ALCS Game Six: Texas 15, Detroit 5

Four things:

1. Groundout to third (diving stop, throw dug out at first).

Four-pitch walk.

Single.

Double.

Single.

Walk.

Walk.

Single.

Fielder's choice grounder to second (everyone safe).

Single.

Fielder's choice (runner out in rundown between third and home).

Intentional walk.

Double.

Flyout to left.

A 37-minute can, opened. Six hits (without a home run), four walks, 50 pitches, 37 minutes.

Detroit fans will remember the controversial call on Nelson Cruz's check swing as the seventh batter of that extraordinary third inning in which seven of the first eight Rangers reached safely. What I'll remember is Michael Young jumping on Max Scherzer's first-pitch slider and banging it down the left field line for a two-run double to get Texas on the board and, later in the inning, pouncing on Rick Porcello's first-pitch fastball (following an intentional walk of Josh Hamilton) and shooting it down the right field line for another double, scoring another two Texas runs.

Young would later blast a Brad Penny fastball to straightaway center in the seventh inning, putting finishing touches on a spray chart befitting of Tom Brady. We talked after Game Four about the ball Young squared up in a second-inning groundout to second base in that game, a sign that he might have been ready to break out of a post-season-long slump. He would single in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning that day, double off Justin Verlander and single in a run off Phil Coke on Thursday, and come up huge on Saturday.

If Young has his timing down and can sustain it going into Wednesday in St. Louis, it obviously makes this lineup more likely to sustain things, with Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, and Josh Hamilton in front of Young and Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli, Cruz, and David Murphy behind him.

Crazy, of course, to view the pieces of a lineup that the Cardinals are going to have to gameplan for as being eight-deep, but if Young is locked in, there's really no spot to relax on in the Texas lineup other than the nine spot (a point that C.J. Wilson will take issue with on Wednesday).

Texas hit .415/.500/.659 in Game Six en route to the 15-5 final, yet another instance of the club scoring in bunches for Derek Holland. The third inning set up the win. The two Young at-bats in that inning, plus a few beforehand and one after, may promise good things later this week.

2. The interesting thing about how Game Six started was that even though Holland threw 22 strikes out of 30 pitches (73 percent) through two innings, and Scherzer found the zone only 18 times out of 34 pitches (53 percent), the Tigers owned a 2-0 lead, by virtue of Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta taking Holland deep the opposite way and Scherzer wiggling out of trouble in his two frames.

Holland seemed overly reliant on the fastball early. Of his 35 pitches the first time through Detroit's lineup, 28 were four-seamers. And the four hits he allowed to the Tigers' first nine were all on fastballs, while every breaking ball he threw went for a strike.

But Holland was doing an excellent job pouring all kinds of strikes into the zone -- despite a nasty case of food poisoning that he was dealing with between every inning -- throwing a mere 16 balls to the Tigers' first 15 hitters, four of whom came up after Texas had blown the game open. Ron Washington pulled Holland with two outs in the fifth, after he'd surrendered his third home run (another oppo shot, this one from Austin Jackson), an entirely defensible move, given the fact that Detroit had cut the Texas lead at that point to 9-4 with plenty of game to go, that the Rangers bullpen was largely rested and would have plenty of added rest as long the Rangers held onto the Game Six lead, that the Tigers were handling Holland's fastball on the outer half, and that the lefthander was fighting through stomach issues.

Holland wasn't at his best, but he showed a few really good signs, a clear step in the right direction after his work earlier in the series.

Alexi Ogando's two innings built on what's been an extraordinary couple weeks out of the bullpen. Of his 26 pitches Saturday night, 15 were sliders -- 13 of those for strikes -- and his fastball sat 98-99. Poor Delmon Young once again had no chance against the Ogando slider, seeing nothing else (as he surely knew would be the case) and flailing at it three times just as he'd done in Game Four.

Holland and Ogando and Scherzer exemplified what both pitching staffs brought Saturday night. Detroit issued eight walks (two intentional), Texas none. The Tigers threw 92 strikes while the Rangers threw 89 strikes -- but Detroit needed 179 pitches on the night while Texas needed only 128. Stated another way, in the 51 extra pitches the Tigers threw, they managed just three strikes.

In the first Holland-Scherzer matchup (Game Two), Holland couldn't get out of the third inning, and in the encore (Game Six), Scherzer was the one to get chased in the third. The difference in the two games, both Texas victories?

In Game Two, the Texas bullpen threw 8.1 scoreless innings.

In Game Six, the Detroit bullpen was tagged with nine runs in 5.2 frames, not counting three inherited runners who also scored.

The Rangers' bullpen posted a 1.32 ERA in the series. We can hope that the club's relief corps -- which should at least see Mark Lowe replacing Koji Uehara for the World Series -- won't need to be that dominant against the Cardinals, but they might. We're looking at two teams that have gotten underwhelming work from their rotations in the post-season and have survived it because of tremendous bullpen efforts.

The Rangers need to get better results from their starters, but in the event that they don't, the club has proven that it can win nonetheless as long as the overhauled bullpen is clicking the way it has been the last few weeks.

3. "Hello, Andrew Bailey [Detroit Tigers pitchers]. Nelson Cruz here. I can't wait to face you [live Major League pitchers] again. I did some sketches. . . . This is me with my Boomstick. This is you: sad, and sweaty, and nervous. You know what's gonna happen. BOOM. This is you, Andrew [Tigers], crying. The ball lands on the moon. This is me. Walkoff.

"I'm just kidding.

"Not really."

-- MLB 2K10 commercial [updated slightly]

4. Michael Young could have been a Colorado Rockie. So, for that matter, could Ian Kinsler.

Adrian Beltre could have been a Los Angeles Angel, maybe joining Mike Napoli there.

Ron Washington could have remained in Oakland, and either Don Wakamatsu or Trey Hillman or Manny Acta or John Russell -- each of whom was hired to manage elsewhere after interviewing with Texas and each of whom was subsequently fired -- could have been hired here.

Conor Jackson and Brett Anderson could have been Rangers, rather than Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Matt Harrison.

Edinson Volquez could have remained a Ranger, and Josh Hamilton a Red.

Mike Maddux could have remained in Milwaukee.

Mike Adams could have ended up with Boston or Philadelphia or New York.

Mitch Moreland could have been a situational lefthander in Round Rock, or Baltimore.

Alexi Ogando could have been out of baseball.

Nelson Cruz could have been an Angel or a Giant or a Padre or an Indian or a Mariner or a Cardinal or a Red Sox or a Rockie or a Ray or a Pirate or a Yankee or an Athletic or an Astro or a Royal or a White Sox or a Red or a Marlin or a Twin or a Met or a Phillie or a Blue Jay or a National or a Tiger or a Brave or an Oriole or a Brewer or a Cub or a Diamondback or a Dodger.

Or a Yomiuri Giant.

Jon Daniels could have started his career in Boston rather than Colorado, in which case he probably never lands in Texas, and accordingly neither do Thad Levine or A.J. Preller or Don Welke or Scott Servais or Josh Boyd, and the list goes on.

Nolan Ryan could have chosen to leave the organization, if Bob Simpson and Ray Davis and their group hadn't stepped up and prevailed at the courthouse.

We'd have all still been around with this club, but chances are pretty good we'd have checked out sometime in September in both 2010 and 2011, as we were quite used to doing.

But there's no sense in thinking back and dwelling on what could have been, any more than it would be of any use to obsess now about a ball bouncing off a bag over the last week, or a blown umpire's call, or a shot that was foul by an handful of inches.

Jim Leyland said after Game Six: "We got beat by the team that was the defending (AL) champion. And they defended their championship."

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports offered his own assessment, from tens of thousands of feet higher: "The Rangers are the new standard-bearers of the AL. For now, and the foreseeable future."

Time to see if they can carry the banner for an entire league.

Because, as it now sinks in for me, the Texas Rangers, happy but not satisfied, are right back in the World Series.

 
title_authors

Jamey Newberg

Dallas attorney Jamey Newberg has been commenting on Rangers from the big club down through the entire farm system since 1998.

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas was born in Arlington, Texas, to Richard and Becky Lucas. He lived mostly in Arlington before moving to Austin, where he graduated from The University of Texas. Scott works for Austin Valuation Consultants, Ltd., and has published several boring articles about real estate appraisal and environmental contamination. He makes a swell margarita and refuses to run longer than ten kilometres.

Eleanor Czajka

Eleanor grew up watching the AAA Mudhens in Toledo, Ohio. A loyal Ranger fan since 1979, she works "behind the scenes" at the Newberg Report.

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Updated 4/23/2014 4:09:08 AM
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