World Series Game 3: Texas Rangers Report Card vs. San Francisco Giants
Well, now it's a series. Returning home to Arlington served to be precisely the remedy to cure the Texas Rangers' woes on the road through the first two games of the World Series.
With a well-played 4-2 victory at home over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night, Texas showed their mettle and fought their way back into the series, and now only trail two games to one.
In Game 1, the Rangers scored seven runs, but couldn't pitch, and in Game 2, C.J. Wilson pitched a fantastic game but the Rangers couldn't hit Matt Cain.
Game 3 saw the Rangers put all facets of their game together to earn the first ever World Series victory in franchise history.
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was a virtual sea of red as the hometown fans vociferously cheered on their team throughout the evening.
The Texas fans have been craving a taste of success for quite some time, and in the franchise's 50th year, finally have reason to hope.
Texas had multiple heroes in Game 3, from the 31-year-old journeyman starting pitcher living a dream after two years of pitching in Japan to a 25-year-old rookie first-baseman with only 47 Major League games on his resume prior to this postseason.
Josh Hamilton, the team's star center-fielder, continues his dramatic road to redemption after several years out of the game due to his own harrowing battles with addiction.
The Rangers were able to get to Giants' starter Jonathan Sanchez for four runs after getting utterly dominated by Matt Cain in Game 3. Colby Lewis, suddenly the Rangers' ace, continued his brilliant run of performances in the postseason, earning his third win in four starts.
Perhaps most satisfying, two Rangers' relievers threw 1.1 shut-down innings after the bullpen had failed spectacularly in the first two games of the series.
With Games 4 and 5 scheduled to take place in Arlington on Halloween and Monday, Nov. 1, the Rangers now have good reason to expect to travel back to San Francisco for a potential Game 6, or even a possible Game 7.
Let's grade the Rangers' performances in several key aspects of World Series Game 3.
A man who strongly doubted whether he'd ever make it as a Major League pitcher after failing with five clubs and undergoing rotator cuff surgery in 2004, Colby Lewis is crafting his own Texas-sized legend with each successive start in the 2010 postseason.
Already the only man in Texas Rangers' history to win a playoff game at home in Arlington, Colby just won his third straight outing at Rangers' ballpark.
His two wins over the Yankees in the ALCS, including the clinching Game 6, helped propel the Rangers into their first ever World Series, and now his Game 3 victory has provided his team with a spark of hope they so desperately needed.
Tasked with cooling off a San Francisco offense that had just scored 20 runs through Games 1 and 2 of the World Series, Lewis didn't flinch.
With the backing of the boisterous Texas crowd, Colby went to work efficiently, consistently working ahead in the count, making the Giants swing at his pitches. He threw a stellar 74 of his 103 pitches for strikes, while walking only two Giants.
Lewis ran into the most trouble he would face all night in the first inning, as Freddy Sanchez singled and Buster Posey walked with two outs, but Colby stranded them by striking out Pat Burrell on a slider away.
Though he allowed solo home runs to Cody Ross and Andres Torres in the seventh and eighth innings respectively, Lewis was in command all evening, stifling the red-hot Giants' offense.
In 7.2 innings of work, Lewis allowed only those two earned runs, on five hits and two walks, while striking out six batters on the evening.
After the two highest-profile starters in the Rangers rotation failed to secure victories in Games 1 and 2, Colby Lewis righted Texas' ship and has blown some wind into their sails.
With a Game 3 win, the Rangers have now tasted World Series success and should be confident with two more games in their home ballpark.
With his brilliant postseason run, Colby Lewis is making himself into one of the greatest success stories of the 2010 season, and is the poster child for the success of the Rangers' scouting department, which plucked him out of Japan to give him another chance in Texas.
Though their action was limited, the Texas bullpen's performance in Game 3 was a stark contrast from anything we had seen from their beleaguered relief corps through the first two games of the series.
After looking like a complete disaster in Games 1 and 2, Rangers' relievers looked like themselves once again with a shut-down performance in Game 3.
Texas' bullpen were a strength all season, but after twice taking a beating, Ron Washington probably was slightly reluctant to pull Colby Lewis from the game, even once he reached 103 pitches.
Much to Washington's satisfaction though, both relievers he called upon performed their jobs efficiently and never let the Giants' entertain thoughts of a comeback.
In the eighth inning, after allowing a solo home run to Andres Torres, Colby Lewis hit Aubrey Huff with a pitch with two outs. With the score standing at 4-2 in favor of Texas, the tying run would be coming to the plate in the form of the rising, rookie star Buster Posey.
Rather than take any chances with a tiring Lewis, Washington trusted the bullpen that got him here and turned to sidewinder Darren O'Day.
Following two strikes and a foul ball, the poised beyond his years Posey took three straight balls to work the count full. With no desire to place the tying runs on base, O'Day induced a harmless ground-out to short, successfully preserving the lead. His work for the evening was completed.
Neftali Feliz, Texas' record-setting rookie closer would be the next reliever called upon. He had yet to be used in the World Series, giving many reason to question Ron Washington's handling of his bullpen.
Despite using six other relievers over the first two games, the Rangers' most dominant reliever never made it to the mound.
He made it to the mound on Saturday evening, continuing right where he had left off when mowing down the Yankees in the ALCS. Throwing 13 pitches, mostly scorching fastballs in the 97-99 range, Feliz blazed his way through three Giants' hitters, closing the Rangers' Game 3 victory.
Needing only four pitches, he struck out Pat Burrell with an unfair 98 MPH fastball. The next hitter, Cody Ross, flew out deep to right on a 99 MPH fastball, the third pitch of the at-bat.
With only Juan Uribe standing in his path, Feliz used only his most powerful weapon, his heat, to set down the Giants' scrappy infielder. Uribe had no chance on the 99 MPH heat that Feliz unleashed on him.
With a much-needed, confidence-boosting performance, the Texas bullpen contributed 1.1 innings of perfect baseball to re-instill faith in the struggling relief corps. Washington should have little doubt if needing to call upon O'Day and especially Feliz over the next two games in Arlington.
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After getting thoroughly dominated by a brilliant Matt Cain in Game 2, the Rangers were greatly looking forward to returning to the friendly confines of Rangers Ballpark. Though they are capable of hitting anywhere, the Texas offense is far more potent in their home park.
They didn't put on a spectacular offensive display, but they hit just enough to win, and got valuable contributions from a few key players who had been struggling.
The top of the order, Elvis Andrus and Michael Young, each had two hits to set the table, offering hope that they can get hot for the remainder of the series.
Though Andrus had been scorching throughout the first two rounds, he had been quieted over the opening two games of the World Series. Getting him back on track could be a significant key to mounting a comeback vs. the Giants.
ALCS MVP, Josh Hamilton, after coming off a brilliant series against the Yankees, had only been 1-for-8 so far against San Francisco. His mammoth home run off Jonathan Sanchez in the fifth inning helped provide Colby Lewis with a cushion to work with as he worked against the Giants' offense.
By far, the at-bat of the game though, belonged to rookie first-baseman Mitch Moreland. With only 47 games played in his Major League career, no one was sure quite what to expect from the 25-year-old rookie in the playoffs.
Possessing only a handful of less-than successful at-bats against left-handed pitching, it wasn't guaranteed that Moreland would start over the right-handed hitting, veteran Jorge Cantu.
Well, Ron Washington made the correct decision as Moreland was one of the primary reasons for Texas' thrilling Game 3 victory.
Facing Jonathan Sanchez, a left-handed hurler always tough on lefties, Moreland continues hit torrid hitting in the playoffs, working a magnificent at-bat to turn the tide of the contest.
With two on and two out in the bottom of the second inning, the rookie first-baseman worked the count to 2-2 before fouling off four straight pitches.
On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Moreland drove a fastball from Sanchez into the right-field stands for a three-run homer, as the Texas crowd erupted in jubilation. The three-run drive would be his first ever home run against a left-handed pitcher.
Though they only scored on the two home runs, Texas had to like what they saw after Game 2's dismal performance. All told, they only had eight hits in addition to four walks, but the contributions of Andrus, Young and Hamilton have to be encouraging.
Collectively, the team only went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position, with the only hit being Moreland's home run. Jeff Francoeur had just grounded out weakly to third on the first pitch with Nelson Cruz on third-base to waste an opportunity, but was mercifully saved by Moreland's blast.
The Rangers will look to improve upon their victorious performance and give the Giants a taste of their own medicine in Game 4 on Sunday.
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In such a close game, the Rangers never got much of an opportunity to utilize their dangerous running game. Being down two games, they were likely reluctant to run too much, fearful of running themselves out of scoring chances.
Early in the game was a double-edged display of base-running skill by Nelson Cruz. After leading off the second with a booming double, Cruz made a fantastic read on Ian Kinsler's ground to the second base side of short-stop Edgar Renteria.
Cruz followed his instincts properly, advancing to third on a tough play. The very next hitter though, presented a different issue for Cruz.
The impatient Jeff Francoeur, presented with the first RBI opportunity of the game, swung at the first pitch, chopping a ball up the third-base line. Cruz hesitated slightly, and instead of charging home on contact, retreated to the third-base bag right next to Uribe as he snagged the ball.
It wasn't an egregious error, as he may have been thrown out at home if he attempted to score, but the hesitation could have been costly. Luckily for Cruz, Moreland would hit his three-run blast two hitters later, making the situation a moot point.
As far as base-stealing opportunities, the Rangers were 1-for-2, with Kinsler swiping second, and Vlad Guerrero being nailed at second by Buster Posey.
It may seem odd to see the now less-than agile Vlad trying to steal bases, but with two outs, the Rangers were trying to move another runner into scoring position with Nelson Cruz hitting.
Unfortunately, the aggressive tactics didn't work out that time, but it wasn't an improper decision.
With renewed hopes heading into Game 4, the Rangers may try to incorporate more of their aggressive running game to attempt to unsettle the battery of rookies, Posey and Game 4 starter Madison Bumgarner.
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Continuing to improve after the atrocious showing in Game 1, the Rangers defense has returned to its prior form as a solid defensive ball-club.
Texas' defense had little to contend with over the course of the game, but once again made the plays they needed to. Backing up a great performance by starter Colby Lewis, the defense was smooth, giving little to worry about moving forward.
In the second inning, Lewis induced a sharp grounder to second from Pablo Sandoval that Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus adeptly turned to end any threat.
Later, in the top of the fifth, Michael Young made a fantastic stop on an Edgar Renteria shot to the shortstop side of third-base. Playing slightly in, Young fell to his left corralling the potential hit, spinning and throwing accurately to first for the out.
Nelson Cruz made a fine over-the-shoulder catch in the eighth inning, running toward the wall on a hard-drive to left off the bat of Freddy Sanchez.
With Tommy Hunter taking the hill for Game 4, a pitcher known for allowing a lot of contact, the Rangers will need their defense to be at the top of its game if they want to continue their attempted comeback from the early two-game deficit in the World Series.
It's always difficult to determine how much of a coach's success is determined by his decision making rather than his players' ability to execute.
Often, a coach makes moves by the book, only to see them fail when the the players don't accomplish what is expected of them. Then, it becomes easy to second-guess the maneuver, but it's not always a fair assessment.
Ron Washington has had his share of questionable coaching decisions and ensuing criticism through the first two games. Much of the criticism has been fair, as he has appeared indecisive and ill-prepared at times, especially when dealing with relief pitching. Some of the blame has to go to the players though, for failing to perform when called upon.
In Game 3, all the buttons that Washington pushed seemed to work out. He finally got a solid bullpen performance after embarrassing displays in Games 1 and 2.
Darren O'Day worked out of a jam in the eighth, with the potential tying run at the plate, inducing a harmless ground-out. Washington finally got an opportunity to use his close, and Neftali Feliz came in throwing gas, shutting down the Giants in the ninth inning.
Perhaps the biggest decision was to keep Mitch Moreland at first, although the Rangers were facing a difficult lefty in Jonathan Sanchez.
Washington could have gone to right-handed hitting Jorge Cantu, but he stuck with the hot hand, starting the rookie Moreland, who provided the offensive heroics of the evening.
With the pitching that he got out of his hurlers tonight, Washington had few tough decisions to make, but the few that he did worked out perfectly.
After the Rangers' victory, he will get a reprieve from the criticism, but he better hope Tommy Hunter follows suit with a strong performance, otherwise Washington will be lambasted for failing to move up Cliff Lee in the rotation.
Looking Ahead To Game 4
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After earning the first World Series victory in franchise history, the Rangers will look to even the series in Game 4. Going down two games to none, they were pronounced dead by many, but their hopes have been revived with a strong overall performance in Game 3.
The powerful Rangers offense has yet to bust out like they did against the Yankees in the ALCS, but their confidence will be high coming off a crucial win.
Facing the 21-year-old rookie, Madison Bumgarner, they will have a chance to reestablish their offensive might in their home ballpark. The rookie left-hander pitched well against Atlanta in the NLDS, but was hit hard in his only start against the Phillies in the Championship Series.
Taking the hill for the Rangers will be right-hander Tommy Hunter. He was highly successful for them in the regular season, going 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA.
Hunter is a pitch-to-contact hurler and will need to locate his pitches well to be successful. If he's not able to do so, the free-swinging San Francisco hitters could be able to rediscover the stroke they displayed at AT&T Park in the first two games.
Hunter has been hit hard in the postseason, going 0-1 with a 6.14 ERA in two starts. The Rangers will need him to find the form he had in the regular season to avoid finding themselves in a difficult three games to one hole.
While not impossible, that type of deficit is certainly something Texas will want to avoid, especially since it would require them to win three straight games, and both Games 6 and 7 in AT&T Park, a stadium in which Texas has never won.