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No One Saw This Coming

October 26, 2010

A rematch of last season’s World Series is no longer possible because the San Francisco Giants ousted the Philadelphia Phillies and the Texas Rangers defeated the reigning champion New York Yankees.

At the beginning of the season no one would have imagined this match up. The Rangers are making their first World Series appearance, after winning their first two playoff series’ this season. This is only their fourth time in the postseason, each time before falling to the Yankees in the division series.

But this is a different Texas team than you’re used to. They don’t rely solely on their hitting and ability to score runs, although they can, their starting pitching has been phenomenal the entire year. One pivotal move was acquiring starting pitcher Cliff Lee from the Seattle Mariners at the July trade deadline, beating out the Yankees for his services. Although Lee didn’t fair well in his first few starts, he has since settled down and continued his domination in the postseason. Lee is now 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA with three complete games, seven walks and 67 strikeouts in 64.1 innings.

But Lee is not their only dominant hurler. C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter have proven themselves worthy especially against two of the best teams in the majors (Tampa Bay Rays and the NY Yankees). Wilson pitched well in both series’ and Colby Lewis clinched game six against the Yankees, being virtually un-hittable. Hunter has been the only weak link in the rotation but has pitched well enough to keep the team in the game. Rookie closer Neftali Feliz, who lights up the radar gun with a 100+ mph fastball, has done exceptionally well so far in his first playoff appearance.

Coincidentally the Giants are also in the same boat, riding young pitchers in their first post season. Number one starter, Tim Lincecum, and Matt Cain, are atop the rotation with Jonathan Sanchez and rookie Madison Bumgarner rounding it out. All have pitched well through the postseason, keeping the team in the game. There is one difference however, the Giants have played more close games this postseason than any other team while Texas has routed most of their wins.

Will the battle tested Giants be able to overcome the high powered Rangers lineup and ace Cliff Lee?

The answer is most likely no and here is why. First Cliff Lee has been outstanding and Lincecum has had struggles through the course of the season. Also, MVP candidate Josh Hamilton leads a Texas offense that not only can score with a long ball but play small ball and run the bases better than any other team. They are a mix of power and speed, not to mention their defense is superb at practically every position.

Another reason is because unlike Texas’ offense, that if given the chance will blow you away; the Giants simply don’t have enough fire power to compete, which will cause them to rely on their pitching. While this has been good, they have not played an American League team since late June. The difference between the two leagues is the designated hitter slot (AL) while the pitcher bats in the NL. This is important because it adds the bat of Vladimir Guerrero to the Texas line up when at home while it really won’t help the Giants in the long run.

This is not to say it will be a sweep because as the past series’ have shown the Giants are a resilient and determined bunch. Led by rookie catcher Buster Posey and a break out post season performance by Cody Ross, if the Giants can quiet the Texas bats they have a shot at winning.

Unfortunately for fans in the Bay area, this looks like the Rangers year. They have the pitching and the bats. They can play small ball or long ball but ultimately, it will come down to who can prevail in the clutch.

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