Stats & Info: Colby Lewis

Nova shining behind Yankees' run support

July, 8, 2012
7/08/12
5:39
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Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesAmong active pitchers with 35 career decisions, Ivan Nova has the best win percentage.

Ivan Nova takes the mound Sunday night for the New York Yankees against the Boston Red Sox (ESPN, 8 ET), looking to improve on an already impressive road record (12-1 with a 3.24 ERA in his past 17 road starts). What's more, Nova is 26-7 through the first 50 starts of his career, the third best win percentage in MLB history (and second best since 1900).

Oddly enough, the all-time series between the Red Sox and Yankees at Fenway Park is tied 460-460-4.

Yankees notes

Entering Sunday, the Yankees score 49.7 percent of their runs via home runs, the most in the majors. Since 2011, New York's offense has also been providing ample run support when Nova starts, tallying 5.67 runs per start.

That ranks third in baseball in that span, behind only Derek Holland and Colby Lewis (min. 40 starts). Overall, however, the Yankees are averaging 4.82 runs per game which would be their lowest since the 1992 season (4.52).

New York has struggled in the clutch this year, batting only .231 with RISP and .190 with the bases loaded. Compare that to the past two seasons, when Yankees batters posted a .337 average in 2011 and a .344 average in 2010 with the bases full.

Red Sox notes

Boston, meanwhile, has been suffering from the injury bug. The Red Sox have had 20 different players hit the DL this season, six more than any other AL team. Of those 20, 11 are former All-Stars.

For Jon Lester, the challenge Sunday night will be getting through the third and fourth innings. He’s allowed 28 earned runs in those two innings and 24 in all other innings combined. He's also struggled in his second time through the order, allowing a .293 average. Lester is using his fastball less often the second time facing batters; he's tossing his heater 63 percent of the time in the first plate appearance, but just 51 percent the next time around the order.

The matchup to watch will be Derek Jeter against Lester. Jeter is 17-for-49 (.347 BA) against Lester, the most hits Lester has given up to a batter. Curtis Granderson, on the other hand, has 10 strikeouts in 21 at-bats against Lester.

Angels flip script in shutout of Athletics

May, 16, 2012
5/16/12
12:50
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Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesAfter dropping his first six starts of the season, Ervin Santana has turned the corner and won his last two games.
Earlier this season, Ervin Santana couldn’t get any run support. Against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday, he took matters into his own hands.

Santana started the season by losing his first six starts. His 5.59 ERA in that span didn’t help, but the Los Angeles Angels offense made picking up wins impossible.

After scoring three runs in Santana’s first start of the season, the Angels were shut out in his next five starts. Thanks to our friends at Elias, we know that this stretch was the first time in major-league history that a team failed to score a run in five straight starts by a pitcher.

Through their first 37 games, the Angels have been shut out eight times. The last American League team to be shut out this frequently early in the season was the 2003 Detroit Tigers, who finished 43-119 that season.

Santana turned the corner in a 6-2 win over the Minnesota Twins last week and was even better against the A’s Tuesday afternoon. He picked up his second straight win by striking out nine in 7⅔ shutout innings.

Santana was especially effective with his slider. He recorded six of his nine strikeouts on the pitch, with Oakland hitters missed on 12 of their 23 swings. Those 12 swinging strikes are the most that he has recorded with his slider in the last two seasons.

In addition to the six strikeouts, the A’s recorded outs all four times they put his slider in play. It was the first time since Santana’s no-hitter last July that he did not allow a hit with the pitch.

Santana was also able to mix in his changeup to keep the seven lefties in the Oakland lineup off balance. He threw 17 changeups, all to left-handed hitters, his most in a start in the last four seasons and didn’t surrender a hit on the pitch.

Mike Trout scored three of the four runs in support of Santana, finishing the game with three hits and his third home run of the season. After struggling against fastballs last season, Trout is hitting over .300 with all three homers against heat this season.

Albert Pujols also recorded one of his best games at the plate so far this season, rapping out three hits and driving in two runs. Three of his six multi-hit games this year have come against the Athletics, including both three-hit games.

Around the Diamond
• Bryce Harper went deep for the second straight game. According to Elias, he’s the fifth number one pick to hit his first two home runs in back-to-back games, joining Josh Hamilton, Chipper Jones, Ken Griffey Jr. and Darryl Strawberry.

• Edwin Encarnacion hit his 12th home run of the season, with nine of them at Rogers Centre. In the last two years, 23 of his 29 homers (79 percent) have been at home. That’s the highest percentage in the majors over that span.

• Derek Lowe induced 22 outs on groundballs as he became the first pitcher since Scott Erickson in 2002 to toss a shutout without recording a strikeout.

• After allowing only seven total runs in five April starts, Colby Lewis has allowed six-or-more runs in each of his starts in May.

Cardinals approach to Cruz a Game 2 key

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
10:11
AM ET

Where lefties have gotten Nelson Cruz out this postseason. He's 0-for-7 against them.
Click here to create your own Cruz heat maps



The improbable run by the St. Louis Cardinals, largely due to the remarkable work of their relief corps, has sparked them to a 1-0 lead over the Texas Rangers in the 2011 World Series.

Here's a closer look at the matchup for tonight's Game 2.

The History
The Cardinals have won Game 1 of a World Series six previous times. In 1934, 1964, 1967, and 2006, they won Game 1 and went on to win the World Series (three of the four went seven games). In 1968 and 1985, they lost the World Series (blowing a 3-games-to-1 lead in each instance).

The Rangers have won Game 2 of a postseason series in four of the last five postseason series in which they’ve played. The lone loss came in Game 2 of the 2010 World Series against the San Francisco Giants. But the pitcher starting for the Rangers, Colby Lewis, has the team’s only World Series win to date.

Matchup of the Game: Jaime Garcia vs. Nelson Cruz
The Cardinals pitched Nelson Cruz to perfection in Game 1 of the World Series. Of the 20 pitches Cruz saw in the series opener, none were thrown inside (defined as on the inner-third of the plate or closer to him).

Remember that Cruz hammered inside pitches for five of his six home runs in the ALCS win against the Tigers (the Rays avoided pitching him inside in the ALDS, a series in which Cruz went 1-for-15).

Garcia is a rare left-hander with better regular-season splits against right-handed hitters than left-handed batters. That’s due partly to the success of his changeup, which he uses against right-handers at a rate of about once every five pitches.

The pitch hasn’t been as effective in the postseason as it was in the regular season. He’s gotten nine outs and allowed four hits with it in October. His typical rate is to get about five outs for every hit he allows with the pitch.

Cruz is 0-for-7 against left-handed pitchers this postseason.

The other thing to watch will be Cruz against the Cardinals' late-game relievers. Closer Jason Motte threw Cruz five sliders in their meeting in the ninth inning of Game 1. It was a change of approach for Motte, who hadn’t thrown more than three sliders to any hitter in any plate appearance all season.

The Bullpens
Rangers and Cardinals relievers combined for 5 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 1 of the World Series, though Alexi Ogando allowed an inherited runner to score on Allen Craig’s go-ahead pinch-hit in the sixth inning.

Dating back to Game 6 of the NLCS, opponents are now 1-for-their-last 25 against Cardinals relief pitchers.

Quirky Stat of the Day
Albert Pujols has a heck of a history in Game 2s of postseason series. Pujols was 4-for-5 with four extra-base hits in the 12-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS. That upped Pujols’ Game 2 batting average to .463 (25-for-54) with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 14 games.

Tigers continue Game 3 success

October, 12, 2011
10/12/11
12:02
AM ET
The Detroit Tigers won for the seventh time in their last nine postseason home games to cut their ALCS deficit against the Texas Rangers to two games to one.

The Tigers tied a team single-game postseason record with three home runs. They hadn’t hit that many home runs in a postseason game since Game 5 of the 1984 World Series. Victor Martinez (fourth career postseason homer), Jhonny Peralta (third career LCS home run) and Miguel Cabrera (sixth career postseason home run) all found the seats for the home team.

The Tigers have won eight of their last nine Game 3s, and are 5-0 all-time in Game 3 of the ALCS. They went on to win two of the previous four series, but they lost both series when they won Game 3 after losing the first two games of the series.

Colby Lewis entered the game with a 4-0 record in five postseason starts and hadn’t allowed more than two runs in a game. The Tigers handed Lewis his first postseason loss, as he allowed a postseason career high in runs (4) and hits (8).

Austin Jackson entered the game with three hits in 25 postseason at-bats. He went 3-for-5, matching the most by a Tigers centerfielder in a postseason game. The others were Hall of Famer Sam Crawford (twice), Doc Cramer (twice) and Curtis Granderson.

Yorvit Torrealba had just three at-bats in the Rangers first six postseason games, but replaced Mike Napoli behind the plate Tuesday. He became the first catcher to get three hits without recording an out in a postseason game since A.J. Pierzynski in 2005.

Doug Fister went 7⅓ innings to pick up his second win of the postseason. That’s an average day at the park for Fister. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he pitched at least seven innings and allowed two-or-fewer runs in seven of the 10 starts he made for the Tigers during the regular season after making his debut with the team on August 3rd.

The Tigers still have a tough road to climb. Only 13 of 71 teams that lost the first two games in a best-of-seven series have come back to win the series.

AP Photo/Mike Carlson
Coly Lewis is 4-0 in five career postseason starts over the last two postseasons. Only four other pitchers to debut in the last 80 years have gone 5-0 in their first six postseason starts.

The Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers play Game 3 of the ALCS Tuesday night, with the Rangers leading the series 2-0. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, entering this year, teams up 2-0 in a best-of-seven postseason series have won 58 of the 71 series.

Inside the Series
Texas has won seven of its last nine road postseason games overall, and has won each of its last three Game 3’s. All-time, the Rangers are 6-2 in LCS games. Detroit has won seven of its last eight Game 3’s and in LCS Game 3’s, they are 4-0 (all four of those games were at home, too). Overall, the Tigers have won six of their last eight home postseason games.

On the Mound
Colby Lewis is scheduled to start for the Rangers. Lewis is 4-0 in five starts over the last two postseasons. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, among pitchers to debut in the last 80 years, only four – Juan Guzman, Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hernandez and Cliff Lee – have gone 5-0 over their first six career starts in the postseason.

Lewis has allowed two or fewer runs in each of his first five career postseason starts. That’s tied for the second-longest streak to begin a postseason career, behind only the six starts of Sandy Koufax.

Against Detroit, Lewis is 2-2 with a 7.48 in six games (five starts) in his career. However, Lewis struggled with the Tigers this season, going 0-1 with a 15.95 ERA in two starts. One player Lewis has struggled with, especially this year, is Alex Avila, who is hitting .333 (3-for-9) in his career against the righty. Two of Avila’s three hits against Lewis are home runs, with both coming this season.

For Detroit, Doug Fister takes the mound for his second career postseason start. In his first start (Game 5 of the ALDS against the New York Yankees), Fister allowed only one earned run in five innings. Fister is 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA in two starts against the Rangers this season.

Players to Watch
The Rangers bullpen has not allowed a run in the ALCS so far. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Texas’s relievers combined for 12⅔ scoreless innings in its first two games against Detroit. No team has ever combined for more relief innings in the first two games of a postseason series without allowing a run. The previous best mark for a team’s bullpen had been the 1984 San Diego Padres, whose relievers pitched 12⅓ innings in the first two games of the 1984 World Series, which coincidentally was also against the Tigers.

For Detroit, Austin Jackson has struggled to begin his postseason career, striking out 14 times in 25 career at-bats. The only players with more K’s in their first 25 career at-bats are Reggie Sanders (17) and Darryl Strawberry (15).
The Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers continue a three-game series in Arlington at 8 ET on Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN.

The Texas Rangers will try to extend their two-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West. Despite the small lead in the standings, the Rangers have clearly been the more dominant team.

Texas has been in first place 136 days (including off days), while the Angels have spent 25 days in first place. In addition, Texas has never been below .500 this season, while the Angels have been as many as five games under .500. The Rangers also own a run differential of +95 while the Angels is +24.

On the mound

Jered Weaver takes the hill for the Angels on three days rest for the first time in his career. He is 2-1 with a 1.86 ERA versus the Rangers this season. Weaver is 2-5 career at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The only ballpark at which he has a worse winning percentage than his .286 there (with more than one decision in that park) is Fenway Park (1-3, .250).

One of the keys for Weaver will be controlling the high-powered Rangers' offense. Their .283 batting average with runners in scoring position is the best in the AL.

Weaver has been very successful against such situations this season. He has stranded 83.7 percent of baserunners, the second-highest rate among all MLB starters, and his opponent batting average of .193 with runners on is third-best in the league.


Colby Lewis will take the mound for the Rangers. Lewis has struggled at home all season, allowing twice as many home runs at home and having a much lower strikeout rate than on the road.

In his last four starts against the Angels, he’s 0-2 with a 3.00 ERA. The Angels are 14-86 against him (.163 BA) with 24 strikeouts, nine walks and three home runs. Despite that, the Rangers are 0-4 in those four games.

The last time Lewis beat the Angels was a 12-3 win on Sept. 27, 2003.

Matchups

Elvis Andrus has had success against Weaver in the past. Andrus is 17 for 42 (.405) versus Weaver, including 10-14 this year; that’s the third-highest batting average by any active player (min. 25 at-bats) versus Weaver.


Mark Trumbo is making a case for AL Rookie of the Year.

Trumbo currently leads the Angels in home runs (23) and RBI (70), something no other Angels rookie has ever done. Additionally, Trumbo is just the sixth Angels rookie with 20 HR.

Stat of the game

The Angels have one of the best rotations in the league, ranking in the top three in key categories including ERA and WHIP. However, their bullpen has not been as strong. The bullpen has been susceptible to blowing late leads - their 21 blown saves are the most in the AL. Additionally, the team has 11 walk-off losses, second-most in the AL.

Katie Sharp and Mark Simon contributed to this story.

The key to unlock Colby Lewis' success

June, 22, 2011
6/22/11
3:28
PM ET


On the left is the pitch location for Lewis' slider in wins -- on the right is the location in losses.

Colby Lewis has put up lackluster numbers (6-7, 4.80 ERA) in 14 starts this season, but there’s a pitch in his repertoire that has the potential to make him anything but lackluster: his slider.

On May 16, we started to take a serious look at Lewis’ slider after he shut out the Chicago White Sox. In that performance, Lewis allowed just five hits -- none of which came off his slider -- and recorded three strikeouts with his slider. Furthermore, of the 28 sliders Lewis threw that night, only two were put in play (both outs).




So why was his slider so effective that night? After digging a little deeper, we saw his location was almost impeccable. Take a look at the heat map on the right, which shows the location of Lewis’ slider against Chicago’s right-handed hitters.

These heat maps use colors to show where Lewis has thrown the majority of his pitches, with red being the hot zone and blue being the cold zone.

In this game, the majority of his sliders were down and away to righties and Lewis showed that with pinpoint command, he’s nearly impossible to hit. The next question became, could he do this again?

Last Friday, June 17, Lewis beat the Atlanta Braves by doing essentially the same thing. In throwing his slider 32 times, Lewis struck out seven hitters and the Braves got just one hit against the pitch (albeit a solo home run). A good sign to look for when measuring Lewis’ overall effectiveness is the location of his slider, and it was just as consistent this time around.

It’s no coincidence that these performances resulted in wins for Lewis. Taking a look at one more comparison, we can see how Lewis has fared when locating his slider well throughout the season when facing right-handed hitting.

This graphic is representative of Colby Lewis’ season so far -- inconsistent. When Lewis keeps his slider over the plate, he gives up home runs, as he did against Kurt Suzuki and Jose Bautista in back-to-back starts in April.

If Lewis keeps his slider down and away (as he did against the White Sox and Braves), he can have a more dominant and consistent second half.
A preview of Game 3 of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers.

FROM THE ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU: The last 12 teams to win the first two games of a World Series at home went on to win the championship. The 1981 Yankees were the last team to lose a Series after winning Games 1 and 2, both at home. That year, Los Angeles went on to win the next three games at Dodger Stadium and closed out the Series at Yankee Stadium with a 9-2 victory in Game 6.

FROM THE ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU: San Francisco has outscored Texas 20-7 through Games 1 and 2 of the Series. The Rangers are the fifth team to be outscored by at least 13 runs through the first two games of a World Series. The others were the 1937 Giants, 1987 Cardinals, 1996 Yankees and 2007 Rockies. The 1996 Yankees were the only one of those teams that rebounded to win the Series.

Jonathan Sanchez will be looking for his first career postseason victory against Colby Lewis as the series shifts to Arlington. Lewis has been stellar thus far in the postseason, coming off an eight-inning gem against the New York Yankees that clinched the ALCS for the Rangers. Lewis will take the mound to attempt to win the franchise’s first World Series game ever, and hopefully reverse the fortunes of this series in their favor.

JONATHAN SANCHEZ
The curveball has been the out pitch for Sanchez late in the season. Since Sept. 16 – a span of seven starts – Sanchez has allowed two hits in 39 at-bats (.051) with his curve.

Despite throwing fewer curveballs per start during this stretch – 17.7 per start versus 21.7 per start before Sept. 16 – he is actually striking out more people with the pitch. He is averaging 3.7 strikeouts per start with the curveball during this span (only 2.7 strikeouts per start before).


Colby Lewis
Lewis
COLBY LEWIS
Lewis is throwing his curveball more often and with more effectiveness late in the season.

Before Sept. 15, Lewis was throwing 11.2 curveballs per start and opponents were hitting .304 against it. Since Sept. 15, Lewis is throwing 14.6 curveballs per start and opponents have only one hit in 18 at-bats (.056).

Lewis has thrown even more curveballs in the postseason – 18.7 curveballs per start in his three playoff outings.

Jonathan Sanchez
Sanchez

Sanchez has only faced two Rangers hitters in his career – Jeff Francoeur and Jorge Cantu – but only Francoeur is in the Game 3 lineup. Francoeur is just 2-for-14 with 5 K against Sanchez, but Cantu has two hits, including a double, in six at-bats.

Francoeur hit almost 70 points higher this season against lefties than he did against righties, and nearly 30 points higher against lefties than David Murphy – who would play if Francoeur didn’t -- did during the regular season.

Lewis has only faced three Giants hitters a total of 10 times in his career. But he’ll need to beware of Aubrey Huff, who is 2-for-4 lifetime against him with a home run.
The Rangers advance to their first World Series, ending a drought of 49 seasons dating back to their inaugural season in 1961. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no other franchise among the four major pro sports had played as many seasons as the Rangers before reaching their first championship round. There are now two current MLB franchises that have never reached a World Series – the Mariners and the Nationals.

The Rangers are the third team all-time to defeat the Yankees in an ALCS, along with the 2004 Red Sox and the 1980 Royals. Texas also joins the 1997 Indians as the second team to defeat the Yankees in either the LCS or LDS when the Yankees were defending champions.

Here’s what else you need to know about the Rangers historic win as we empty our Stats & Info research notebook:

•  Elvis Andrus doubled in the first inning and now has a hit in each playoff game this season. His 11-game hit streak is tied for the fourth-longest to start a postseason career all-time.

•  In the fifth inning, Nelson Cruz hit his fifth career postseason homer, all of which have come in 2010. He matches Juan Gonzalez in 1996 for the most home runs by a Ranger in a single postseason, and is one shy of the postseason career record set by Gonzalez.

•  Josh Hamilton was intentionally walked four times. He is the fourth player to draw three intentional walks in a postseason game, joining Rudy York (1946 Red Sox), Jose Cruz (1980 Astros) and Barry Bonds (2002 Giants).

Josh Hamilton
Hamilton
•  Hamilton, who tied the record for home runs in a LCS with four, was named series MVP. He is the first outfielder to win ALCS MVP since David Justice for the 2000 Yankees.

•  Colby Lewis earned the win, becoming the third starting pitcher to beat the Yankees twice in a League Championship Series. Freddy Garcia beat the Yankees twice in 2000 and Tim Wakefield beat the Yankees twice in 2003.

•  The Elias Sports Bureau also tells us that Lewis joins Johnny Podres in the 1955 World Series as the only pitchers with a losing record in the regular season to defeat the Yankees twice in the postseason.

•  Lewis went eight innings and allowed just one run in the victory. He is the sixth starting pitcher to win and eliminate the Yankees while pitching at least eight frames and giving up no more than one run, and the first ever to also give up just three hits in the game.

•  The Rangers join the 2007 Red Sox as the only other team in postseason history to win a best-of-seven series, with all four wins coming by at least five runs.

•  With Cruz’s homer, the team has now homered in all 11 postseason games, which is one shy of the record for consecutive games with a HR in a single postseason set by 2004 Astros.

•  Phil Hughes had a series to forget, losing both of his starts while giving up 11 earned runs and seven doubles. He is third Yankees starter to lose twice in an LCS, joining Denny Neagle (2000) and Mike Mussina (2003). His 11 earned runs allowed are tied for the second-most in a single LCS, and his seven two-baggers allowed are the third-most in a single LCS.

•  Alex Rodriguez struck out to end the game. He is the third Yankee to get punched out to end a postseason series, joining Jorge Posada in the 2007 ALDS and Willie Randolph in the 1980 ALCS.

•  The Yankees had just three hits in the loss. That set a franchise record for fewest hits by the Yankees in a game in which they were eliminated from the postseason. In Game 8 of the 1921 World Series the Yankees had four hits in their 1-0 loss.

•  New York allowed 38 runs in this series, the second-most allowed by the team in a single postseason series. The only time they allowed more was in 2004 when they gave up 41 during their seven-game loss to the Red Sox.

One big thing in ALCS Game 6

October, 22, 2010
10/22/10
5:21
PM ET
HOW DO WE KNOW THAT A-ROD WILL DELIVER IN GAME 6?

Alex Rodriguez
Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez is having one of the worst postseasons of his career, hitting .214 with three RBI and no homers in 28 at-bats. The only postseason in which he posted a lower OPS than his current .574 mark was in 2006 (.204). So how do we know that Rodriguez will turn it around tonight in Texas?

1. He is facing a right-handed starting pitcher.

This postseason, Rodriguez has faced a righty 17 times and a lefty 17 times, but the results have been remarkably different. Rodriguez has had no trouble tagging the northpaws, with five hits in 14 at-bats (.357) and just one strikeout. He’s really struggled against southpaws, though, managing just a single hit in 14 at-bats (.071) while getting punched out four times.

2. Colby Lewis is a flyball pitcher.

During the regular season, 61.4 percent of the balls hit in play against Lewis were flies (MLB average is 55.6 percent), and he had a groundout-to-flyout ratio of 0.76, well below the MLB average of 1.07. Rodriguez during the regular season crushed flyball pitchers like Lewis, who get more outs in the air than on the ground. His .561 slugging percentage and .901 OPS against flyball pitchers both dwarfed the major-league averages of .411 and .735.

3. Rodriguez is back in Texas.

Although he has just two hits in 10 at-bats at Rangers Ballpark during this series, A-Rod really enjoyed his trips to the Lone Star state in the regular season. In four games there he posted a .316/.409/.632 line over 22 at-bats, with four of his six hits going for extra bases.

ALCS Game 6 Preview: Yankees at Rangers

October, 22, 2010
10/22/10
12:00
PM ET
A quick preview of Game 6 of the American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers.

The Yankees bats finally woke up in their 7-2 Game 5 win, with six of their nine hits going for extra bases, to stave off elimination and send the series back to Texas for tonight’s Game 6. It was the fourth straight season that a team down 3-games-to-1 won a Game 5 in a postseason series.

Phil Hughes
Hughes
The Yankees are trying to come back from a 3-1 deficit for just the second time in franchise history and the first since the 1958 World Series. In the history of postseason baseball, 72 teams have trailed 3-1 in a best-of-seven series and only 11 have rallied to win the series, the most recent in 2007 when the Red Sox beat the Indians in the ALCS.

What are the chances they’ll be able to force a decisive Game 7?

The bad news: The Yankees have lost seven of their last 11 postseason games when facing elimination, and have dropped five of their last seven ALCS games on the road. The good news: The Yankees have won their past two Game 6s (both in 2009) and are 7-3 all-time in Game 6s on the road.

Phil Hughes makes his second start of the ALCS, and when he steps on the mound, he’ll be the fourth-youngest Yankee to start a potential elimination game and the youngest ever to start a Game 6. He is looking to rebound from one of the worst outings of his career, during which he allowed seven runs on 10 hits, seven for extra bases, in just four innings in Game 2 last week.

In Game 2, Hughes struggled to finish off hitters when getting to two strikes, as the Rangers went 5-for-11 (.455), including four extra base hits, in two-strike counts. Hughes also left his pitches up, and the Rangers capitalized, going 6-for-8 (.750) on pitches in the upper third of the zone and above.

The Rangers are looking to advance to their first-ever World Series and end a drought of 49 seasons since debuting as a franchise in 1961. They are one of three active MLB franchises never to have appeared in a World Series, along with the Mariners and Nationals.

Texas is 1-3 all-time when trying to eliminate a team in a postseason series. They lost Game 3 and Game 4 against Tampa Bay in the ALDS before winning Game 5, and they lost Game 4 in this ALCS.

Colby Lewis
Lewis
Colby Lewis is also making his second start of the ALCS, having earned the win in Game 2 allowing just two runs in a solid five and ⅔ innings. That was his first career win against the Yankees, after going 0-2 with a 6.89 ERA in his first three starts against them.

One key for Lewis in Game 2 was his use of the curveball as an out pitch, as the Yankees went 0-for-4 against the hook. Lewis was also effective in getting Yankee hitters to chase pitches, with four of his six total strikeouts coming on pitches out of the zone.
The Texas Rangers jump out to a 5-0 lead after three innings, but this time they hold on to beat the New York Yankees 7-2 and even the series at 1-1. With the win, the Rangers snap their 10-game postseason losing streak vs the Yankees and record their first-ever postseason win at home.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 10-game losing streak was tied for the second-longest by one team against an opponent in postseason history, and their seven losses before earning their first home win were the most in postseason history.

Colby Lewis earned his first postseason win with 5⅔ innings of two-run ball. The Rangers bullpen – which entered the game with a 6.32 postseason ERA – allowed just one hit and held the Yankees scoreless for the final 3 ⅓ frames. Nelson Cruz had two doubles and now has seven extra base hits in his first seven postseason games, one shy of the record set by Carlos Beltran and Jim Edmonds.

For the Yankees, Phil Hughes becomes the first starter in postseason history to give up at least seven earned runs and 10 hits in four innings or fewer. Robinson Cano hits his fourth career postseason homer, tying Tony Lazzeri, Willie Randolph and Alfonso Soriano for the second-most by a Yankee second baseman, and one shy of the leader Billy Martin. Cano also becomes the 19th player in MLB history to homer in each of the first two games of an LCS series, and the first Yankee to ever achieve the feat.

The series continues Monday night in the Bronx with ace lefties Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte set to take the mound in the pivotal Game 3 of this best-of-seven ALCS.

ALCS Game 2 Preview: Yankees at Rangers

October, 16, 2010
10/16/10
9:00
AM ET
Phil Hughes
Hughes
The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees take the field this afternoon for Game 2 of the ALCS, with the Yankees leading the series 1-0 after their 6-5 win Friday night. How important was that win? The winner of Game 1 of the ALCS has won the series in three of the last four years -- but that comes after four straight seasons, from 2002 to 2005, when the winner of Game 1 in the ALCS eventually lost the series.

The Yankees have won their last six ALCS Game 2s dating back to 1999, but are just 1-3 in those games on the road, with the only win coming in 2001 in Seattle. The Rangers are still looking for their first ALCS Game 2 win -- of course this is also the first time they have appeared in the ALCS.

Let’s take a looking at the pitching matchup in this pivotal Game 2, with Phil Hughes set to face Colby Lewis.

PHIL HUGHES

As noted in our ALCS preview two days ago, the decision to start Phil Hughes rather than Andy Pettitte in Game 2 may have something to do with Hughes having a good history at Rangers Ballpark. In 15⅓ innings there, he’s never allowed an earned run. His only outing there this season was a perfect one-inning relief appearance last month.

Key Matchups
But it’s not just the Texas ballpark where Hughes has been nearly unhittable. He has also dominated the current Rangers lineup during his career, holding them to a meager .079/.125/.132 line. Although no Rangers hitter has faced him more than eight times, collectively the nine Rangers who have seen him during his career have just three hits and two walks in 40 plate appearance.

Stat to Impress Your Friends With
Hughes made history in his ALDS Game 3 start against the Twins when he became the youngest pitcher to start and win a postseason game for the Yankees since Dave Righetti beat the A’s in Game 3 of the 1981 ALCS. He’ll etch his name into the Yankee record books once again tonight when he steps on the mound tonight, becoming the third-youngest pinstripe hurler to start an LCS game.

COLBY LEWIS

Lewis pitched well in his first career postseason start last week in Game 3 of the ALDS, holding the Rays scoreless over five innings, but got a no-decision as the Rangers bullpen imploded in the 6-3 loss. This followed his strong performance down the stretch, as he went 3-1 with a 2.37 ERA in his last five starts dating back to September 9 to end the regular season.

Key Matchups
Colby Lewis
Lewis
Lewis didn’t face the Yankees this year hasn’t seen them since 2003 when he was a 23 year-old with the Rangers. He’s only faced three current Yankees: while Jorge Posada and Lance Berkman are a combined 0-13 against him, Derek Jeter has three hits, including two homers, in five at-bats vs Lewis.

Stat to Impress Your Friends With
Over his last six starts, including Game 3 of the ALDS, Lewis has allowed just three hits in 26 at-bats with runners in scoring position (.115). His offspeed stuff has been especially key for him in these situations. According to Inside Edge, of the 47 non-fastballs he threw, 35 were for strikes (74.5 percent) and batters were just 1-for-14 when putting them in play.

One big thing in each Championship Series

October, 15, 2010
10/15/10
3:00
PM ET
HOW DO WE KNOW DEREK JETER WILL HAVE A GOOD ALCS?

1. He’s comfortable against all four of the starting pitchers in this series

Derek Jeter
Jeter
Derek Jeter has a .432 batting average and 1.081 OPS against Cliff Lee, combining both regular season and postseason. There are 62 hitters who have faced Cliff Lee at least 25 times in their careers. None has a better batting average than Jeter.

Jeter homered in his first career at-bat against C.J. Wilson in 2005, and is 5-for-14 with three walks against him. Sometimes he gets a little lucky – two of his three hits against Wilson this season have been of the infield variety.

It’s been a long time since Jeter saw Colby Lewis, but he’s 3-for-5 against the Rangers righty, homering twice against him in their last meeting – in 2003.

Jeter also went 2-for-3 in his career against Tommy Hunter.

2. He’s looking better at the plate

Jeter had hits in all three games of the ALDS, going 2-for-4 in the third game of the sweep after a pair of 1-for-5s. Perhaps of greater significance, he’s getting better swings. He hit five line drives in his 14 plate appearances, a small-sample rate more commensurate with an effective Jeter, rather than the one who had issues throughout 2010.

3. History says he’s due for some hits

Jeter is a .313 career hitter in postseason play, but his LCS numbers (.262 batting average) don’t quite match that level of performance. It’s been awhile since Jeter last had a good LCS. In his last four, he’s hit .118 (2001 vs Mariners), .233 (2003 vs Red Sox), .200 (2004 vs Red Sox) and .259 (2009 vs Rangers). So he’s due to match the likes of 10 years ago, when he hit .318 with two home runs and five RBI in a win over the Mariners.

HOW DO WE KNOW THE GIANTS OFFENSE WILL STRUGGLE?

1. They had the worst offense of the eight playoff teams during the regular season

They were the only team to make the postseason scoring less than 700 runs, ranked in the middle of the pack in batting average and in the bottom half of the league in walks and OBP. Despite such trouble getting on base, the Giants managed to ground into 158 double plays, with 3B Pablo Sandoval leading the NL with 26. That's the most double plays grounded into by a National League team since 1958, when the Cardinals grounded into 166.

This explains why the Giants ranked ninth in the National League in runs scored during the regular season. Keep in mind, only two teams since 1974 have won the National League pennant with a ranking that low.

2. Their offensive struggles continued in the NLDS

The Giants grounded into six more double plays in the NLDS after finishing one behind the Minnesota Twins for the major league lead during the regular season. And after finishing last in the National League in BA with RISP (.248) during the regular season, they hit just .185 (5-for-27) in that situation against the Braves in the NLDS.

3. The Phillies pitchers are pretty good

Everyone knows by now that the Phillies have a star-studded rotation, and their entire staff allowed only 11 hits in three games in the NLDS. During the regular season their pitching staff was fifth in the National League by inducing 132 groundball double plays – even though they were next to last in GIDP opportunities! In fact, three of their pitchers ranked in the top 14 of the league in that category. How did they do that? Their pitching staff was third in the majors this season in groundball percentage.

ALDS Game 3 Preview: Rays at Rangers

October, 9, 2010
10/09/10
12:25
PM ET

Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images
It will be up to 2008 ALCS MVP Matt Garza to keep the Rays pennant hopes alive in Game 3 of the ALDS


The Texas Rangers might have the fourth-best regular-season record of the American League teams in this year’s postseason, but so far they’ve come out looking as stellar as the best of the best.

Rangers pitchers have held the Tampa Bay Rays to a .125 batting average, and this Tampa Bay team can’t do the harm on the bases that it did during the regular season if it can’t get on the bases in the first place. The Rays haven’t hit well and they haven’t pitched well. They’ve managed just one run in two games this postseason, a combination they had only once all season, in May. They’ll turn to 2008 ALCS MVP Matt Garza, whose previous postseason performance earned him a reputation for being a big-game pitcher. Garza went 2-0 against the Rangers this season, one of only two pitchers to win at least twice without losing to them (Ricky Romero was the other).

The Rangers have never won a postseason series. They’re the only team in the major leagues who can make that claim. They’ll send Colby Lewis to the mound to go for the sweep and will try to become the first team since the 2003 Yankees to hold an opponent to one run or fewer in three straight games.


The game will turn on …
Rays starter Matt Garza’s ability to prevent the Rangers from crushing his fastball in a ballpark in which he’s allowed 16 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings over his last three starts. Garza allowed only one home run with his fastball in August, when he posted a 1.27 ERA in five starts. He allowed six with it in September, when his ERA was 5.88 (though in his last two starts, he was much sharper). The Rangers, who hit fastballs better than any team in baseball, crushed fastball-happy David Price in Game 1 en route to victory. Garza throws his fastball 72 percent of the time, fourth-most among pitchers who qualified for the ERA title this season.

Or perhaps Colby Lewis’s slider will be the difference-maker. It was a considerably more effective pitch for Lewis in his last five starts. According to our Inside Edge video database, hitters chased it when it was thrown out of the strike zone 57 percent of the time in that stretch (compared to 47 percent prior to that). The slider netted Lewis 32 outs in those last five starts, while yielding only six hits.

Matchup to Watch Josh Hamilton is 2-for-15 career against Matt Garza and 0-for-his-last-8 against him. Of the 27 right-handed pitchers whom Hamilton has faced at least 15 times, his .133 batting average rates third-worst (better only than the 0-for-16 against Zack Greinke and the .083 average against James Shields). Garza has struck Hamilton out six times, including two in three clashes with him this season.

Stat of the Day
Four different Rangers have already hit home runs this postseason: Nelson Cruz, Bengie Molina, Ian Kinsler and Michael Young. Prior to this year, only two Rangers had ever hit a postseason home run - Juan Gonzalez and Dean Palmer.

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