Texas Rangers: Yankee Stadium

Michael Kirkman ready to do it again

October, 22, 2010
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers rookie reliever Michael Kirkman got his postseason legs under him in Game 5 at Yankee Stadium. He didn't allow a run in two innings, giving up one hit, but also two walks while throwing more pitches than he would have liked.

"It was fun," said Kirkman, who warmed up five times in the bullpen before he finally replaced C.J. Wilson to start the sixth inning. "It was a little nerve-racking. I just couldn't get the ball down. I threw way too many pitches. It could be something with my mechanics."

Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson greeted Kirkman with a lead-off double. After a sacrifice and walk to Derek Jeter, Kirkman got a quick visit to the mound from pitching coach Mike Maddux. The young lefty then got ahead 0-2 to Nick Swisher before getting an inning-ending double-play ball. In the seventh, Kirkman walked Alex Rodriguez with one out and then Rodriguez stole second. Kirkman closed the door again by getting Marcus Thames to pop out and Lance Berkman to strikeout.

"It was everything I ever dreamed of," Kirkman said of pitching in an ALCS game at Yankee Stadium. "You always dream of that as a kid. You watch these games on national TV every year. Last year I was sitting at home watching this. It's a great experience and hopefully I will be able to get in there again."

And he just might. It will be all arms on deck for tonight's Game 6 at Rangers Ballpark with Colby Lewis starting things off. Lewis managed just five innings in Game 4 of the ALDS and although he pitched well in Game 2 against the Yankees, he couldn't get out of the sixth inning.

The Rangers have lefties Darren Oliver and Derek Holland, who has emerged as a solid middle reliever, available. But, anything can happen this deep in the ALCS, so it's a good thing Kirkman now has his postseason legs under him.

Erratic A.J. Burnett has pitched Texas tough

October, 19, 2010
NEW YORK -- A.J. Burnett's erratic season might have made him a punchline in the Bronx these days, but the struggling right-hander has fared pretty well against the Texas Rangers.

The veteran Burnett (10-15, 5.26 ERA) will face young Texas Rangers righty Tommy Hunter(13-4, 3.73 ERA; 0-1, 4.50 ERA postseason) in tonight's Game 4 at Yankee Stadium. Rangers manager Ron Washington said he knows enough about Burnett to be concerned, even though he hasn't won since Sept. 1 -- his only win since July 28 -- and was deemed unfit to pitch in the ALDS by Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

"A guy with his type of stuff, you don't know what you're going to get when he's struggling like he's struggling till you put him out there," Washington said. "You could put him out there and his stuff could be nasty. So, it's hard to predict in this game."

In three starts against the Rangers this season, Burnett is 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA. He's gone seven innings twice and has allowed just five runs and 16 hits. He's walked seven and struck out 17. He's whiffed Nelson Cruz five times in eight at-bats, and Josh Hamilton is hitless in five at-bats.

Of course, one of Burnett's seven-inning outings came in the first series in Yankee Stadium way back in April. That was before he hit the skids as his then-2.37 ERA reflects. By the time he saw the Rangers again in August, another seven-inning performance in which he allowed three runs on six hits, his ERA had ballooned to 4.87. David Murphy won that game with a walk-off single.

Burnett pitched just four innings in his most recent start against the Rangers in Arlington on Sept. 11. He went against Hunter that day as both pitchers made early exits (Hunter was gone after five). Burnett allowed two runs on four hits and struck out six. He left that game with a 5.13 ERA.

Not even the Yankees can be sure what Burnett will give them tonight. Washington just knows he's seen enough baseball to know to be concerned.

Nelson Cruz ready to bomb in friendly Bronx

October, 18, 2010
NEW YORK -- If the postseason ended today, the offensive MVP for the Texas Rangers would be an easy choice: Nelson Cruz.

Check out his numbers through seven games: .407 batting averge, four doubles, three home runs, 11 total bases and one very important stolen base in Game 5 of the ALDS. He mashed two of his doubles in Game 2 of the ALCS, ball hit so hard and so straight that both banged off the top of the wall with no chance of being caught. Even Cruz surprises himself sometimes how hard he hits the baseball.

"Some days, yeah," Nelson said with a chuckle. "I hit one in Seattle against Felix Hernandez. He was throwing a no-hitter. Everybody knows that the ball doesn't carry that much in Seattle and it was a line-drive homer, so I was kind of impressed myself."

Now he's ready to take his Boomstick to Yankee Stadium, and Cruz is confident the Rangers can continue to win on the road. They are 3-0 on the road in the postseason headed into their first road game in the ALCS.

"I like to play there so I don’t see any reason why we get over there and don't play good," Cruz said. "I really enjoy my time when I go there so I’m going to have fun there. I like to play in this situation."

Cruz does enjoy coming to the Bronx. That's because Cruz loves to visit his older sister, Olga, and her family. They live, in the Bronx, just a few blocks from Yankee Stadium. Cruz's wife's family also lives nearby, so Cruz always spends time here during the offseason.

He said over the three games here, he could have 20 to 30 family and friends coming to Yankee Stadium.

Tommy Hunter won't be in pen for Game 3

October, 17, 2010
NEW YORK -- Texas Rangers starting pitcher Tommy Hunter warmed up in the bullpen in the sixth inning of Game 2 of the ALCS in case he was needed for a righty-righty matchup. It never came to that, and Hunter sat down for the rest of the game.

"I was ready to go," Hunter said. "If they needed me, I was ready."

Hunter will watch Cliff Lee duel Andy Pettitte in Monday night's Game 3 from the dugout and not the bullpen. He won't be on call for emergency spot duty. The next time the 24-year-old takes the mound will be as the Game 4 starter in his Yankee Stadium debut.

Hunter is coming off his first postseason start in Game 4 of the ALDS in which he lasted just four innings and allowed three runs -- two earned -- on six hits. He'll either be trying to give the Rangers a commanding 3-1 series lead or looking to even it up heading into Wednesday afternoon's Game 5. Either way, he said he won't be intimidated pitching in the Bronx.

"What better time than the ALCS to make the start? Everybody knows about the tradition they have. Everybody knows about the players they have. Everybody knows that stuff," Hunter said. "I hate to say it, but you got to treat it as another game. You can’t blow it out of proportion for yourself. You can’t try to do more than you’re capable of.

"I’m not that kind of guy. I have to stick to what I do best. I don’t overpower people. I don’t strike a lot of people out. I’ve got to go out there; I’ve got to hit spots. I’ve got to get them to hit it to my defenders. That’s what I’ve been doing the whole year -- trying to."

Can young Rangers hang with NYY vets?

September, 13, 2010
Forgetting that little three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium way back in April, a mostly young Texas Rangers team that smiles, makes antler and claw hand signs and dons rally caps in the dugout, have learned to go toe-to-toe with those poised professionals in pinstripes.

After Sunday's 4-1 win at Rangers Ballpark to conclude a dramatic series -- and the last series of the regular season between the two clubs -- each team has gained a home sweep while they split a two-game series in Arlington a month ago. Add it up: Eight games, four wins each.

But, if the Rangers and New York Yankees meet in the American League Division Series -- and the Yankees must hold off the stubborn Tampa Bay Rays for that to happen -- how will the Rangers, with only designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, relief pitcher Darren Oliver and ace Cliff Lee (plus recent acquisitions Cristian Guzman and Jeff Francoeur) boasting postseason experience handle the defending champs? After all, Yankees and postseason is practically synonymous.

Newly acquired Yankee and former Houston Astro Lance Berkman believes there's no equivalent for postseason experience.

"For guys like Michael Young, it won't matter one iota. He's one of the best hitters in the game. That's not going to bother him at all," Berkman said. "But I do think, for us in Houston -- I went to the postseason in ’01 and I was actually on the team in ’99, but they didn't put me on the playoff roster -- but in ’01 we got swept by the Braves and I remember I was overwhelmed by really the whole postseason environment. I felt very, very uncomfortable."

As a franchise, the Rangers have advanced to three postseasons -- 1996, 1997 and 1999. They played the Yankees all three times and lost all but one game in the three best-of-5 series. No one on today's Rangers roster played in any of those mismatches. It would take too long to list the number of current Yankees with World Series rings, not to mention the guys with multiple rings.

"I think experience is one of the greatest things you can have," said Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher," who has played in three postseasons with three different teams, including last season's triumphant Yankees. "If you look at our guys, we have a core of four guys. Just the things these guys have been able to do throughout their careers and the names that they've made for themselves, not only in the Yankee organization, but generally in the game of baseball -- Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter. Then you've got A-Rod [Alex Rodriguez], who's been doing it for 15 years. You got guys like Kerry Wood, Javy Vazquez. I mean these guys have been in the league for a long time. We've got a lot of veteran guys on this team and you can tell."

Swisher didn't even mention Cy Young Award candidate CC Sabathia, who hasn't faced the Rangers' lineup since that April series in New York.

There's no doubt that if the two clubs meet in October that the Yankees will be favored. They'll have homefield advantage and in a five-game series that can be huge, especially playing the first two in the Bronx (a couple of Lee-Sabathia matchups could make for some riveting baseball). And the New Yorkers will easily have the experience factor on their side. There's just nothing the upstart Rangers can do about that.

"The second time we went [to the postseason], I felt a lot better because I had kind of been in it and at least seeing what it was all about, so I do think it can definitely be a factor," said Berkman, who led the Astros to the 2004 NLCS and then the 2005 World Series. "Our organization had never won a playoff series and you just don't know you can do it. Having that breakthrough in ’04 against the Braves was huge. We won that NLDS in five games at their place. The next year when we came back we expected to win. It's a totally different mindset that you can only get from having done it.

"But, at some point, they're [the Rangers] going to have to break through. At some point they’re going to win and then they're going to develop a sense that they can do this, it's not this impossible mountain. It seems like it before you climb that it's that way."

As the Rangers' 2010 motto goes: "It's Time." According to Berkman, 2011 might be more their time.

We'll see. If the Yankees win the East, Game 1 is Oct. 6 at Yankee Stadium.

Weather watch: Yankee Stadium

April, 16, 2010
NEW YORK -- As of 12:45 Dallas time, it is cloudy, but not raining here in New York. But since the cab driver and the folks at the hotel check-in counter talked about wet weather, I thought I'd give you a link to the forecast at Yankee Stadium.

You can keep checking on it and it will update throughout the day. As of now, it's calling for a decent chance of rain tonight. So we'll see. Just passing it along.



Yu Darvish
10 3.06 182 144
BAA. Beltre .327
HRA. Beltre 17
RBIA. Beltre 68
RA. Beltre 68
OPSA. Beltre .880
ERAY. Darvish 3.06
SOY. Darvish 182