Wednesday, October 27, 2010

World Series Preview: San Francisco Giants vs. Texas Rangers

World Series Preview

American League

The Texas Rangers represent the American League in this year's version of the Fall Classic. Built upon a base of power and speed, the Rangers led the majors in batting with a .276 team average, and hits (1556) and were fifth in the AL with 123 stolen bases. They have never won a World Series in 49 years of the franchise, which began as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961.

How they got here: Texas won the AL West by nine games over the Oakland A's with a record of 90-72 (4th best in the league). They beat the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS, three games to two, winning all of their road games - 1, 2 and 5 - while losing their two home appearances - games 3 and 4. In the championship series with the Yankees, the Rangers had home field advantage, but lost game one, 6-5. Following that mishap, the Rangers took four of the next five, winning game two in Arlington, games three and four in New York, losing game five at Yankee Stadium, eventually capturing the AL pennant with a 6-1 home win.

Players to watch:

Josh Hamilton, CF: Led the AL in batting with a .359 average, 31 points higher than his closest pursuer, Detroit's Miguel Cabrera. Hamilton stroked 32 homers, drove in 100 runs and scored 95 times. He was named MVP of the ALCS.

Vladimir Guerrero, DH/RF: The best-known power hitter in the lineup, Guerrero will be the DH in games played in Texas (3, 4 and 5, if necessary) and probably spend time in right field when in San Francisco. Guerrero batted an even .300 with 29 homers and 115 RBI.

Michael Young, 3B: The longest-tenured Ranger, having spent all ten years of his major league career with the team, Young normally bats second, behind leadoff hitter and shortstop Elvis Andrus. A former batting champion himself, Young is a solid contact hitter who drove in 91 runs with 21 homers and a .284 batting average during the regular season.

Nelson Cruz, LF: Having missed some time due to injury during the regular season may be the reason Cruz is often overlooked. In 108 games this season, he batted .318 with 22 homers and 78 RBI. Cruz also swiped 17 bases and was caught only four times. His numbers in the 11 playoff games are outstanding: .375 (15-for-40), five doubles, five homers, eight RBI, 11 runs.

Cliff Lee, SP: The ace of the staff, Lee was acquired from Seattle mid-season and started 15 games for the Rangers during the regular season, going 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA. In the post-season, Lee is unparalleled, having never lost an October game. Lee won games one and five against Tampa Bay in the ALDS and game three against the Yankees in the ALCS, putting together an ERA of 0.75 on two earned runs over 24 innings, striking out 34 batters. He's allowed just 13 hits and one walk during Texas' playoff run. He's 7-0 all-time in the post-season.

National League

The San Francisco Giants will be trying to win their first World Series since they moved from New York to the West coast after the 1957 season. They last captured all the glory as the New York Giants in 1954. A team built on pitching and more pitching, Giants' hitters try to scratch out a couple of runs a game in support of their outstanding starters and highly effective bullpen.

How they got here: The Giants won the NL West by two games over the San Diego Padres, with a record of 92-70, second best in the NL. Beating the Atlanta Braves three games to one in the NLDS, the Giants won games one, three and four. every game was decided by a one-run margin. In the NLCS, the Giants took out the reigning NL champion Phillies, four games to two, winning game one in Philadelphia, games three and four at home and game six, back in Philly. In their seven playoff wins, the Giants scored just 23 runs, or an average of 3.3 runs per game.

Players to Watch:

Tim Lincecum, SP: Lincecum, who won the NL Cy Young Award in 2008 and 2009, went 16-10 with a 3.43 ERA, striking out 231 to lead all National League pitchers. In three playoff starts and a 1/3 inning relief stint, he went 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA in 23 1/3 innings, allowing just 14 hits and five earned runs, fanning 30 while walking five. He will face Cliff Lee in game one.

Matt Cain, SP: The #3 starter behind Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez, Cain compiled a 13-10 record in 2010, but was plagued by a lack of run support. His 3.14 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 177 Ks are testimony to his tenacity. In the playoffs, Cain started two games, won one and recieved no decision in the other. Over 13 2/3 innings, he allowed nine hits and no earned runs. Cain will be moved to the #2 spot in the rotation, pushing Sanchez back to #3.

Brian Wilson, Closer: If the Giants are ahead heading into the 8th or 9th inning, one might as well turn out the lights, because Brian Wilson has been spectacular as a closer all season and into the playoffs. He led the majors with 48 saves, putting down a 1.81 ERA and 93 Ks in the process. Wilson blew only five save opportunities during the regular season, and began the playoffs with one, but was exceptional after that. In seven relief appearances, Wilson had five saves, a win and a blown save. In nine innings of playoff baseball, he allowed four hits, four walks and no earned runs, fanning 12.

Buster Posey, C: Arriving from the minors on May 29, Posey was an instant sensation, going 6-for-9 with 4 RBI in his first two games as a Giant rookie. After 11 games, Posey was hitting .450, prompting the release of Bengie Molina, now with the Rangers. Posey finished the regular season batting .305, with 18 home runs and 67 RBI in 108 games. He's the likely NL Rookie of the Year. The playoffs were not witness to Posey's best, however, as he hit no homers and drove in just three runs, batting .282.

Aubrey Huff, 1B: As for power hitters, Huff is it for the Giants, leading the team with 26 home runs during the regular season with 86 RBI and a .290 batting average. Huff didn't do much damage in the playoffs, batting .264 with just four RBI and no homers.

Cody Ross, RF: In what may turn out to be the deal of the year, Ross was picked up from the Florida Marlins after the July 31 trading deadline, clear waivers and played in 33 games for San Francisco. Ross was unimpressive in the regular season, batting .288 with just three homers and seven RBI, but he became Mr. October in the playoffs. Ross belted four homers and drove in eight runs, batting .324 in 10 playoff games and was awarded the NLCS MVP.

World Series Schedule: All games televised by FOX; All starting times Eastern

Game One: at San Francisco, Lee (AL) vs. Lincecum (NL), Wednesday, 10/27, 7:57 pm
Game Two: at San Francisco, Wilson (AL) vs. Cain (NL), Thursday, 10/28, 7:57 pm
Game Three: at Arlington, TX, Sanchez (NL) vs. Lewis (AL), Saturday, 10/30, 6:57 pm
Game Four: at Arlington, TX, Bumgarner (NL) vs. Hunter (AL), Sunday, 10/31, 8:20 pm
Game Five*: at Arlington, TX, Monday, 11/1, 7:57 pm
Game Six*: at San Francisco, Wednesday. 11/3, 7:57 pm
Game Seven*: at San Francisco, Thursday, 11/4, 7:57 pm

* if necessary

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