If you said you picked these two teams at the beginning of the season to be the last two standing, you can either see the future, or you're lying. Back in April, no one would've expected to see this. Both of these teams took devastating blows during the off-season that very few people thought they could recover from. Texas lost a former Cy Young award winner in Cliff Lee. Lee was a major contributor during the 2010 playoff run, and now few believed the Rangers could make it back to the big show without him. St. Louis also lost their ace in the off-season, except theirs wasn't via free agency. Adam Wainwright was told he needed season ending Tommy John surgery in February, and many believed this would move the Cardinals to the middle of the pack. But these were the two most complete teams down the stretch, and now I'll break it down to see who will win the World Series.
The Texas Rangers starting rotation in the playoffs has been a disaster, and it's amazing that they've made it this far with it being this bad. Only one starter has been able to pitch at least 6 innings, and their ace C.J. Wilson has not been good at all. He's 0-2 in the playoffs with an 8.04 ERA. Colby Lewis has been the one bright spot, as his ERA is only 3.86. This rotation was good over the entire season though, and I would expect them to settle down in this series. The 2 young starters, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, now have playoff starts under their belt, and they will likely be more calm. The Rangers will also catch a break when they play in St. Louis, as they won't have to face a DH for the first time this postseason. In the end this team's rotation is good, but they've been bad in the postseason, and the key for Texas could be which rotation decides to show up.
The St. Louis Cardinals pitching rotation is very similar to the one in Arlington. They had a very good staff during the season, but they have struggled during the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how their ace Chris Carpenter does. He pitched a complete game shutout against the Phillies in the NLDS, but since then he has been average at best, and he has complained of elbow pain over the past couple of days. After him the staff has been very shaky with Edwin Jackson, Jaime Garcia, and Kyle Lohse, none of which have an ERA under 5.84 in the postseason. Starting pitching will be the key to this series for both teams, and it's tough to give an edge to either team.
The Rangers have been saved by the bullpen. The bullpen has thrown 39 2/3 innings in the playoffs and they've only allowed 11 runs, with 5 of those given up by Koji Uehara. Scott Feldman has relieved the starters more than once, and he hasn't allowed a run in 8 2/3 innings. Alexi Ogando is back in the bullpen like he was last year, and he's posted a 0.87 ERA in 10 1/3 innings. Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz have held down the end of the game as usual, as they are incredibly tough to hit. This team may have the best bullpen in baseball, and they've saved the Rangers during this postseason.
The Cardinals have had the same storyline, as they too have been saved by their bullpen. Jason Motte has unofficially been the closer, and he's been just about unhittable. Octavio Dotel looks like he did 5 or 6 years ago, and Fernando Salas has done well when having to take over early for starting pitchers. After those men it does get a little dicey. Mitchell Boggs and Marc Rzepcynski both have an ERA above 6.35, and the Cardinals will need those two to step up in the World Series. The Cardinals have a good bullpen, but no one's is quite as good as the one in Texas.
The Texas Rangers may have the best top to bottom lineup in baseball. Ian Kinsler, the leadoff man, is one of the most versatile players in the league, as he can draw a walk, knock a double, or crush a home run at any moment. There is no one you can look at in this lineup and say that they're an automatic out. They have Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli, and Nelson Cruz in order, and that sounds like it should be the middle of an All Star lineup. No one has been more impressive than Nelson Cruz this postseason, as he hit 6 home runs and knocked in 13 RBI in the ALCS, both of which are records. The team hit 210 home runs during the regular season, but they are far from just a power hitting team. They led the league with a .283 batting average, and they stole 143 bases. The scary thing is this lineup hasn't even reached it's potential in the playoffs, as everyone hasn't gotten it going yet.
The St. Louis Cardinals lineup isn't too shabby either. They have the best hitter in baseball, and arguably one of the best hitters of all time in Albert Pujols, yet he wasn't even the NLCS MVP. David Freese hit an unbelievable .545 in the NLCS while hitting 3 homers and knocking in 9 RBI. And it doesn't stop there. Matt Holliday has been one of the best hitters in the game for a while now, and Lance Berkman had an MVP type season as his career was rejuvenated. One thing that the Cardinals lack is the ability to run, as they only had 57 steals all season. Again, another area where these two teams are both very good, but Texas comes out on top.
Texas has a deep bench. They will mostly use Mitch Moreland there during this series due to there being no DH in St. Louis, and the Rangers have to keep Michael Young in the lineup. They have a good backup catcher in Yorvit Torrealba, who played well in 113 games during the regular season. Endy Chavez played in 83 games and hit above .300, and Craig Gentry is a speedy outfielder who can steal a base at any time.
The Cardinals also have a good bench. Allen Craig hit over .300 in 75 games this season, and Skip Schumaker has been a starter for a long time, but now is a key contributor off the bench. They also have Gerald Laird, a solid backup catcher, and either Nick Punto or Ryan Theriot, whichever one they decide not to play that day. These benches are about as even as they get, as they're both very solid.
Ron Washington is a fan favorite in Arlington, Texas. He knows how to use his pitching staff, and it seems like every time he makes a lineup change it works. He has the respect of his players, and he's been here once before, so now he'll know what it takes. But Tony LaRussa is a living legend. He's third all-time in managerial wins in baseball history, and also has 2 World Series championships.
Advantage: St. Louis
So it all comes down to the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers. Both of these teams are very talented, and either one could win this series. But ever since the Rangers lost to the San Francisco Giants in Game 5 of the World Series last season, they've been on a mission. They've felt the pain of losing on the biggest stage once, and they don't want it to happen again. I believe their offense will continue to put up big numbers, and their starting rotation will finally come around. This year the Rangers will finish the right way.
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