Saturday, October 8, 2011
Rangers, Tigers face off for AL crown
The American League Championship Series kicks off tonight with Game 1 in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers are looking to defend their AL pennant while the Tigers are trying to reach the World Series for the second time in the last 25 seasons.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Rangers would be just the fifth team to win the ALCS in consecutive seasons. The others to do this are the Orioles (1969-1971), Athletics (1972-1974 and 1988-1990), Blue Jays (1992-1993) and Yankees (1998-2001).
It should be no surprise that both these teams will play for the AL title, as they both both dominated play down the stretch in the regular season. Tigers and Rangers ranked 1-2 in the majors in wins during the final month, and also led MLB in nearly every offensive category in September.
Inside the Series
The Tigers won six of the nine meetings between the teams in 2011, including two of three at Rangers Ballpark. Detroit crushed Texas pitching, hitting .317 with 10 homers while averaging five runs per game.
The Tigers outscored the Rangers by just 12 runs over the nine games, however, and four of their six wins were by one run each. That’s a telling statistic for the both teams: the Tigers finished the season an AL-best 29-17 in one-run games, while the Rangers went 19-24 in one-run games, ranking ahead of only the Royals in the AL.
On the Mound
Justin Verlander gets the nod in this opening game for the Tigers, making his seventh career postseason start and looking to build on his previous success against the Rangers.
He is 6-2 with a 2.61 ERA in nine starts versus the Rangers, and owns the best ERA among active pitchers against the team (min. 5 starts). Verlander has been nearly perfect in Arlington, going 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 21 innings.
C.J. Wilson will try to bounce back from one of the worst starts of his career, when he allowed six runs in five innings in Game 1 of the ALDS. Wilson struggled with his fastball command in that game. Twenty-four of his 48 heaters were in the upper third of the zone or above it, and he failed to record a single miss on the 19 swings against his fastball.
Alexi Ogando is not in the Rangers ALCS rotation but could prove to be a secret weapon out of the bullpen for the Rangers. Ogando had a lot of success against the Tigers in the regular season. He was the winning pitcher in each of the Rangers three wins and posted a 1.29 ERA in those three starts.
Delmon Young suffered an oblique injury in the ALDS and will not be on the Tigers ALCS roster. Ryan Raburn is expected to start Game 1 in place of Young, who set a Tigers record with three homers in the Division Series. Raburn should be an adequate replacement at the plate, as he has hit lefties well, with a .807 OPS in 157 regular season plate appearances.
Since 1987, the first season in which it was played in a best-of-seven format, the team that won Game 1 of the ALCS has won 13 of the 23 series, according to Elias. But over the last nine years, the team losing Game 1 has gone on to win six of those series.