Justin Verlander (.091), Doug Fister (.158) and Max Scherzer (.133). … Tigers are in postseason for second time since 1987, and looking for first world championship since 1984.
Prediction: Rangers close out Tigers in five games.