World Series Game 6 preview: Rangers have title in their sights
After a day of rain, the Rangers enter Game 6 in St. Louis on Thursday night one win away from the first world championship in franchise history. Created as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961 and moved to Texas in 1972, the Rangers are the oldest of the eight major league clubs to have never won a championship, and their 50 consecutive title-less seasons rank behind only those of the Cubs (103) and Indians (63) among active streaks. Three longer droughts have ended in the last seven years with the Red Sox (85 years), White Sox (87), and Giants (55) each winning their first World Series since before expansion came to the majors.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, need to win each of the next two games to claim their 11th world championship and second in the last six seasons. St. Louis is in good shape to take the first step in Game 6 with sophomore southpaw Jaime Garcia on the mound, but they'll need their offense to come out of its sudden slumber to force a Game 7.
Of the 58 best-of-seven World Series to last beyond five games, 23 (40 percent) ended in six games, though just nine of those 23 (16 percent of the total) saw the road team win Game 6, which is what the Rangers will be trying to do. The last team to win the World Series in a Game 6 on the road was the 2003 Marlins, who beat the Yankees behind a Josh Beckett shutout. The last team to come back from a 3-2 deficit to win the Series in seven was the 2002 Angels, who did so at home thanks in part to a late-inning comeback in Game 6.
Both Rangers manager Ron Washington and Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa say their plans for their Game 7 starter are unchanged. For Texas, that means Matt Harrison. For St. Louis, that's still a secret, apparently, although while Kyle Lohse is still technically listed to start, it could mean Chris Carpenter gets the nod on three days' rest. Carpenter's first career start on short rest, in Game 2 of the Division Series, was a disaster: he gave up four runs in three innings.
Washington said that Derek Holland, who would be on full rest in a potential Game 7 on Friday, would be available out of the bullpen in Game 6. La Russa said that Lohse, Game 4 starter Edwin Jackson and presumed Game 7 alternate Jake Westbrook, who worked a scoreless eighth inning in Game 4, would all be available out of the bullpen in Game 6.
• Colby Lewis has made seven postseason starts in his career, gone at least five innings in each, and allowed more than two runs just once, in this year's ALCS against the Tigers. In his other two starts in this postseason, including Game 2 of the World Series, he has allowed just two runs in 12 2/3 innings. Lewis was out-dueled by Jaime Garcia in Game 2, but held the Cardinals to one run over 6 2/3 innings, a performance strong enough to allow the Rangers to pull out a comeback win in the ninth.
All three of his starts this postseason have come on the road, where he was much more effective during the regular season. Lewis's road ERA was more than two runs lower than his home mark, despite his being luckier on balls in play at home. He also struck out an extra three men per nine innings on the road, his home-run rate was half of what it was in Arlington and his walk rate on the road was lower as well.
• Lewis has just 19 major league plate appearances and was 0-for-2 in Game 2, but in his two years with the Hiroshima Carp (2008 and 2009), he had 116 plate appearances and hit .141/.165/.303 with five home runs, a 26-homer pace over 600 PA.
• Garcia has made four starts in this postseason and his only real disaster came on the road in Milwaukee. In his three home starts, he has posted a 1.93 ERA, and his seven shutout innings in Game 2 have been surpassed in this Series only by Derek Holland's 8 1/3 scoreless frames in Game 4. However, the Cardinals are just 1-2 in those three home starts as Garcia was out-dueled by Philadelphia's Cole Hamels in Game 3 of the Division Series, and the St. Louis bullpen blew Game 2 of this series after Garcia was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning.
• That pinch-hitter was Allen Craig, who will return to a bench role with the Series moving back to the National League park and thus jettisoning the designated hitter. Craig had a rough Game 5, little of which was his fault. He was told to bunt in the third inning, hit near the head with a pitch in the ninth, and twice caught stealing on busted hit-and-runs.
• With the righty Lewis on the mound, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday will swap places in the St. Louis batting order, with the switch-hitter Berkman moving into the cleanup spot behind Albert Pujols. Holliday is 3-for-18 in this Series, and SI.com's Jon Heyman reports that he is still playing through significant pain in the right middle finger flexor tendon which put him on the shelf at the end of the regular season.
• Without the DH, the Rangers will move Michael Young back to first base and keep Mike Napoli ensconced behind the plate. They'll also start righty Craig Gentry over lefty David Murphy against the lefthanded Garcia in Game 6, with Gentry playing centerfield and pushing Josh Hamilton over to left. Napoli, in case you haven't heard, has been tremendous in the World Series, having driven in nine of the Rangers 19 runs.
• The aggregate score of this series is Cardinals 22, Rangers 19, but even with the Cardinals' 16-run outburst in Game 3 included, Texas is out-hitting St. Louis .248/.322/.408 to .229/.351/.350. The Cardinals have a significant advantage in on-base percentage, but if you take away the seven intentional walks the Rangers have issued to them, the Cardinals collective OBP drops to .326.
• Those seven intentional walks are a full third of the total the Rangers issued during the regular season. Only Boston issued fewer intentional passes in the American League this season than the Rangers' 21. Similarly, Albert Pujols, who has been intentionally walked four times in this Series, was intentionally passed just 15 times during the regular season, his lowest total since 2004.
• Outside of its outburst in Game 3, the Cardinals' offense has been awful in this World Series and is the primary reason that St. Louis is facing elimination in Game 6. Leaving out Game 3, the Cardinals have been out-scored 12-6 in the other four games, plating an average of just 1.5 runs per game, and have hit just .183/.324/.217 (.293 OBP without the intentional walks) without a single home run in those four games.
• Both teams should have their entire bullpens available tonight (insert phone joke here), though the Cardinals may try to stay away from Jake Westbrook as he is likely in their plans for Game 7, a game they also have to win. The Cardinals have not officially announced their Game 7 starter.