Sunday, October 9, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Rangers 3, Tigers 2
By Richard Durrett
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers took Game 1, thanks to timely hitting early and a strong showing by the bullpen. It was a long night for both teams with two rain delays and the game ending early Sunday morning, but the Rangers grab the series lead, 1-0. Some quick thoughts (more to come from the clubhouse):
* The win gives the Rangers a boost, since they were able to do it on a night when Tigers ace Justin Verlander was on the mound (and Rangers starter C.J. Wilson didn't have his best stuff). They fought through two delays and won yet another tight game in this postseason.
* The first rain delay appeared to impact Wilson's command. He had found it in the fourth but struggled in the fifth after play was resumed. He had given up a leadoff double to Ramon Santiago to start the fifth and then the 41-minute delay came. After that, Brandon Inge grounded out, but Austin Jackson hit an RBI double and Wilson walked Ryan Raburn and Miguel Cabrera. A wild pitch, thrown on an 0-2 count, allowed another run to score. Wilson walked Magglio Ordonez intentionally and then the rain came again. So in that 13 minutes of resumed play, the Tigers scored twice and the inning was still going.
* Mike Gonzalez was acquired to get tough left-handed hitters out. He did that in the ALDS and he did it again in the ALCS. On Saturday, he needed just two pitches to retire Alex Avila, the only left-handed batter in the Tigers order in Game 1. Avila grounded to second with the bases loaded and two outs as soon as the rain stopped the second time following a 1 hour, 9 minute delay. Gonzalez is 2-for-2 in big postseason at-bats against lefties in key situations, striking out Johnny Damon on three pitches in Game 3 of the ALDS.
* The Rangers talked Friday about needing to get to Verlander early. After wasting a chance in the first (see below), Texas did a nice job of hitting with two strikes in the second. David Murphy went down and got a two-strike fastball and hit it to the base of the wall in right-center to score Mike Napoli in the second. Napoli had singled with two strikes as well. Murphy ended up at third with a triple and scored on Ian Kinsler's RBI single the other way. Just like that, it was 2-0 Rangers after two innings.
* Wilson had early command issues with his off-speed stuff and loaded the bases in the first inning with one out -- two singles and a walk. Magglio Ordonez, though, grounded into a 5-3 double play as Adrian Beltre stepped on third and threw to first. Wilson threw 20 pitches in the first, 11 strikes. He put two more batters on in the second but worked out of it.
* Another double play helped Wilson. After giving up a leadoff walk in the third, Victor Martinez (who hit into 20 ground ball double plays during the season), grounded one to Beltre, who started yet another twin-killing.
* The Rangers' ace settled down. He struck out the side in the fourth, getting Magglio Ordonez, Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta in order.
* Nelson Cruz, hitless in his last 10 at-bats and struggling in the postseason, turned on a 93 mph fastball on a 2-0 count and hit it over the left-field fence. It was his first homer of this postseason and his seventh one in the last two playoff series. That's a club record, breaking Juan Gozalez's mark of six.
* A steady rain forced a delay starting at 8:42 p.m. local time. It lasted 41 minutes as the first heavy rain cell came and went at the ballpark.
* Verlander didn't have an easy time in his first inning, either. He walked two batters -- Ian Kinsler and Michael Young -- and had to deal with an error by Austin Jackson but struck out Beltre on a nasty curve ball to end the threat. Jackson dropped a routine fly ball to right-center, though the wind might have bothered Jackson. The E8 gave the Rangers a runner at second with one out, but they couldn't score him (Josh Hamilton also struck out).
* Kinsler had an eight-pitch at-bat to start the game but was thrown out at second base on what appeared to be a missed hit-and-run by Elvis Andrus (he swung, but missed).
* Rain note (courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information's Doug Kern): Of the four teams still in the postseason, the Tigers have the most rain delay experience. They've had 17 games delayed for a total of 11:46 (not including Saturday). The last rain delay at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was May 24 vs. the White Sox. That one was 2 hours and 58 minutes.
* Alexi Ogando was once again solid in his postseason appearance. He threw two scoreless innings with three strikeouts and one walk.
* Manager Ron Washington decided to go with the lefty-lefty matchup in the eighth. He brought in Darren Oliver to pitch to Don Kelly and Alex Avila and Oliver retired both (fly out and strikeout). Mike Adams then came in and got Jhonny Peralta. Then it was all Neftali Feliz in the ninth. He hit 101 mph on the ballpark radar gun.