It was going to be so perfect. The symmetry of it all. The memorable run the Rangers made last season in the postseason began against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rangers won. Next up was the New York Yankees in the franchise's first ALCS. The Rangers won. A year later, here we were again. The return trip to the postseason began against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rangers won. And there were the Yankees, eyeing revenge. It had all the makings.
The Yankees looked poised all season to meet these Rangers on the other side of the bracket in a rematch for the American League Pennant. One problem, though. The Detroit Tigers don't seem to care about the poetry of a modest alignment. The Tigers eliminated the Yankees in a fantastic five game series and come to Arlington ready to fight for the Pennant regardless of the fact that it isn't a perfect parallel any longer. For the Tigers, this is the right sequence of events.
I wrote after the final game the Rangers played against the Tigers this season on August 4:
The Rangers will not play the Tigers at Comerica Park again until October at the minimum. This is my favorite time of the year.
I wrote that because I once wrote this in June 2010:
On September 11, 2007, back when the likes of Fast Freddy Guzman, Jason Botts, and Mike Wood were Texas Rangers, the Rangers beat the Detroit Tigers 13-6. Since that day, over 34 months ago, the Rangers have not won again in Detroit. The Rangers have lost eleven straight games at Comerica Park, in fact.
Things have only gotten marginally better since that 11 game losing streak. The Rangers improved to 4-5 at Comerica over the last two seasons. That's still 4-16 in Detroit in a little over four years, folks. But for all of the fretting over those past failures at Comerica, the simple fact is, those games simply don't matter now.
How many of those games were played in Detroit with this year's best team healthy/available? I think at best you can say one. And that one time? The Rangers beat Justin Verlander. When the Rangers played in Detroit in April, the bullpen was much different than it is now, Dave Bush made a start in that series, and Josh Hamilton injured himself early in the game after that win against Verlander. When the Rangers played in Detroit in August, Adrian Beltre had just injured himself and was out of the lineup. Throw those games out. They don't matter. This Rangers team can win at Comerica because this Rangers team is good at baseball.
After last season, when the Rangers manhandled their postseason tormentors in last year's American League Championship Series, addressing years of playoff failure at the hands of the Yankees, the Rangers get a chance to exorcise another ghost. The Rangers now stare down a place in history not seen outside of New York since the days the Blue Jays were winning back-to-back champions in Toronto in '92-93 -- the Rangers have an opportunity to represent the American League in the World Series for a second consecutive Fall Classic. And to get there, they must defeat a Tigers team at a stadium that sometimes seems to mystically have their number.
Perhaps there's perfection in this variation to the story after all.
NOTE: All games on ESPN 103.3 FM on Radio and Fox on TV.
Sunday, October 9 6:45 @ The Ballpark in Arlington: RHP Max Scherzer vs. LHP Derek Holland
*Thursday, October 13 3:00 @ Comerica Park: LHP C.J. Wilson vs. RHP Justin Verlander
*Sunday, October 16 7:05 @ The Ballpark in Arlington: RHP Doug Fister vs. RHP Colby Lewis
For information on available tickets for this series, visit the LSB/TiqIQ page.
Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups for the Rangers in their attempt to defend the American League Pennant against the Tigers:
- Justin Verlander: 24-5, 8.96 K/9, 2.04 BB/9, .236 BABIP, 80.3% LOB, 2.99 FIP, 3.12 xFIP, 7.0 WAR - Last three starts of regular season: 5 runs allowed in 22.0 innings - In DS: 5 runs allowed in 9.0 innings
- C.J. Wilson: 16-7, 8.30 K/9, 2.98 BB/9, .287 BABIP, 73.6% LOB, 3.24 FIP, 3.41 xFIP, 5.9 WAR - Last three starts of regular season: 3 runs allowed in 14.1 innings - In DS: 6 runs allowed in 5.0 innings
Advantage: Justin Verlander over nearly anyone but don't sleep on C.J. Wilson
- Max Scherzer: 15-9, 8.03 K/9, 2.58 BB/9, .314 BABIP, 73.7% LOB, 4.14 FIP, 3.70 xFIP, 2.7 WAR - Last three starts of regular season: 11 runs allowed in 15.2 innings - In DS: 1 run allowed in 7.1 innings
- Derek Holland: 16-5, 7.36 K/9, 3.05 BB/9, .305 BABIP, 72.8% LOB, 3.94 FIP, 3.76 xFIP, 3.6 WAR - Last three starts of regular season: 5 runs allowed in 19.0 innings - In DS: 1 run allowed in 6.1 innings
Advantage: Derek Holland's mustache over Max Scherzer's devil eye
- Doug Fister: 11-13, 6.07 K/9, 1.54 BB/9, .272 BABIP, 73.3% LOB, 3.02 FIP, 3.61 xFIP, 5.6 WAR - Last three starts of regular season: 1 run allowed in 19.0 innings - In DS: 7 runs allowed in 9.2 innings
- Colby Lewis: 14-10, 7.59 K/9, 2.52 BB/9, .265 BABIP, 73.0% LOB, 4.54 FIP, 4.10 xFIP, 2.3 WAR - Last three starts of regular season: 11 runs allowed in 18.0 innings - In DS: 1 run allowed in 6.0 innings
Advantage: Doug Fister truly somehow being great all season over Colby Lewis truly somehow being great in a handful of Postseason starts
- Rick Porcello: 14-9, 5.14 K/9, 2.27 BB/9, .316 BABIP, 67.4% LOB, 4.06 FIP, 4.02 xFIP, 1.4 WAR - Last three starts of regular season: 9 runs allowed in 20.0 innings - In DS: 4 runs allowed in 6.0 innings
- Matt Harrison: 14-9, 6.11 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, .290 BABIP, 72.3% LOB, 3.52 FIP, 3.85 xFIP, 4.2 WAR - Last three starts of regular season: 4 runs allowed in 18.2 innings - In DS: 3 runs allowed in 5.2 innings
Advantage: Matt Harrison Hooked on Phonics over Rick Porcello being better than Brad Penny
Why The Rangers Won't Win: Because people like Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera exist.
Why The Rangers Will Win: Because C.J. Wilson is pretty good too, baseball media. Remember? You guys think he's going to be a Yankee next season. Yeah, that's that guy. Also, once again, the Rangers are better than their opponent. And while that doesn't mean as much in a short seven game series, it means enough here.
(P.S. The Rangers will win.)
Detroit Tigers (95-67, 1st Place, AL Central Champions)
Rangers 2011 Record vs. Detroit: 3-6 (1-2 at Rangers Ballpark, 2-4 at Comerica Park)
Detroit's Recent Results: Defeating the Yankees 3-2 in the ALDS
Detroit's Road Record: 45-36
Detroit's Home Record: 50-31
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 119/114 - wOBA: 103/107
Comerica Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 88/108 - wOBA: 97/103
SB Nation Tigers Blog: Bless You Boys
Match-up: (as of 10/7)
Base Running (RAR)
Overall RAR + UZR
Questions to Answer:
- Who is your pick to lead the Rangers in OPS in this series? (I'm going with Ian Kinsler.)
- Over/Under: 5.5 runs allowed by C.J. Wilson in this series?
- Yay or Nay: Do the Rangers finally dispel the notion that they can't win at Comerica?
- What is your prediction for this series? (I'm going Rangers in an epic 6 games.)
- Do you think Ron Washington should be allowed to ask the umprire to have Max Scherzer remove an eye?That's way worse than any Band-Aid.