How many people can honestly say they thought the Rangers would meet the Giants in the World Series? How many people can actually say they thought either would even make the postseason? Certainly not me.
Going into the season, it was clear to me that the two best teams in the league were the Red Sox and Phillies while the Giants and Rangers were the third best teams in their division. I still think that the Phillies are better than Giants and the Red Sox would have beaten Texas had they not lost Youkilis, Pedroia, Ellsbury, and V-Mart for most of the season. Unfortunately, the season did not pan out as I thought it would, but here we are at the peak of baseball competition.
To be honest, this is the last matchup Major League Baseball wanted at the start of the League Championship Series. Another Yankees/Phillies World Series was within its grasp; two major markets with great followings would draw huge ratings and bring in massive revenue. But then Cliff Lee and Cody Ross happened. And now we have the Rangers meeting the Giants in the World Series.
People have and will complain about this “bad” World Series matchup. I’ll be honest, Tommy Hunter and Madison Bumgarner don’t exactly excite me either, but if you are a baseball fan, you will watch the World Series no matter who plays. There will definitely be exciting games (pencil in games 1 and 5).
No matter who is playing in the World Series, Major League Baseball has reason for concern. Case and point: Monday, October 18th. That night, it was Game 3 of the ALCS up against Monday Night Football. Normally, one would guess that the NFL would get higher ratings then a middle-of-the-series playoff game, but these were different circumstances. Cliff Lee was pitching lights-out against the Yankees while the Titans were tearing apart the Jaguars. The best pitcher in baseball going up against the most popular team while the two must un-watchable teams not named the Bills played. Guess which game had higher ratings?
Cliff Lee vs. Yankees 6.5
MNF Titans/Jags: 7.2
There are many reasons why this happened. For starters, NFL is far more popular, especially with the emergence of gambling and fantasy football. But there really is no reason for baseball to sink that low. Not in my mind, at least.
Like it or not, either the Rangers and Giants will be hoisting the 106th World Series trophy within the next two weeks. It’s going to be a classic matchup of great pitching and great hitting, so lets get right down to the game-by game breakdowns.
Game 1: Cliff Lee vs. Tim Lincecum
It’s hard to pick a better matchup to start the World Series than Lee, who is lights out in the postseason, against Lincecum, who has won the last two NL Cy Young Awards. When it comes down to it, Lincecum is more prone to giving up big innings than Lee is, and the Rangers have a better lineup anyways. This game will be low scoring, but Texas will ultimately come out on top.
Game 2: C.J. Wilson vs. Matt Cain
After falling down 0-1, the Giants will need to pull out a win in Game 2. What better pitcher to have up than Matt Cain? Cain is steady, he gets the job done, and he doesn’t waste much time doing so. C.J. Wilson has really come into his own this month, but I expect the Giants’ bit righty bats like Posey, Ross, and Sandoval to mash in this game. As a side note, I don’t know if we should be ecstatic or terrified to see Vladi Guerrero back in right field for the games in San Fran.
Game 3: Colby Lewis vs. Jonathan Sanchez
Poor Jonathan Sanchez, yet another player infected with A.J. Burnett syndrome. Oh, what is A.J. Burnett syndrome, you ask. Its a strange condition when you can either throw a 2-hit shutout or get lit up for six runs in two innings. Other effects of AJBS include inability to consistently hit the strike zone, wild temper, and moody brooding in the dugout. Baseball fly far in Arlington, this one will be a win for Texas.
Game 4: Tommy Hunter vs. Madison Bumgarner
Game 4 is the marquee game for sure. Who wouldn’t get excited for two soft-tossing, consistently average, extreme pitch-to-contact pitchers? While this won’t be the favorite game for everyone, it will most likely be the highest scoring. Neither starter will go more than six innings, and hopefully we’ll get to see an inning plus of Brian Wilson’s beard close the game. In the end, however, I would rather have Bumgarner than Hunter, and I think the Giants win a close high-scoring affair to even the series at two apiece.
Game 5: Cliff Lee vs. Tim Lincecum
I don’t think people realize how great of a playoff pitcher Cliff Lee is. He’s started eight playoff games over the last two seasons and won 7 of them, three against the Yankees. His ERA is a minuscule 1.26 and he owns an equally impressive 0.73 WHIP. He is lights out, untouchable, lock down, game over good. The only reasons doubters are saying he is beatable in the playoffs is that he’s bound to crack some time. Yeah, right. Its safe to pencil in Lee for his second win of the series as the Giants’ bats can’t solve this conundrum.
Game 6: C.J. Wilson vs. Matt Cain
Here is where home field advantage finally comes into play: would you rather try to win one game on the road or two at home? The Rangers know the answer to this question, and the answer is C.J. Wilson. The Rangers could face losing Cliff Lee this off-season, and Wilson would be the man to step into their ace role. This game, he proves that he can be the man in Texas. Josh Hamilton will come through against Cain early, and Texas will win their first World Series on their first try.
Ultimately, this series comes down to the fact that the Rangers have the better offense and the best pitcher. Cliff Lee is money in the bank, and C.J. Wilson and crew aren’t so bad either. The Giants offense is the American League equivalent of their neighbors the Athletics; there’s only so much great pitching can help with.
Whether it was the acquisition of Lee, the purchase of the team by Nolan Ryan, or the unity manager Ron Washington brings, this team was meant to win. Texas has the young slugger who’s been in the deepest, darkest place imaginable and back, the unbeatable pitcher, and a lineup filled with veteran players who are flat-out-winners.
I have to say, the Giants are very lucky to be in this position. While I will say that the Rangers are clearly worse than the Phillies and the Giants were able to beat Philly in six games, San Francisco can’t keep riding their hot pitching forever. They are going to fall a bat or two short this series; a series that will come down to the fact that they can’t out-do Cliff Lee.
As a closing note, the Rangers, Red Sox, and every other team needs to send a fruit basket to Yankee Nation as a whole, who offended Cliff Lee’s wife so bad that it could sway the ace away from signing with the Bombers. Thank you, rude Yankee fans, for potentially saving Major League Baseball from Death-by-Yankees.