Tag: 2011 MLB Playoffs

MLB Playoffs 2011: Texas Rangers Prove They Can Win World Series with Small Ball

An American League team playing small ball? Is that for real? Is it possible to win that way?

With their 2-1 Game 2 victory in this year’s World Series, the Texas Rangers proved that not only can they play small ball, but, yes, they can also do so in order to win a ballgame.

Truthfully, though, it should not come as a surprise.

To be sure, the Rangers are no ordinary American League team. Although, they are one of the most potent lineups, sporting an AL-best .283 team batting average, while ranking second in home runs, total bases and OPS and third in runs scored. However, as they proved throughout the season, the Rangers are a versatile squad.

Fearsome at the plate, Texas also demonstrated their ability to play fundamental station-to-station baseball, ranking fourth in the AL in stolen bases and fifth in sacrifice hits. Furthermore, they are natural contact hitters, striking out the fewest number of times. Essentially, the Rangers are built for small ball.

Last year’s team floundered against the pitch-heavy San Francisco Giants. Critics pointed to the Giants’ otherworldly starting rotation as the kryptonite to the Rangers’ bats. The Rangers were held to a minuscule .190 batting average, and critics pointed to their inability during the series to manufacture runs at the right moments.

Though ultimately there wasn’t a lot to be done against Tim Lincecum, et al., the Rangers took to heart the need to generate offense when their bats were not working.

That meant running more and playing sound, situational baseball.

True, Texas has thus far clobbered 14 home runs this postseason—Game 2 of the World Series was an example of what the Rangers can do when not playing long ball. As a result, Texas swiped the game from the clutches of the Cardinals in the ninth inning, tying the series going back to Arlington.

Fortunately, for the Rangers return home to their launching pad at The Ballpark. But it’s inspiring to know that the team has the fortitude and skill to make things happen when their bats aren’t smoldering fastballs. Undoubtedly, Texas will likely not stay sizzling hot the entire way.

At some point, there will be a close game that requires one team or the other to make a move, assembling a run in a variety of methods. The Cardinals, behind manager Tony La Russa’s mechanical devises, will certainly be able to manufacture a run the old-fashioned way—but Texas, with their incredibly balanced lineup, can build runs of their own. 

Shortstop Elvis Andrus handles the bat well, and has two sacrifice hits in the postseason. Meanwhile, Josh Hamilton is the most clutch hitter, providing three sacrifice flies so far in the playoffs. Moreover, the team as a whole has eight stolen bases—but a more telling sign is their willingness to run, as the Rangers have 14 total attempts.

Yes, Game 2 was a display of how far the Rangers have grown as a team from last year. In the 2010 World Series, it’s difficult to envision the team coming back against the Giants bullpen in the ninth inning without trying in vain to swing for the fences. 

Instead, there is no panic. The Rangers are aggressive yet patient; risk-takers yet confident; powerful yet speedy. Their balance is one of the most admirable and exciting aspects of this World Series.

Watching manager Ron Washington construct his counterpoints to La Russa’s intense stratagems is inspiring. Hit-and-runs, stolen bases, walks, bunts. Washington has signaled them all. Every step of the way, the Rangers have pulled through.

If their bats are not mashing home runs, the Rangers are dashing on the bases. It’s one of the many reasons to root for them. When the long ball gets tough, the tough play small ball.

And that is why this time around, the Rangers will win the World Series.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Milwaukee Brewers Can Make History in NLCS Thanks to GM Doug Melvin

After five games played, the Milwaukee Brewers find themselves in a dangerous predicament.

Lose their next game, and it’s all over. Win their next game, and it’s down to Game 7.

Lose Game 7 and it’s all over. Win Game 7, and the Brewers will win the National League pennant for the first time ever.

Exactly 13 months ago, the Brewers were in the midst of a struggle. It wasn’t the first time the Brewers had failed to secure a winning record, and it wasn’t the first time they had missed the playoffs.

The picture of consistency, left fielder Ryan Braun, once again reached the .300 mark, hitting .304 with 25 home runs and 103 runs batted in.

Prince Fielder also hit an impressive 32 dingers but recorded his lowest RBI count since 2006, driving in 83 runs. His consistency accordingly suffered, as Fielder recorded his worst seasonal average since making it to the big leagues, hitting a measly .261.

The 2010 Brewers also experienced significant pitching woes, finishing next-to-last in team ERA.

Sensing some significant shortcomings, general manager Doug Melvin launched into a hectic offseason.

After publicly announcing to Brewers fans his intention on getting more starting pitching, Melvin traded, released and acquired like there was no tomorrow.

Out were Suppan, Bush and Davis. Legendary closer Trevor Hoffman retired. Prospect Brett Lawrie was on the trading block, as were Brewers shortstop Alcides Escobar, prospects Lorenzo Cain, Jack Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress. Cutter Dykstra left the Brewers organization and took his awesome name to Washington.

In were pitchers Shaun Marcum, Zack Greinke and Takashi Saito. John Axford was selected to replace the retiring Hoffman, while shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt found his way over to Milwaukee from the Royals. Mark Kotsay and the volatile Nyjer Morgan completed the long-winded maze of transactions.

At the end of it all, the Brewers looked promising but not overwhelming. Many baseball experts chose Milwaukee to win the NL Central. Some ambitious writers put the Brew Crew in the NLCS, while their odds of winning it all were set at 100-to-one.

The Brewers were not involved in one of the four monumentally exciting final series of the 2011 season. The Brewers didn’t suffer the Boston Red Sox‘s most epic collapse of all time, nor did they experience the exuberance of sneaking into the postseason.

But the St. Louis Cardinals overtook the Atlanta Braves and did experience that most jubilant of joys.

Now the Brewers face elimination from the 2011 postseason. The Brewers have never won a National League pennant—they only came over from the American League in 1998. The Brewers have never won a World Series since their 1970 debut.

When it comes to rating a general manager’s performance, GM Doug Melvin deserves an A+.

In his frantic 2010-2011 offseason, Melvin did something every other GM should aspire to do.

He put his team in a position to win it all.

He took a floundering team with a losing record, turned it around and set it up for postseason ball. He added tremendous talent to a stale and staggering roster. He injected life into the Beersmen.

If the Brewers can find a way to win their next two games, they will make history.

And if they do, they can thank GM Doug Melvin, who put his team into a position to do exactly that.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Cardinals vs. Brewers: Full Game 6 Breakdown and Analysis

Albert Pujols reached base three times, Jaime Garcia fanned five without a walk in nearly five innings and the St. Louis Cardinals blew the game open late to take a 3-2 lead in the NLCS over the Milwaukee Brewers.

The series now heads back to Milwaukee, where Game 6 will take place Sunday at Miller Park.

Ryan Braun and the Brewers will not go quietly. Manager Ron Roenicke’s team won 57 of its 81 regular-season home games and is 4-1 at home thus far in the playoffs.

It does seem, though, that St. Louis’s advantage in depth is beginning to wear down Milwaukee. Game 6 will be pivotal because the Brewers are desperate to get Yovani Gallardo to the mound for Game 7, and if nothing else, the Cardinals would love to have Chris Carpenter ready to go in Game 1 of the World Series. 

They have to get there first. Read on for a look at Game 6.

Begin Slideshow

MLB Playoffs 2011: 5 Reasons the Detroit Tigers Will Complete a Series Comeback

While Texas manager Ron Washington was jumping up and down like a giddy school girl in the dugout during the Rangers’ seemingly apparent series-sealing victory, the Detroit Tigers‘ playoff run seemed to be like Kevin Costner’s acting career.  Dead.

There was little hope for the Motor City Kitties as their bats had failed to show up and their ace, Justin Verlander, would be unavailable late in the series for any possible Game 7.

The Tigers, however, fought off the Rangers in Game 5.  Their bats picked up and their dynamic duo at the back end of the bullpen was able to get much needed rest.

Tonight, the Tigers’ next step in their comeback begins and they’ll finish it tomorrow night, shocking the Rangers in front of their home crowd.

Here’s why it will happen.

Begin Slideshow

Jason Motte and 10 Most Underrated Relievers in MLB

Last year’s MLB postseason made a bearded hero out of San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson.

This year the role of emerging scruff sensation goes to Jason Motte, the St. Louis Cardinals’ hirsute ninth inning specialist.

While Motte’s beard may lack Wilsonian majesty, the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers are discovering his fastball is just as powerful.

It seems every year a handful of relievers emerge from obscurity to dominate big league hitters, and all of it happening before we can learn their names.

The guys on this list won’t grace your Wheaties box anytime soon. They will, however, help your team win some ball games.

Begin Slideshow

Brewers vs. Cardinals: St. Louis Bullpen Puts Milwaukee on Brink

The St. Louis Cardinals made some major moves to take care of two weaknesses at the trade deadline: relief pitching and defense. Those two factors were the difference in the game Friday night as the St. Louis Cardinals took a 3-2 series lead against the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS.

Albert Pujols and David Freese continued to do their share of the offensive damage as they combined for two hits, a walk, two runs and an RBI on three of the Cardinals’ runs.

Matt Holliday, for the second night in a row showed indications that his finger is recovering as he went 3-for-5 with two RBI and a double. 

Catcher Yadier Molina also started showing signs of getting his bat going as he went 3-for-4 with one RBI and one run. 

But the real story in Game 5 of the NLCS for the Cardinals was again their bullpen, as they threw for 4.1 innings and gave up zero runs. The Cards bullpen on the series has now thrown 21.2 innings—just one less than that Cardinal starters—have given up only 12 hits over that span, and have a collective ERA of only 1.69. 

Part of that is the brilliance of Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa getting the right pitcher in against the right batter. Many of the key pitchers are also those who who were acquired at the trade deadline or off the waiver wire. 

Friday night’s winner, Octavio Dotel, was one of the pitchers picked up in the trade with Toronto and picked up his second postseason win.

Marc Rzepczynski, aka The Alphabet, pitched a key out to get Prince Fielder to strike out with two men on base. 


Lance Lynn was moved to starter after he came off the DL, in part because the trade for Edwin Jackson allowed that luxury. Lynne pitched 1.2 scoreless innings in Game 5.

Finally Jason Motte has solved the “closer” problem whether he’s officially the closer or not. While he’s not a new acquisition, he’s been the primary closer since the trade deadline, and has only blown one save since and has an ERA. 

Motte has now been perfect in 8.0 postseason innings, retiring all 24 batters he’s faced this year, and in one inning of work in 2009. 

The other major factor in the game was defense, as four Milwaukee errors resulted in five Cardinals runs. In adding Rafael Furcal before the trade deadline, the Cardinals addressed their largest defensive liability.

The Cardinals were one of the worst offenders in the regular season in terms of giving up errors, but in the postseason they’ve only committed three—fewer than what Milwaukee did in the latest outing.

For now, the Cardinals and Brewers will face off in Miller Park on Sunday afternoon, though that may change should Texas win Game 6 Saturday and clinch their series.

Should that happen, it’s likely the St. Louis-Milwaukee clash would move to the prime time slot at 7:05 PM EST. 

The projected starters in that game are Shaun Marcum and Edwin Jackson, another acquisition.

Marcum’s postseason ERA of 11.25 does not bode well though. Should the series go to a seventh game, it is likely aces Chris Carpenter for St. Louis and Yovani Gallardo for the Brewers would square off. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Playoffs 2011: Why the Texas Rangers Are the World Series Favorites

The Texas Rangers are looking incredibly hot right now. They’re definitely the favorites to finally win their first World Series in franchise history.

First, we need to face the fact that pitching has not been the strong point of this postseason. However, the Rangers have had the best pitching so far of the teams remaining. Texas has a team ERA of 4.01 followed by the St. Louis Cardinals at 4.33, the Detroit Tigers at 5.04 and the Milwaukee Brewers at 5.47.

I know that the argument could be made that perhaps ERA is not the best way to measure their success. However, I tend to think that it is a relatively solid measurement in this case because it does show that the Texas Rangers are allowing fewer runs than any other team right now in the playoffs. This will obviously be important if they want to win the World Series.

Second, Nelson Cruz is simply on fire right now. Even though his average is only at .212 for the playoffs, he has five home runs and 11 RBI in nine games. He has been getting huge hits and making a huge impact on the Rangers. While a higher average would obviously be ideal, the run production is what is important here. If he is capable of getting big hits, that will definitely help the Rangers as they progress towards the World Series.

Finally, even though the Texas Rangers have been outscored by the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers so far this postseason, the Rangers offense scored the third most runs in baseball during the regular season. They have a very powerful lineup led by, of course, Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Ian Kinsler.

Combining this potentially powerful lineup with the fact that they have allowed the fewest runs of any remaining team seems to indicate that the Texas Rangers should be the favorites to win the World Series right now.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Playoffs 2011: 5 Reasons To Not Root for Milwaukee Brewers

The National League Championship Series has had its fair share of drama, excitement and sensational performances. Currently tied at two games apiece, the battle between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers is only going to get more intense as the stakes increase. After all, winner advances to the World Series. 

For casual fans who are just tuning into the postseason, the Milwaukee Brewers are a young and surprising team, with many reasons to root for them

But sometimes baseball fans who follow the playoffs don’t necessarily cheer for a specific team—especially if their own favorite no longer is in the running. In fact, many opt pick an allegiance based on who they dislike the least, choosing instead to root against a particular team. 

That said, here are five reasons not to root for the Milwaukee Brewers this postseason.

Begin Slideshow

2011 MLB Playoffs: Ten Best Bats Still in Play

With the American League Championship Series under way and the National League’s edition starting up next week, some of the best-hitting teams in the league are squaring off against each other. 

So I thought I’d look at ten players who are likely to make an impact on the batting side of things.

Three things are looked at in this: traditional performance, 2011 Regular Season performance, and 2011 Division Series performance.

Begin Slideshow

MLB Playoffs 2011: 7 Bold Predictions for the LCS Round

This level of excitement, anticipation and heartache is generally reserved for March, but baseball has staked its claim as the most exciting sport of 2011.  

The last day of the regular season sparked the beginning of a breathtaking nine days of baseball.

Heavyweights like the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies fell in dramatic Game 5 finishes, and slugging up-and-comers like the Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers seized the moment and captured the nation’s attention.

We’ve encountered Beast Mode, T Plush, expletive-filled post game celebration and squirrels; and that’s just the National League.

What can the LCS possibly bring us?

Here are 7 things I expect to see when the LCS rounds start tonight with Game 1 between the Rangers and Tigers. 

Begin Slideshow

Copyright © 1996-2010 Kuzul. All rights reserved.
iDream theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress