Three World Series Questions for the Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers powered their way through the American League in the postseason to capture their first pennant since 2011 to head to the World Series. Thanks to a high-powered offense and strong pitching, they managed to outlast the Houston Astros in the ALCS and now face an exciting Arizona Diamondbacks squad in the Fall Classic. As they prepare to take the field on Friday in Arlington, there are some important questions that will need to be answered over the course of the series.
Can they exorcise the demons from World Series past?
The Rangers are one of six teams in Major League Baseball to never win a World Series. Unlike the other teams on that infamous list, the Rangers have come as close as you possibly could to getting off that list without actually doing so. In 2010 the Rangers made their way to the World Series where they lost in five games to the San Francisco Giants team managed by one Bruch Bochy.
The following season, however, the Rangers once again found themselves in the World Series facing off against the St. Louis Cardinals. In the ninth inning of Game 6, the Rangers were one strike away from a championship with a two-run lead when David Freese hit a two-run triple to tie the game. Josh Hamilton belted a two-run homer to put the Rangers back on top in the 10th inning and were once again one strike away from a championship. The Cardinals managed to tie things up again and then a David Freese walk-off home run in the 11th tied up the series. The Rangers fell flat in Game 7 and the Cardinals hoisted the commissioner’s trophy in front of the hometown faithful.
The Rangers will have to keep the moxy they have shown in the postseason thus far. The series against Houston went seven games, but it was the best challenge the team could have faced before the World Series. If they are going to win this whole thing, they can’t allow any wiggle room for their opponents to operate and get back into ball games.
Can the bullpen hold up?
An important aspect heading into the World Series is whether or not the Rangers can muster enough confidence in their bullpen. The Rangers’ bullpen had the seventh-highest ERA in the regular season at 4.77 in 564.1 innings of work. They were stung by home runs, especially with a 1.36 HR/9, the second-highest mark in all of baseball this season. The bullpen didn’t get many strikeouts in the regular season, but they didn’t walk many batters, something that is always helpful when it comes to the bullpen.
The Rangers have relied heavily on their starting pitchers both at the start of games and coming out of the bullpen. The bullpen has been the question mark all season and that can be reflected in how Bochy has utilized it in the postseason. José Leclerc has appeared in 10 games, tossing 10.1 innings to the tune of a 4.35 ERA. He’s been their most reliable and dominant reliever but he has been over-relied on to close out games and come in at critical moments. Many times it has been to clean up a mess left by Aroldis Chapman who has appeared in seven games but has only allowed just one run, despite walking four batters. Josh Sborz has been the other workhorse to quite a bit of success in his eight appearances. The rest of the relief arms have seen little work to varying degrees of success, and while the starting pitching has given them reliable depth, the Rangers have to ensure the relief arms can seal the deal should they have a lead late in the game.
Will the offense keep rolling?
The offense entered the playoffs with one of the best lineups in the league. That prowess continued in each round of the playoffs as the Rangers have scored more than any other team in the postseason. Adolis García turned in a historic performance in the ALCS to earn MVP honors and his 20 RBI are the most ever for a player before the World Series. Corey Seager, Josh Jung, and Evan Carter have all been stalwart contributors as well as Mitch Garver. However, there have still been some holes in the lineup.
The team primarily needs Marcus Semien to find a groove in the World Series. In the playoffs thus far he is batting a measly .192/.276/.231 over 58 plate appearances and has zero home runs with two RBI. He’s only struck out six times while walking at the same amount, but the team needs the second baseman to find a new gear in the biggest series of the season to lengthen the lineup and become even more dangerous for the Diamondbacks who have some quality pitching in both the rotation and the arm barn.
The Rangers are in the pole position for this World Series, holding the keys to their own success. Between the two they have the slight advantage over Arizona, but it’s going to be a closer series than we may think and the Rangers won’t have much room for error.
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