Quick thoughts: Keys to Game 6
October, 27, 2011
By David Schoenfield | ESPN.com
ST. LOUIS -- As a fan of the history of the game, this World Series has been fascinating on many levels, with a couple of late-inning nail-biters, a historic performance by Albert Pujols and one of the all-time crazy games on Monday. It's not yet a classic World Series, but a great Game 6 will go far for that legacy ... and, of course, a Game 7 possibly awaits.
While I expect Jaime Garcia to pitch a decent game for St. Louis, here are some other key factors to look for.
Will the Rangers keep walking batters?
The Rangers have walked five or more batters in seven different postseason games, despite which they've gone 5-2 in those games. As a comparison, they walked five or more batters 26 times during the regular season and went 7-19 in those games. Despite walking 28 batters through the five World Series games, they've been getting away with it since the Cardinals are just 8-for-43 (.186) with runners in scoring position. That's a lot of good fortune for the Rangers; it doesn't mean it can't continue for at least one more victory, but you're gambling with the law of averages here. Lance Berkman will bat fourth and Matt Holliday fifth; neither has homered in this series; Colby Lewis led the AL in home runs allowed ...
The Albert Pujols factor.
In 23 plate appearances, Pujols has hit with the bases empty 16 times. It's imperative that the Cardinals get runners on base in front of Pujols (Rafael Furcal and Skip Schumaker will hit in the first two spots), at least making it a little more difficult for Ron Washington to put him on. On the other hand, Pujols has five hits in the World Series, all in Game 3. He's 0-for-12 with four intentional walks in the other four games. In other words, he doesn't hit a home run every time he sees a strike. But Washington indicated Tuesday he'll continue to walk him whenever possible, saying, "I've never seen Albert Pujols before other than on TV. It's my first time seeing him. And what he did the other night, no, I wouldn't mess with that."
The Colby Lewis factor.
Lewis has allowed two runs or fewer in six of his seven career postseason starts. He doesn't always go deep into the game, as he pitched more than six innings just three times, but he seems a good bet to keep the Rangers in the game for six or seven innings. He's allowed a .182 average against, including a .109 average (5-for-46) with runners on base and .091 (2-for-22) with runners in scoring position over his postseason career. While Lewis deserves credit for getting those big outs, we'll refer again to the law of averages: There's been some good fortune mixed in there. If he had a real ability to suddenly amp up his game with runners on base, wouldn't we see more evidence of this in the regular season? (This season, for example, his overall batting average allowed was .244, but it was .255 with runners in scoring position and .264 with runners on base.)
Lewis gets the job done even though he doesn't have an overpowering fastball. "He totally believes in what he's trying to do out there on the mound," Washington said on Tuesday. "But you know, this game sometimes can bring out the worst in you, and this game can definitely get you to the point where you begin to doubt what [you're] capable of doing. Well, Colby never doubts what he's capable of doing, and I think that's what makes him apart from some guys at this stage. It doesn't bother him one bit."
More innings from Octavio Dotel and Jason Motte.
Considering the Rangers' righty-heavy lineup and the facts that right-handers hit just .154 off Dotel and .162 off Motte during the regular season, it was believed the late innings could be favorable for the Cardinals. Instead, the two have combined for just four innings pitched through five games and got tagged with two of the Cardinals' defeats. (Dotel gave up the Michael Young double in Game 5 and Motte lost Game 2.) But it still seems imperative that Tony La Russa maximize the outs he gets from those two.
Will Washington show faith in Alexi Ogando?
For the Rangers, in a perfect world, Lewis bridges the gap to Mike Adams for the eighth and Neftali Feliz for the ninth. But there is a good chance he won't make it through seven innings, which means a possible appearance from Ogando. In four World Series games, Ogando has pitched two innings and allowed seven hits and five walks. Sure, a guy with his power fastball can turn it around at any time, but I don't see any indication why Ogando should be the first choice out of the Texas bullpen right now. There is a time for loyalty, but it's not Game 6 of the World Series. Ogando's hand has gone cool.