Do you feel better about playoff rotation?
In fact, since Aug. 31 in Cleveland and not counting Roy Oswalt's spot start Sunday, Rangers starters have put together a 2.90 ERA in nine starts. Opponents are batting .190 against that rotation in that span and there have been seven quality starts. What bodes even better for the Rangers are the trends of most of the starters in the mix for the playoff rotation. That includes Yu Darvish, Ryan Dempster and Derek Holland, who are putting solid starts together on a regular basis recently.
Game 1: Matt Harrison. I'm sticking with Harrison despite struggles his last two starts. But he's got to find his form a bit here in September, and I bet he does. Harrison has been the club's most consistent pitcher overall this season. His postseason experience -- struggles and all -- from 2011 should help him. He's got 15 wins and a 3.37 ERA, and the club is 17-10 in his starts. And I like the splits here. He's 10-5 with an ERA of 3.17 on the road, a half-run better than at home. BTW, I'm also reminded of last year when Colby Lewis didn't pitch well down the stretch (6.64 ERA in final seven starts), yet showed enough signs to keep his No. 3 spot (and start on the road because of his splits), and he pitched well.
Game 2: Yu Darvish. His road and home splits are about the same and his last two sparkling starts have occurred on the road anyway, including Tropicana Field (you never know, that could be the site of yet another ALDS for Texas). Darvish is 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA in his last five starts. Texas is 4-1 in that span and Darvish has 42 strikeouts to 11 walks with opponents hitting just .161 against him. If Darvish keeps this up, he could find himself moving up to the Game 1 starter in my book. The big unknown is how Darvish will react to his first MLB postseason, but I think he'll be just fine.
Game 3: Ryan Dempster. He's moved up from Game 4 to Game 3 for me over the past few weeks. Dempster is 4-0 in his last four starts with a 1.73 ERA in wins over Baltimore, Minnesota, Cleveland and Kansas City. While the level of opponent isn't tremendous, Dempster hasn't messed around. He's pitched deep, attacked hitters and let his defense work for him. That could certainly come in handy in the playoffs.
Game 4: Derek Holland. Are the stirrups the difference? In Holland's last four starts he's looked more like the guy that was so good down the stretch in 2011. He is 3-0 with a 2.89 ERA in his last four starts. That includes allowing one run on two hits in eight innings against Tampa Bay on Friday. He got a no-decision in that extra-inning loss. He has 27 strikeouts and seven walks in his last four starts and opponents are hitting just .198 in that span.
And yes, I would stick with the four-man rotation for the ALDS, for those wondering. All four of these guys are capable and doing the job at this point. But overall, Rangers fans have to feel better about that staff, right?
Your call: What is your playoff rotation and in what order?
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.