Here were are, with one more series to predict in this historic playoff run for the Rangers. And now that this team has managed to beat Tampa Bay in five and the Yankees in six, they face the San Francisco Giants, another organization looking to end a long drought without a championship.
My prediction: Rangers in 6. Why? Here are some reasons:
* It starts with the lineup. The Rangers crushed the Yankees. Sure, the series went six games. But it sure felt closer to a sweep, didn't it? That's because the Rangers scored early, often and rarely allowed the Yankees to feel like they were in the series. The Giants are pitching better than the Yankees were, but this offense has the versatility to score runs. They are hot and show no signs of slowing down.
* Power. So often, close postseason games are decided by one swing of the bat. The Rangers have sluggers hitting for power in these playoffs, led by Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton. Texas has more power than San Francisco. And while moving runners over, running the bases well and scoring runs in a variety of different ways is important (and Texas does that, by the way), sometimes there's no substitute for that one big swing. Texas will find a way to do that in some key moments in this series.
* Rotation. Sure, the Giants have the advantage in the starting rotation at first blush. Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain have been solid all playoffs. And no rotation has a better postseason ERA than the Giants. But to win the series, the Rangers must pitch well enough to stay in games and let their offense get the job done for them. Clearly, Cliff Lee can win games by himself. That won't be easy against Lincecum, but there's little doubt those games should be close. I think C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis can match Sanchez and Cain. If they do that, the offense should be able to do just enough to get some close wins.
* Schedule. Oddly, I think the fact that the Giants have homefield advantage is good for Texas. The Rangers' goal should be a split in San Francisco. They've played well on the road all season, so that is a very realistic goal (especially with Cliff Lee on the mound). If they can then win two of three in Arlington, they'd take a 3-2 advantage back to California. That's a good spot to be in. To me, the pressure is on the Giants to hold serve in those first two games at home.
* Lee. He has the ability to create momentum by himself. He did it in the Tampa series, winning two of those five games to push the Rangers to the ALCS. And he did it in Game 3 of the ALCS by giving the Rangers a leg up in Yankee Stadium. He can do it again by getting this series started off on the right foot with a win on the road in Game 1.
* Hamilton. He's the likely AL MVP and sure looked like it against the Yankees. How the Giants pitch to him could impact the entire lineup. We saw the Yankees try to pitch around him and take their chances with Vladimir Guerrero in Game 6. It didn't work. Look for him to make an impact.
Overall, while the Giants probably have a slight edge in total pitching depth, I don't think it makes up for the Rangers' offense. Texas scores enough runs and gets the pitching it needs to win this World Series in six games.
What's your prediction?