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Sunday, October 24, 2010
Two underdogs ready for World Series scrap

By Jeff Caplan

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Outside of North Texas and the Bay Area, perhaps the World Series  matchup most wanted to see involved a team in famous pinstripes and another with a famous fuzzy, green mascot.

Too bad. The Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants knocked off the heavyweights in their respective leagues and will open a most unexpected World Series on Wednesday at beautiful AT&T Park. No apologies needed.

"The two best teams have arrived," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. 'Tampa Bay nor New York laid down for us. Atlanta or Philadelphia didn’t lay down for San Francisco. Every game that we’ve won to be here, we’ve won it. They certainly didn’t give it to us. So the two best teams are here. And you know, once again, it’s not always the best team that wins, it’s the team that wins the best. I keep preaching it and that’s what the game offers. San Francisco played better. The Texas Rangers played better. So here we are. And now we got to see who plays better in the next seven."

The Rangers enter the World Series as slight favorites after being underdogs in the ALDS and ALCS. That came as news to Washington.

"We're the favorites?" he asked, rhetorically. "The game is played between the lines. Its' the best team that plays that night is the team that's going to win."

The Rangers get the nod with their dangerous lineup -- although they will lose the designated hitter spot in the first two games -- having led the majors with a .276 batting average and a postseason-high 17 home runs. The Giants hold a slim advantage on the mound with their starting pitching depth. However, Rangers ace Cliff Lee is the only one who has pitched on the World Series stage before, beating the Yankees twice a year ago.

Led by Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez, the Giants bring a postseason-best 2.47 ERA into the World Series. During the regular season, they led the majors with a 3.36 ERA and 1,331 strikeouts.

"They have an extremely good staff," said lefty C.J. Wilson, who will start either Game 2 or 3. "They led the National League in everything the last time I heard. They got the guy that won the Cy Young the last two years (Lincecum), they got a guy that's thrown a no-hitter (Sanchez), they got a dude that; what's Cain's career ERA, like 3.20, 3.40 (3.45)? He's got good stuff."

One team will bring home a long-awaited championship. The Rangers have never won a World Series title. This trip marks the franchise's first appearance. The Giants haven't won it all since 1954, when they still called New York home.

"This area and community has been starving to have a champion and this team and this organization has given it to them," Washington said. "Now we just have to finish it off."

*The Rangers worked out at Rangers Ballpark on Sunday afternoon. They leave for San Francisco at 3 p.m. on Monday and will not hold a workout until Tuesday at AT&T Park.