ALCS Game 1 preview
It's hard to imagine that the League Championship Series could live up to the excitement provided by this year's Division Series, but then we didn't think the Division Series could live up to the final few days of the regular season, and they totally did. That's only one reason, and the weakest to be sure, that I expect both series to go a full seven games. So, I hope you all had a restful morning, because this year, the postseason doesn't believe in off-days.
• The Rangers are 4-11 in postseason home games in their history. They have won more than one home game in only one of their seven previous postseason series, doing so in last year's ALCS against the Yankees, when they won Games 2 and 6 at home after blowing a 5-0 lead late in Game 1. They split their two home games in the just-completed Division Series against the Rays.
• Both of these aces have something to prove. Wilson was lit up in Game 1 of the Division Series against the Rays, giving up eight runs (six earned) and three home runs in five innings of work. Verlander dominated the middle innings of his Game 3 start against the Yankees and came away with the win, but allowed four runs in that game and one in his lone inning of work in the suspended Game 1. Going back to his last start of the regular season, Verlander has allowed 10 runs in his last 16 innings, which works out to a 5.63 ERA.
• Verlander last faced the Rangers in April, tossing a complete game against them but losing 2-0 to Alexi Ogando, who was the winning pitcher in all three of the Rangers' victories against the Tigers during the regular season. Verlander hasn't pitched in Arlington since July 2009. Unsurprisingly the hitters on the Rangers' roster have had very little success against Verlander in their careers. Josh Hamilton has had the most, going 4-for-11 with two walks but without an extra-base hit.
• Wilson's lone start against the Tigers this year also came in Detroit in April and saw him give up four runs in 6 2/3 innings. Of the current tigers, only Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta, and Delmon Young have had made more than eight plate appearances against Wilson, and those three are a combined 5-for-46 (.109) with just two extra-base hits (both doubles).
• Matt Moore proved in Game 1 of the Division Series that the Rangers can be shut down in their own ballpark, and with his outing included, the Rangers hit just .211/.299/.375 in that series. Adrian Beltre tied a record by hitting three home runs in Game 4, but the only other time he reached base in the series was a hit-by-pitch in Game 2 and a single in Game 3. Michael Young managed just a walk and two singles in 16 plate appearances. Nelson Cruz managed only a single in 15 plate appearances against the Rays and hit just .243/.289/.459 against right-handed pitching this season. Take away their five-run fourth inning in Game 2, in which they didn't have an extra-base hit and James Shields hit two batters and uncorked two wild pitches, and the Rangers scored just 11 games in the remaining 34 innings of that series, an average of less than three runs per nine innings.
• Delmon Young's strained left oblique was deemed severe enough by the Tigers that he has been left off their ALCS roster entirely. Young went 6-for-19 (.316) with three home runs and a pair of walks as the Tigers' No. 3 hitter in the Division Series. Infielder Danny Worth takes his place on the roster, Magglio Ordoñez will likely take Young's place in the third spot in the Tigers lineup, and Ryan Raburn will likely get the majority of the starts in left field in a platoon with Don Kelly, with switch-hitter Ramon Santiago, who hits better from the right side, becoming the every-day second baseman. That might seem like a blow to the Tigers, but per my preview of this series, Rayburn is perfectly capable of replacing Young against left-handed pitching, and should be an upgrade in the field.