World Series Game 2: Texas Rangers Need Home Cooking
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It's half-past midnight here in Ranger land and things are looking bleak. Cliff Lee has shown that he is human, and the Ranger bats seem to have gone into hibernation. To add insult to injury, the bullpen is pitching with the ferocity of a petting zoo, and with Halloween right around the corner, it seems as though the Rangers are dressing up as choke artists.
But before you decide to bury the Rangers remember one thing: The Series is coming to Arlington, and there's nothing like home cooking to "cure what ails ya."
I know what most of you are thinking, the Rangers have only won two games at home during the playoffs. True. However, there is one enormous difference that most people will overlook—The Rangers get to play by house rules now.
To say that playing at AT&T Park was hard on the Rangers would be like saying that do-it-yourself-dentistry is easy. It was that painful. But now the World Series shifts to Arlington where the Rangers have three games to get back in the race.
What is so substantial about the change of venue? Everything.
Playing by National League rules meant the Rangers had to sacrifice the DH spot in the order; as such, Ranger manager Ron Washington was forced to make a decision: to play Vlad, or not to play Vlad. If you saw Game 1 then you know the answer to that question, and consequently, you know the result: two errors that lead to three back-breaking Giant runs.
Further, because of the lack of a DH, Ranger pitchers were forced into dawning a helmet and wielding the lumber, which meant the Rangers were essentially guaranteed an out in the nine spot. Additionally—and I am not laying blame on the umpires at all—the games were called by National League umpires, and as any big league pitcher would tell you, the transition between the two strike zones is markedly different.
But now, Texas comes home to play in their park, with the luxury of a DH, and a familiar strike zone for their pitchers to work with.
Think about it like this: With the availability of a DH at their disposal, the Rangers can have Vlad's bat in the middle of the order to protect Nelson Cruz, which also slides down guys like Kinsler and Molina, but perhaps more importantly, the DH puts Mitch Moreland back in the nine spot, a place where he has frustrated pitchers to Dustin Pedroia-like lengths.
The DH also means that the Rangers can use their platoon of David Murphy or Jeff Francoeur, who have both been decent at the plate. So by merit of one position change, the Rangers can have two meaningful bats in the line-up.
But positions and league rules aside, I get the feeling the Rangers were intimidated by the amped up San Francisco crowd. After having played at Tropicana Field, where the Rays had to give away tickets, and then on to Yankee Stadium where the Yankee faithful (I use that term very loosely) left their team for dead routinely, the Rangers didn't really face much in the way of noise and hostility.
My hats off to Giant fans, you guys brought it.
The look on Derek Holland's face during his own personal attempt at the March of Dimes in the eight inning of Game 2 said it all—the Rangers were scared. The noise, the energy, the beard, all of it definitely played a part in making Texas look more like the 2003 Rangers than the Claw and Antler edition that fans have come to love.
So where do the Fightin' Ron Washington's go from here?
It's really anyone's guess at this point. The Giants have pitched so incredibly well that the Rangers definitely have their work cut out for them. One would think that after Lincecum and Cain the sledding would get easier, but Johnathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgardner have proved they can get it done as well.
With Colby Lewis taking the hill, all the eyes of Texas will loom large on the battle tested righty. Can he do what Lee couldn't? Will the Ranger bats finally come alive with a Frankenstein-like vengeance?
All of the above are unknowns, but if I do know one thing, its that nothing cures an illness quite like home cooking.
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