Beating Cliff Lee in Wednesday night's Game 1 has put the Giants in the driver's seat early in this series. Like most road teams in a best-of-seven series, the Rangers would be happy to head home having split these first two games in San Francisco. But if that was the plan going in, the win was supposed to come behind Lee in Game 1.
Now the Rangers have to contend with Matt Cain, who hasn't allowed an earned run or an extra-base hit in either of his starts in his first postseason. Those first two starts, like tonight's, took place at AT&T Park, where opposing hitters hit just .208/.261/.331 against Cain during the regular season. In his last start, Cain held the powerful Phillies scoreless for seven innings on three walks and a pair of singles, though he did hit two batters.
Cain's only career start against the Rangers came last June 20 at home, and he held Texas to one run on three hits and three walks while striking out eight in eight innings. That one run came on a solo homer by Ian Kinsler. The other two hits he allowed were both singles. The only Rangers with more than eight career plate appearances against Cain are platoon-righties Jeff Francoeur and Jorge Cantu, neither of who will start against him tonight. Matt Treanor, who is C.J. Wilson's personal catcher and will thus be behind the plate tonight, is the only other Ranger to face Cain in another uniform. Treanor went 1-for-7 with a single and a walk against Cain as a Marlin in 2007 and 2008.
Wilson, who has never faced the Giants before, pitched well in his first two starts this postseason. But after opening Game 5 of the ALCS (his third and most recent start) with a 1-2-3 inning, a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand tore open, and he was pounded for six runs in the next four innings. Wilson has been battling the blister all season, but he has had seven days for it to callus over, so there is no immediate cause for concern. It bears watching though, given how little leeway Cain is likely to give the Rangers.
With that leeway in mind, Ron Washington needs to approach this game as though every run is precious, which is why he should nip his experiment with Vladimir Guerrero in right field in the bud. I dealt with that issue in
Speaking of Washington, when is he going to acknowledge that Alexi Ogando is one of his best relievers? Ogando not only could be a key arm for the Rangers in this series, but he might have to be. Washington has primarily used Darren O'Day as a match-up ROOGY (right-handed one-out guy), and the only other righties in his bullpen are closer Neftali Feliz and Mark Lowe. Lowe was inexplicably added to the roster despite throwing just three regular-season innings for the Rangers following mid-season back surgery. He struggled in those three frames, and he was left off of both the ALDS and ALCS rosters.
Lowe and O'Day were both hit hard in Game 1, but Ogando dominated the Giants, working around a single while striking out four in two scoreless innings. The catch is that he did so with his team trailing 8-4, continuing a trend that has seen him make just one appearance in this postseason with the Rangers leading or trailing by less than four runs. If Washington wants to give his team its best chance to win, he needs to keep Guerrero out of his outfield and be willing to use Ogando in high-leverage situations.
Of course, if Cliff Lee versus Tim Lincecum turned in to a messy 11-7 game, anything can happen in Game 2.