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Sunday, October 31, 2010
Tommy Hunter ready for crucial Game 4

By Jeff Caplan

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The youngest of the Texas Rangers' starting pitchers has a chance to put "Big Game" back in Hunter.

Tommy Hunter, the 24-year-old right-hander who has had a tough go of things in the postseason, will start Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday with his team needing a clutch performance. The Rangers can even up the series with the win. The flip side is a 3-1 deficit to the San Francisco Giants.

Hunter (0-1, 6.14 ERA) will face fellow youngster Madison Bumgarner (1-0, 3.55 ERA) at 7:20 p.m.

"This is what you've played your whole life for," Hunter said. "But inside the lines nothing has changed. It's all outside the lines is when things change. It's still a baseball game. The plate is still 60 feet, 6 inches away from you. Basepaths are 90 feet. Nothing changes. It's baseball. That's the best time of the day for us. Once you get in between the lines."

Hunter went 13-4 with a 3.75 ERA during the regular season. But in two postseason starts, he's lasted a combined 7 1/3 innings, giving up five earned runs and 11 hits. He's getting the ball over the plate, having struck out 12 and walked none, but he said part of his problem might be that he's throwing too many strikes.

"Maybe at times. That's why they're hitting the ball," Hunter said. "It's just a thing to attack them, go after them, and that's what I do, and that's what I'm going to continue to do. I'm not going to change the game plan just because this is the World Series. I'm going to continue to go after them and pound the zone."

The importance of his outing isn't lost on anyone. A win ties the series and sets up Game 5 for a second battle between Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum. Heading into Game 5 tied at 2-2 instead of down 3-1 could make all the difference in the world.