Rays, Twins try to snap out of funks and remain alive in Division series
As it turns out, the Rays didn't lose Game 2 because
Oddly, the good news is that the Rays are getting out of Florida. Using a simple ratio of the total runs scored per game by both teams in the Rays home and road contests, Tropicana Field was the most difficult place to score a run in the major leagues in 2010. The Ballpark in Arlington, on the other hand, was the sixth-easiest of the 30 major league parks in which to score. During the regular season, the Rays scored 100 more runs on the road than at home, a difference of 1.23 runs per game, averaging a whopping 5.57 runs per game on the road.
Lewis, the pitcher they'll face in Arlington is a 31-year-old righty who was a first-supplemental-round pick of the Rangers way back in the 1999 amateur draft, but subsequently passed through four organizations then spent two years pitching for Japan's Hiroshima Carp before returning to the Rangers this season. Lewis pitched very well in his return to the states this year, a fact belied by his losing record, which had more to do with the mere 4.09 runs of support he relieved from the Rangers offense this year, than his own performance. A power pitcher with a strong strikeout rate, Lewis excelled in inducing poor contact this year, showing a particular penchant for inducing infield pop-ups. Coming down the stretch, Lewis went 3-1 with a 2.37 ERA over his final five starts with more than a strikeout per inning, just two home runs allowed, and a line drive rate of just 10 percent compared to a league average nearly double that. Looking only at their peripherals, Lewis pitched better than
As for Garza, he was the MVP of the 2008 ALCS, but in the Division and World Series that year he gave up nine runs in 12 innings across two starts. That largely sums him up. When he's good, he's great. When he's not, he can take his team out of a game in a hurry. The Rangers saw the former version of Garza at the Trop in August, when he held them scoreless for seven innings, striking out 10. He was less dominant in Arlington in June, but still kept his team in the game for 5 2/3 innings in an eventual win. As you might guess from those results, Garza's road ERA was a third of a run higher than his home mark this year, and his strikeout rate, curiously, was two Ks per nine innings lower outside of the Trop. The nightmare scenario for the Rays would see them finally pushing across some runs only to have Garza implode, costing them the game and the series.
The key bit of history for both of these series is that only one major league team has ever lost the first two games of a best-of-five series at home and come back to win the series. That was the 2001 Yankees, who ultimately got within two outs of the franchise's fourth straight championship. With
History is not the Twins' friend in this series. They are 18-56 (.243) against the Yankees under manager
The Twins' starter in this game, lefty Duensing, shares in that history. Because the Twins needed to use their top starters to catch and defeat the Tigers in the wild NL Central race last year, it was the rookie Duensing who drew the Game 1 start in the ALDS at the new Yankee Stadium. The Twins staked Duensing to a 2-0 lead in the top of the third of that game, but he gave it right back in the bottom of the frame and was bounced in the fifth with his team trailing in a game they would ultimately lose.
The Duensing the Yankees will face tonight is a better, more experienced version. After posting a 1.67 ERA out of the bullpen over the first four months of the 2010 season, Duesning moved into the rotation in late July and went 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 13 starts. However, much like last year, he struggled in his last two starts of the regular season, allowing nine runs in 11 2/3 innings on eight walks and 14 hits, three of which were home runs.
Opposing Duensing is Hughes, the former first-round pick and top prospect who has finally established himself in the Yankees rotation after three major league seasons lost to injury and an admittedly very successful stint in the bullpen. Hughes' overall numbers are very impressive for a 24-year-old in his first full season as a starter (add a 7.5 K/9 and 2.52 K/BB to the line above), but if you take out his first six starts, his line drops to 13-8 with a 4.98 ERA. What's more, his ERA at home was more than a run higher than his road mark, and 20 of the 25 home runs he allowed came in the Bronx. That led some, myself included, to disagree with
Then again, with the weight of history on their shoulders, and a Yankee offense that scored 5.88 runs per game at home featuring six right-handed bats against the lefty Duensing, what Hughes does in this game may not matter all that much. The Yankees seem to always have a comeback in them against these Twins, and coming off an off-day with the prospect of having five days off should his team pull off the sweep tonight, Girardi is unlikely to be hesitant about going to his bullpen early and often in order to wrap up the series.