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Rangers plan to turn on power at home

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers stole Game 2 and gained an immensely important split in St. Louis by beating the Cardinals at their own league's game.

Now it's on to the Herculean American League, far from the chilled and heavy night air that hovered over Busch Stadium and slowed long fly balls to a certain death. It's on to warmer evenings, the inviting Home Run Porch in right field and ever-reachable Greene's Hill in dead center. It's on to the fabled jet stream at Rangers Ballpark where routine fly balls pinball to life.

The World Series, so close to a St. Louis landslide after 17 innings, but instead all even with three in a row down south, can be said to now sit firmly in the Rangers' wheelhouse.

Team CEO Nolan Ryan certainly believes the series can quickly tilt in the Rangers' favor if their bats awaken like they did here all season and as they did the last time on home turf in torching the Detroit Tigers for 15 runs in the American League Championship Series clincher.

"Our offense is such that every night we could break out and have a big inning like we did against Detroit," Ryan said, referencing the Rangers' nine-run third. "When you look at the strength throughout our lineup, I think we're very capable of that, and when I look at St. Louis' pitching, I don't look at their pitching like a [Justin] Verlander where you say, 'Boy, if Verlander's on we're going to have to hope for something good to happen because he's not going to give you much to work with.'"

In other words, Bob Gibson isn't taking the hill. Game 1 winner Chris Carpenter will in Game 5, but by Monday's final home game the Rangers' plan is for their bats to create some distance and Cardinals desperation. Texas has its eyes on St. Louis' next two starters.

Right-hander Kyle Lohse, a career sub-.500 starter with a 7.45 postseason ERA, will take the mound in Saturday's pivotal Game 3. Game 4 starter Edwin Jackson is another righty and a recent American League hurler who is quite familiar to the Rangers. Opposing hitters are batting .314 against him in the postseason.

"I'm not downplaying the Cardinals' pitching staff by any means," Ryan said, "but I feel every night we should score some runs and we should give our pitchers an opportunity to win ballgames."

Yet, this has not been the series everyone expected, with better starting pitching and not nearly the hitting. Neither team has fashioned more than six hits in a game, with eight total runs scored.

Back in Texas, all of that is subject to change.

"For sure, our offense is going to step up," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "I do believe our offense is going to take off these three games here and the rest of the Series. And our pitching has to stay the same. They've been doing a terrific job the last two games."

Of course, the thought process for the NL champs, who boast an AL-type lineup, is no different as they prepare to face Texas' two young and unpredictable lefties in Matt Harrison and Derek Holland.

The Cardinals' dangerous right-handed lineup starts with Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and NLCS MVP David Freese, and includes the switch-hitting Lance Berkman -- although he is better from the left side -- and now designated hitter Allen Craig, who rudely introduced himself to reliever Alexi Ogando and Rangers fans in the opening two games.

Harrison admitted after his start in Detroit that he was gun-shy against the Tigers' powerful bats and it led to him pitching from behind and driving up his pitch count. Neither Harrison nor Holland has pitched beyond five innings in their combined five postseason starts.

Still, as long as they don't get shelled, they'll give the Texas offense a chance to rev up in a ballpark where the Rangers won 52 regular-season games and four of five in the postseason.

The spotlight falls on struggling hitters Michael Young and the ailing Josh Hamilton, both of whom returned from St. Louis on a high with each driving in a ninth-inning run on a sacrifice fly for the come-from-behind 2-1 win.

But hits have been few and far between. Hamilton is hitless in the World Series and he and Young, the Nos. 3 and 4 hitters, are a combined 1-for-14. ALCS MVP Nelson Cruz and ALDS hero Mike Napoli, the Nos. 6 and 7 hitters, are a combined 2-for-11.

"We're going up there trying to give good at-bats, trying to barrel the ball up, trying to -- not say get hits because when you try to get hits, it usually backfires on you -- but having good at-bats, take a walk if you can," Hamilton said. "We seem to be a little more aggressive the last couple games, maybe not seeing as many pitches as we should."

Back in Texas, all of that is subject to change starting Saturday night.

Jeff Caplan covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.