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Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Rangers on cusp of first World Series title

By Katie Sharp


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The Rangers hope to celebrate a win in Game 6 and their first World Series title tonight in St. Louis.

The Year of The Napoli and 51,000 screaming fans lifted the Texas Rangers to a pivotal win in Game 5. Now as the series shifts to St. Louis for Game 6, the Rangers are one victory away from their first-ever World Series title.

The Rangers are one of eight current major-league franchises that have never won a World Series. Among those teams, the Rangers have been in existence the longest, playing their inaugural season in 1961. In fact, the Elias Sports Bureau tells us that the Rangers and Minnesota Vikings are tied for the most seasons played (51) by any franchise - in the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB - that has never won a championship.

They do have one streak in their favor: the Rangers haven't lost consecutive games since being swept by the Red Sox August 23-25, a span of 45 games during which they have gone 32-13.

The St. Louis Cardinals head home needing a win to extend their season one more day. The Cardinals have been in this situation before. It is the sixth time the team has trailed 3-2 in a World Series in franchise history. In four of the previous five instances, they rallied to win the title.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, their four wins when trailing 3-2 in the Fall Classic are the most of any franchise in major-league history. The Twins are second on that list, with three such wins.

Key Matchups
Mike Napoli has crushed Cardinals pitching in these five games, with a 1.235 OPS and nine RBI in 13 at-bats. He has feasted on high heat, with both of his home runs in this series coming on fastballs in the upper-third of the zone or above. Overall this postseason, he is slugging .941 on high fastballs.

Jaime Garcia held Napoli hitless in two at-bats in Game 2 , but just one of the seven pitches he threw was a fastball. Napoli did manage to hit two line drives against Garcia (one on a changeup, one on a slider), though both were caught for outs.

Albert Pujols is hitless in four of the five games in this series and came up small in a key spot in the ninth inning of Game 5, striking out on a 99-mph outside fastball.

Pujols is 0-for-4 in at-bats ending in a heater away in this series, continuing a trend of poor performance from the regular season. He hit just .213 in 89 at-bats ending on outside fastballs, which ranked 299th out of 368 major-league players with at least 100 PA ending in those pitches.

Colby Lewis held Pujols without a hit in three at-bats in Game 2. Four of the nine pitches Lewis threw to Pujols were on the outer part of the plate (all fastballs), and Pujols put just one ball in play, which was caught for an out by centerfielder Craig Gentry in the first inning.

Stat to Remember
Lewis is one of five pitchers in major-league history to allow two runs or fewer in six of his first seven career postseason starts (Curt Schilling, Sandy Koufax, Orlando Hernandez, Chief Bender are the others). The only one of that group to allow two runs or fewer in seven of their first eight starts was Schilling.