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October 28, 2010 at 11:28 AM

Rangers need to bounce back in Game 2 after historic pounding

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Well, that prediction went real well, didn’t it? Hey, a glass half-full guy could say my Rangers in 5 prediction is right on schedule. After all, that call required the Giants to win at least one game. Well, San Francisco sure took care of that yesterday, right?
In all seriousness, are the Rangers in trouble? We just saw their ace, Cliff Lee, do his best Jeff Weaver impersonation in the fifth inning. Lee was the trump card the Rangers held going in.
Well, let’s just say that tonight’s Game 2 could decide the series.
We talked about the momentum — i.e. confidence — the Rangers offense had going into the World Series. And you saw that part delivered. Texas scored seven runs in a game in which it really didn’t play all that well. Four of those came off Tim Lincecum.
But momentum works both ways, too. The Giants had what some of you have described as a certain “mojo” or “destiny” feel to them. And it was hard not to notice that in Game 1. Especially with Juan Uribe hitting that three-run homer off Darren O’Day in the fifth inning to effectively put the game out of reach.
If you’re the Giants, you try to build off that in Game 2. Take a 2-0 lead and you leave yourself lots of room for mistakes when the series shifts to Arlington.
Ah, but it’s not that easy. And that’s why, if I’m the Rangers, I’m not really starting to sweat just yet.
Photo Credit: AP


The glass half-full folks can point to the seven runs scored. The offense didn’t short circuit the way Philadelphia’s did in the NLCS. Yeah, the Rangers had Lincecum on the ropes and didn’t put him away with the 2-0 lead. But hey, he’s Lincecum. Lee also worked his way out of a jam in the fourth inning. That’s what aces do. The fact is, as we mentioned yesterday, Lincecum keeps looking more and more human each time out. In fact, all key staff aces have struggled at times this post season. C.C. Sabathia, Roy Halladay, David Price and now, finally, Lee.
It’s not a fluke. All of those pitchers have thrown a lot of innings and they start to add up in October. Lincecum, as I mentioned, appears to be more and more beatable each time out. He’s had a heavier workload than Lee since the first round of the playoffs. So, if I’m betting on who will be the better guy on the mound the next time he and Lee make a start, I’m going with the more veteran Lee. This is further than Lincecum has ever gone in a season before. Lee has been here, done that. He’ll make the adjustment to the setback. With Lincecum, I’m starting to wonder if he isn’t hitting the wall. And that could be huge if these two aces square off in a pivotal clash next week.
So, if I’m the Rangers, I keep that in the back of my mind.
First off, though, they have to win Game 2 today. Do that and the Rangers will have accomplished the split they needed on the road. They will be in control heading home. The Giants, for all they did right in putting up 11 runs, are not going to keep doing that. At least, that’s what the past few months tells us. They don’t call their offensive approach “torture” for nothing. If they keep scoring 11, they will sweep, but in all likelihood, this was like one of those Mariners games this year where they’d erupt like a volcano at the plate for 24 hours, then spend the next two weeks scoring three or fewer per night.
And if that’s the case, the team playing them can simply shrug off the Lee defeat as the one Mulligan you knew was coming. Sort of like a 12-0 team in the NFL actually wanting to get that first loss out of the way before crunch time. Lee finally took that playoff defeat, but it’s not crunch time yet if you’re the Rangers.
Win today, you’ll have the split you needed, then will head home knowing your offense is still producing and that Lincecum has progressively declined since his two-hitter in the first round of the playoffs.
That’s the glass half-full view of things.
Then again, if I’m the Giants, hey, we just took out Lee. Win Game 2 and you’re in command and can’t be eliminated on the road. That all sounds great.
But no, I’m not very high on the Giants. I’ve seen them play the past two months with a popgun offense strung together with castoffs from other teams. I’ve seen them ride tremendous pitching that is starting to show big cracks. Jonathan Sanchez made it through only two innings in the decisive NLCS game. Lincecum was a couple of bounces away from being knocked out real early yesterday. If San Francisco can find a way to win today — i.e. score a bunch early and then hang on — they could make it through this series quick and prevail. But I don’t have much confidence they can. Lose Game 2 and it could very well be over early going the other way. Their arms don’t appear to have much left and their offense — if Game 1 was the exception, rather than the rule — isn’t enough to beat a team that scores seven runs on a down night.
Yes, this game will be pivotal.
And yes, all my predictions always come true.

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