Things to watch in ALDS Game 5 tonight

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
1:30
PM CT
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- We're getting closer to the winner-take-all Game 5 at Tropicana Field (7:07 p.m. Dallas time on TBS). We've looked at five reasons each team could win tonight. But here are some random things to look for in tonight's game:

* Cliff Lee. Obviously, he's the top storyline. He puts his 5-0 record and a 1.52 ERA in the postseason on the line again tonight. He gave up one run in seven innings with no walks and 10 strikeouts in Game 1 of this series in Tampa. He's started six postseason games and won all of them. It should help to have Jeff Kellogg behind the plate as the umpire. He likes calling strikes and Lee has good command. That's a nice combination. Can Lee put up another sterling performance tonight?

* Scoring first. The team that has scored first has won three of the first four games in this series. It's important for both teams tonight. With aces Cliff Lee and David Price on the mound, runs will be at a premium. If either gets the lead, they become even more dangerous.

* Momentum. The Rays have it coming into the game. But like in Game 1, the Rangers need some things to go right early. In that game, Lee got out of a first-inning jam and his team turned around the next inning and put some runs on the board for him and the Rangers were off and running. They need something similar tonight just to start getting good vibes going and to fully forget about Games 3 and 4. It would also help take some of the energy out of what will be a loud crowd when this one starts.

* Early swings. Look for Tampa Bay to try to ambush Lee tonight. They know he throws strikes and a few teams have had some success getting to Lee early in the count. He threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 27 batters he faced in Game 1. And once Lee's ahead in the count, he's very dangerous. So expect the Rays to swing early.

* Off-speed stuff. Price is a fastball pitcher. But what hurt the Rangers hitters over the weekend in Arlington was a bunch of off-speed pitches. Look for Price to incorporate his secondary pitches earlier in the count at times tonight to see if he can get the Rangers to chase. Texas must be disciplined and stay away from the off-speed stuff and wait for a fastball to hit.

* Nos. 2-3-4. Michael Young, Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero are a combined 9-for-45 (.200) in this series. One or more of them must show up tonight to help the Rangers generate some offense for Lee. Hamilton is 2-for-14 (.143) and doesn't have an extra base hit or an RBI. My bet: He comes up in a run-scoring situation tonight and finds a way to come through.

* C.J. Wilson. Rangers manager Ron Washington said Monday that he won't be afraid to use his No. 2 starter in tonight's game. That includes the late innings of a tight game. Wilson could reprise his role of shutdown reliever from 2009 if the Rangers need him. Look for him to pitch at some point tonight in a close game.

* Jeff Francoeur. He played in Game 1 of this series and had a big hit to drive in an early run. The Rangers could sure use that right-handed bat again tonight. Francoeur hasn't hit since that first game, but he was brought to Texas on Aug. 31 to hit left-hander and he's done that -- 9-for-23 (.391) against lefties since he arrived in Texas.

* Esteban German. The Rangers haven't used him yet in this series. They went with 10 pitchers so they'd have the pinch-running specialist. In what should be a close game, he could have an impact by stealing a base or simply giving the Rangers more speed on the bases at a critical time.
Richard Durrett joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He writes about colleges, the Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers. Richard spent nine years at The Dallas Morning News covering the Rangers, Stars, colleges, motorsports and high schools.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?

TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Yu Darvish
WINS ERA SO IP
8 2.97 142 115
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Beltre .338
HRA. Beltre 13
RBIA. Beltre 50
RA. Beltre 50
OPSA. Beltre .922
ERAY. Darvish 2.97
SOY. Darvish 142