Back home with backs to the wall, Texas hands the ball to Lewis
The Rangers come home trailing 2-0 in this Series due to a near-total collapse in the first two games in San Francisco. Yes, they scored seven runs in Game 1, but five of those came after they were down 8-2, and as a team they are hitting just .227/.293/.303. Only Bengie Molina and Mitch Moreland have had multi-hit games, both doing so in Game 1, and Ian Kinsler is the only other Ranger with more than one hit in the series. Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz, the team's leading hitters in the ALCS and regular season, are a combined 2 for 17, and though Kinsler came close with his Game 2 double, the Rangers are homerless in the Series. C.J. Wilson was fantastic for six innings in Game 2, but a reoccurrence of his blister problems forced him from the game in the seventh. Cliff Lee was lit up in Game 1 and the Rangers bullpen has allowed 11 runs in 7 1/3 innings, 14 runs if you include the inherited runners they have allowed to score.
Manager Ron Washington deserves some of the blame for that last bit. His decision to play Vladimir Guerrero in right field in Game 1 gave the Giants three extra bases in their three-run eighth inning, and his management of his bullpen in the Giants' seven-run eighth inning in Game 2 was utterly inexplicable. Guerrero's defense won't be an issue with the Series moving to Texas, where he can return to his usual role as the designated hitter, but Washington's bullpen management is still a major concern.
The issue is three-fold. Washington refuses to use his closer, Neftali Feliz, in non-save situations prior to the ninth inning (he said after Game 2 that he didn't even
The good news for the Rangers is that they're coming home and have Lewis on the mound. Lewis dominated the Yankees in the decisive sixth game of the ALCS and hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last eight starts. The key for Lewis will be to work deep into the game. He failed to complete the sixth inning in three starts prior to his Game 6 gem, but pitched eight full innings in that clincher. With Guerrero safely stashed away at DH, Lewis can help keep Washington from being a decisive factor by limiting the bullpen's exposure altogether.
Lewis's mound opponent will be Sanchez. The lefty lasted just two innings in his last start, in the decisive sixth game of the NLCS against the Phillies, evidence that Bochy has that killer instinct for hooking struggling pitchers that Washington has thus far seemed to lack. Sanchez was wild in that game, but Bochy lifted him early enough that the Giants were able to come back and win. In his previous two starts this postseason, Sanchez pitched quite well, striking out 18 men in 13 1/3 innings against just four walks while limiting his opponents to three earned runs.
Outside of Jeff Francoeur going 2 for 14 (.143), both singles, against Sanchez, there is no significant history between either pitcher and the hitters he will face on Saturday night. The Rangers as a team fared better against right-handed pitching than left-handed pitching during the regular season, but big righty bats Cruz and Kinsler combined to make five trips to the disabled list, and Bengie Molina didn't arrive until July. With righties Cruz, Kinsler, Molina, Guerrero and Michael Young all in the lineup tonight, one imagines that, regular season numbers aside, facing a lefty, even one as good as Sanchez, could help jump-start the Rangers' offense. An even bigger factor, however, might just be returning home to Texas, where the Rangers scored almost a run more per game during the regular season than they did on the road.
Of the 51 teams that have fallen behind 0-2 in the World Series, only 11 have come back to win. The last club to do so was the 1996 Yankees, and they offer some encouragement for the Rangers. Texas was outscored 20-7 in the first two games, but the Yankees were outscored 16-1