As the Texas Rangers embark upon their inaugural trip to the World Series, many have become familiar with household names like Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Vladimir Guerrero, Michael Young, and who can forget Cliff Lee. It was truly a team effort, and while the aforementioned "stars" of the team played a pivotal role in slaying the mighty Yankees, one needs to look deeper to understand how the Rangers pulled off what many have termed an upset.
Mitch Moreland won't show up in too many box scores, but the mid-season call-up performed like anything but a rookie during the ALCS.
Moreland, who was originally intended to be the left-handed half of the first base platoon formed by he and mid-season acquisition Jorge Cantu, started every game of the ALCS with the exception of Game 1. All the rookie did was account for seven hits, three runs, and 3 RBI's. While at first glance those statistics appear to be pedestrian, you had to see how Moreland acquired those stats.
Moreland was described as being one of the toughest outs in the Ranger lineup, as he continually drew walks and worked counts, tiring Yankee pitchers and setting the table for the top of the order. Batting in the nine spot against the likes of CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, Moreland should've proved to be an afterthought, yet he was as difficult an out as any in the Ranger order as he only struck out twice in 18 at-bats.
His stats weren't sexy, but the game within the game suggests Moreland's play was huge.
Holland wasn't supposed to perform this well in the playoffs. In fact, most experts had Holland tabbed as a situational lefty, or fit for mop-up duty if games got out of hand.
Luckily for the Rangers, the maturity curve for the 24 year old was a short one.
During the ALCS Derek "The Dutch Oven" Holland's line went like this:
5 2/3 IP 3H 0R 4K's
Perhaps Holland's biggest performance came during the swing match of the series: Game 4.
With starter Tommy Hunter struggling in fourth inning, Holland came on in relief to put out the fire he inherited. What fire you ask? How about this: Bases loaded, one out, and Ranger killer Brett Gardner coming to the plate. From that point on, all Holland did was induce a fielder's choice on a Gardner ground ball and then struck out Francisco Cervelli.
Holland went on to toss three more shutout innings while the Ranger bats went on to take the lead and game.
It was only one game, but if Holland allows the inning to blow up, perhaps we're discussing a Yankee run at ring 28.
Bengie Molina was brought to the Texas Rangers for his ability to handle a pitching staff. Good thing he decided to bring his boom stick with him too.
Molina's numbers during the ALCS were nothing to write home about, but much like Derek Holland, Mollina's Game 4 performance likely propelled the Rangers to their now realized World Series destiny.
In the top of the sixth the Rangers trailed 3-2 with two outs. Molina stepped into the batter's box after Joe Girardi opted to intentionally walk David Murphy to get to Molina.
Molina promptly belted a 376 ft. home run to left field, putting the Rangers ahead to stay and blowing the game wide-open for the Rangers. Molina was quoted as saying, "It's not bad for a fat kid that everyone makes fun of when he runs."
Not bad, Bengie. Not bad at all.
Josh Hamilton withstanding, perhaps no other Ranger was as crucial to the team's success as the 22 year old "Venezuelan Sensation," Elvis Andrus.
Andrus continually set the tone in every game of the series by working counts and getting on base. On average, Andrus saw 21 pitches per game. Think that won't tax a starter? Ask CC Sabathia.
Further, Andrus collected a total of ten hits, four stolen bases, and a .444 OBP. Simply astounding for a kid who, prior to last season, was playing AA ball. Andrus' presence on the base paths was something Yankee pitchers could simply not ignore, and as such, they were not able to focus entirely on hitters like Young, Hamilton, and Cruz.
But Andrus' offensive achievements aren't the only thing that land him on this list. Time and again Elvis continually ranged for balls deep in the hole, turning would-be base hits into demoralizing Yankee outs, the most demoralizing coming in the bottom of the fourth inning in Game 4.
With the bases loaded and one out, Brett Gardner hit a grounder into the hole. Andrus dove and had the presence of mind to make a play on the lead runner. Surely, that play alone saved the Rangers two runs and possibly their season.
Remember, the kid is only 22 years old.
Yes, the Rangers have Cliff Lee. Yes, CJ Wilson has emerged as a legit ace, playing Robin to Lee's Batman. But, the Rangers wouldn't be packing their bags for Philly or San Francisco had it not been for Colby Lewis.
Lewis, who before this season was plying his trade for the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, toed the bump twice in the ALCS, walking away with a victory both times.
A lot can be said about how the Ranger bats gave Lewis all the run support he needed, and in the case of Game 2 that assertion is probably not too far from the truth. However, Lewis' line for the series looked like this:
13 2/3 IP 9H 3ER 6BB 13K
But Lewis' line doesn't tell the whole story. In Game 6, Lewis went eight bullpen-saving innings, surrendering only one run on a pass ball that should have been ruled a hit-by-pitch.
While Lewis may not have the ace status of Cliff Lee, he has quietly put together a solid post season resume, especially when considering he went toe-to-toe with arguably one of the most feared line-ups in baseball and won twice.
While it is likely that Cliff Lee could have slammed the door in Game 7, Colby Lewis, and his consistency, made sure that wasn't necessary.