Is Ryan Dempster a Game 1 candidate?

September, 12, 2012
9/12/12
8:00
AM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- We've looked into our crystal ball the past few days and discussed various playoff scenarios, from the rotation to the roster. And we're going to continue to do that this month. But any talk about Game 1 starters has been reserved for Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish. Is that fair?

[+] EnlargeRyan Dempster
Rick Yeatts/Getty ImagesRyan Dempster has won his last four starts and has a 1.73 ERA with 28 strikeouts over that span.
Are we forgetting about Ryan Dempster?

The veteran starter can continue to make his case tonight against Cleveland. And he comes in with plenty of confidence. Dempster has five wins since Aug. 1, tied with four others in the AL for the most during that span, and has a four-game winning streak. After a rocky start to his Rangers career, Dempster has settled in and pitched more like the guy that was putting up an impressive ERA with the Chicago Cubs and became an important trade-deadline acquisition for the Rangers.

So what's been the key to Dempster's success the last handful of starts?

"My ability to stay focused on the task at hand and not look back, just keep looking forward," Dempster said. "I was pretty much doing the same thing there (in Chicago). I just had a couple of starts here where I didn't execute pitches and I paid for it."

Dempster has been adjusting to hitters in the AL and notes that he's pitching to an extra hitter, one that's a DH instead of the pitcher or a bench player batting for the pitcher deep in an NL lineup.

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"But at the same time, you have to execute pitches," Dempster said. "If you take 100 pitches in a game and you can somehow manage to execute 90, 95 of them, you're going to have a really good game. The less of those pitches you execute, the more trouble you're going to have. You'll find yourself always having to make pitches to get out of a jam instead of making pitches so you don't get in the jam."

Dempster hasn't been in too many jams in his last four starts. He's 4-0 with a 1.73 ERA with 28 strikeouts and nine walks. Opponents have hit .191 in those starts and he's pitched at least six innings in all of them.

Dempster is also a veteran who could give the rotation that steady hand. Is he the type of guy you'd want pitching Game 1 of the ALDS if he continues to pitch as he has the past four starts? Should he get consideration?

For me, I've still got this between Harrison and Darvish, but Dempster could change my mind. I like his mentality and consistency. He's pitching now like he did in Chicago, so he has a full season body of work. But so does Harrison, and no one on the staff is pitching better than Darvish right now. It's an interesting race.
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.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Elvis Andrus
BA HR RBI R
.302 1 3 9
OTHER LEADERS
HRE. Andrus 1
RBIA. Rios 7
RE. Andrus 9
OPSS. Choo .830
WP. Figueroa 2
ERAY. Darvish 0.82
SOY. Darvish 23