Good morning, everyone. I'm here at Tropicana Field as the Rays get ready to work out. The Rangers will do the same later today. Let's get to some questions.
Will the Texas Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays to advance to the ALCS?
As I predicted on a video I did yesterday, I'm going with the Rangers in 5. I went back and forth on this, but I feel like the Rangers have the pitching staff and bullpen to contain the Rays and can produce just enough runs to get it done. They've got Cliff Lee twice and my bet is Lee wins it in Tampa in Game 5. In fact, I think the first two games are split, the two games in Arlington are split and Rangers win Game 5. Obviously, to do that, the Rangers must score more runs than they have in previous playoff games.
The teams are similar and it should make for a great series, I'll tell you that.
If you were Ron Washington what would your lineup and batting order be for Price and then Shields?
Against LHP PriceSS Elvis Andrus3B Michael YoungCF Josh HamiltonDH Vladimir GuerreroLF Nelson Cruz2B Ian KinslerRF Jeff Francoeur1B Jorge CantuC Bengie Molina* Note: I'd also consider making Ian Kinsler my leadoff hitter and putting Andrus ninth in this order. Just a thought.Against RHP ShieldsSS Elvis Andrus3B Michael YoungCF Josh HamiltonDH Vladimir GuerreroRF Nelson CruzLF David Murphy2B Ian Kinsler1B Jorge Cantu (you could start Moreland against a RHP)C Matt TreanorThose are merely some quick thoughts. I could see flipping some things around, but those are some options.
should i be concerned that our offensive weaknesses at 1st base will catch up to us in the postseason?
It's certainly been an inconsistent area, but if the Rangers get production from other places, they'll be OK. The main thing is to get good defense at the position. I know that sounds strange for that to be the focus at 1B, but that's the case with this team because they've had next to nothing from the position on offense this season.
When the rangers beat the rays....confidence...and if the yankees beat the twins...do we have home field for the ALCS or the yankees?
If the Yankees win and Rangers win, the Rangers would have homefield as the division winner. So Games 1 and 2 would be in Arlington in the ALCS for that particular series.
If we are able to pull a split in the first two games, how do you see our chances of being able to finish the series at home? Provided we can get Colby some run support and that Tommy continues his stellar pitching at the Ballpark?
I think with a split on the road, that's very possible. But the Rays were the best road team in the AL, so I think they'll find a way to get one of those. That's what makes this series so interesting. It should be close and competitive.
Can Hambone realistically carry us through the playoffs?
I don't know about "carry" through the series. But he can certainly have an impact, even if he's not at 100 percent. He looked good in the batting cages on Monday (hitting off lefty) and I think he'll find a way to be in the middle of something good in this series.
Which Vlad will show up in the playoffs? June/September or July/August Vladdy
I say June/September Vlad. He's swinging the bat well and he's played well in his recent postseason appearances. I think he'll have a good series.
Any clue as to when Game 4 will start? I have tickets and a friend who cant go if its a day game. Im guessing a noon start since the Cowboys play at 3 and Yankees at primetime?
No idea yet. I would think they'll try to make it so it doesn't conflict too much with Cowboys, but that may be impossible. It's going to be a tough weekend out there with Arkansas-A&M and then the Cowboys mixed in with these two postseason games. So get to the park early.
Shouldn't the Rangers be starting Cliff Lee in Game 4 regardless of whether they are up or down 2-1? I say that because Ron Washington has said he won't use Cliff Lee on short rest.
I wouldn't. I'd start Tommy Hunter no matter what. I just don't believe the short rest thing works very well and the stats show that. Hunter has the attitude and ability to get it done, even if it becomes an elimination game. But the Rangers can play that by ear and see what they want to do if they are down 1-2 at that point.
Do you think Washington will pinch hit for Francoeur or Cantu if the Rays bring in a right hander? What about Moreland if they bring in a lefty?
I doubt it. It would depend on the time of the game, but he could certainly go with Murphy if he's on the bench and ready. That would all depend on situation, inning, etc.
will cliff lee be the cliff lee of last postseason
I'm going to say yes. No, it might not be quite as impressive as 2009 (that was really good), but he'll be solid. The Rangers traded for Lee for this purpose and I think he'll come through.
While Tampa Bay stole the most bases in baseball, Rangers catchers were 26th in baseball at throwing out runners? How can Texas limit the Rays' running game?
That's one important storyline of this series. And we're actually working up a big blog post on that now. Manager Ron Washington said yesterday that keeping runners close is part of the pitcher's job, which of course it is. They'll be aware and make sure they do what they can to step off, throw over and mix things up to try to keep the runners from getting big leads.
What went into the decision for the Rays to start James Shields over Matt Garza? I had Shields on my fantasy team and he was terrible this year. It's like they want to give us a win.
I really think the main reason was wanting Shields to pitch at home. His home ERA is much better than his road one. But I found it interesting as well to shove Garza to Game 3.
The ceiling to the Trop and the bad turf surface give fits to most visiting teams, do you think the Rangers will have a better time of it than they had last time there and why has MLB not required TB to replace that god awful turf? It is a real problem for players as in injuries and playing the goofy bounces the ball takes.
The Rangers took plenty of grounders and fly balls yesterday and will do the same today as they get used to Tropicana Field. Check the blog later this morning at ESPNDallas.com for more on that, but they really did want to be sure they got a good feel for the field and conditions.
Hey Rich its Steve (VA) from your in-game chats. Flying down to Texas on Thursday! Where should people go to watch the games on TV in the D/FW area?
Wow. Good question. I don't know that there are specific watching parties, but I'm sure most of the sports bars will have some big Rangers events. You might check online, but off hand, I don't really know. Have fun at the games this weekend!
is there plan to raise ticket prices at the ballpark next season
No, not that I've heard of. I wouldn't think the new ownership group would do that first year in, but those decisions aren't made until the offseason.
There has been talk of the playoff inexperience of the Rangers and that being a problem. Is it safe to say that it should not be made that big of a factor considering performances of inexperienced teams from this past decade including the Rays back in 08?
I think it goes both ways. On the one hand, a team with experience is less likely to get rattled when things go wrong. On the other, a young team has a tendency to forget about a game or a tough loss and move on. This Rangers team has done a nice job of moving on past losses. Not to drive this point home constantly, but we've got tons of blogs on the Rangers blog and that's one of them from this morning. Check it out.
If you hear of any watching parties or if any of the readers know, spread the word!
Do you really think Cliff Lee's problems are behind him and do you think that his initial difficulties were due to over work?
I do. That's not to say he's going to be perfect. But I really do think the back issues caused Lee to not finish his pitches and delivery. I do know that three of his last four starts since skipping that start because of the back have been very good. And he said he made an adjustment with pitching coach Mike Maddux recently and felt really good about it.
Has CJ been working on controling the running game better? He got ran over in a recent start.
I'm sure it will be addressed. But that's certainly something the team is looking at with the aggressive Rays on the bases in this series.
Thanks, everyone, for your questions. Be sure to join us for a live in-game chat during the postseason games. This should be a fun series.