American League Championship Series – Game 2 Preview

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American League Championship Series

            10/9/11: Game 2 – Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers

            Max Scherzer vs. Derek Holland

 After a tough loss for Justin Verlander in Game 1, the Tigers look to bounce back in Game 2 and earn the spilt on the road before returning to Detroit for Games 3, 4, and 5.  To do so, they’ll turn to Max Scherzer.  In return, the Rangers will bring out Derek Holland, who will look to duplicate C.J. Wilson’s performance in Game 1, and bring Texas a 2-0 lead in the series.  Holland is the undisputed Number 2 on the Rangers’ staff, but it is debatable if it’s Scherzer or Fister who holds that title on the Detroit staff.  Scherzer needs to prove tonight why he deserves that title.

Max Scherzer is looking to build upon two impressive outings in the ALDS.  He pitched the Tigers to a win in Game 2 against the Yankees, and he was stellar out of the bullpen during Game 5.  If Scherzer brings his A-game, then he’s going to be able to match Holland inning for inning tonight.  Unfortunately, there are some huge problems in place for that tonight.  The biggest one is that Scherzer has really gotten hit around by the Rangers this season.  Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Mitch Moreland, Josh Hamilton, and David Murphy all have multiple hits off of Scherzer this season.  There is no doubt they will all be in the lineup tonight.  So when six of the nine starters have multiple hits off of you in one season (and Elvis Andrus, Mike Napoli, and Michael Young all have one), you know you’re in for some trouble.  I expect that Scherzer may get hit around quite a bit tonight.  It’ll be a matter of whether he can work out of the jams he’ll undoubted find himself in.

A couple of other problems for Max tonight are that 1) he’s a flyball pitcher, and 2) he’s working on short rest.  The first problem has more to do with the way Rangers Ballpark works for hitters.  There are jet streams in left-center field and right-center field where the balls just fly out.  Alex Avila hit a rocket out to left-center in Game 1 that almost went out, and Murphy rocked a triple to right-center.  For a pitcher that’s been hit around as much as Scherzer has this year by these Texas Rangers, and the fact that he’s a flyball pitcher, there’s a pretty good chance that some of those hits will be home runs.  Scherzer is going to have to be very careful if runners get on base.  The second problem has more to do with his relief appearance in Game 5.  Granted, it’s somewhat of a similar situation to what Verlander did in Games 1 and 3 of the division series (where he only ended up throwing 25 pitches in Game 1 and was ready throw a whole games’ worth in Game 3), but I hope Scherzer is ready to go tonight.  He had Friday and Saturday to rest, so he should be ready.  But Rick Porcello was scheduled to start tonight and was scratched for Scherzer.  Granted, Rick was great in relief in Game 1, but it seems like you would want your groundball pitcher throwing in this ballpark, and once again want to save a flyball pitcher like Max for the more spacious Comerica Park.  I’m just hoping all of these problems don’t add up to Scherzer getting knocked out early in the game.  The Tigers haven’t had too many clean starts in this postseason, and getting one here tonight would be spectacular.

On the Rangers’ side, Derek Holland has really been almost as good as C.J. Wilson this season.  His ERA is about one run higher (just slightly under 4.00), and he doesn’t have the strikeouts.  He does, however, have the same number of wins, and the advantage of having only faced Wilson Betemit and Delmon Young this season (when they were playing for the Royals and Twins, respectively).  If you go back to 2010, he faced the Tigers once, and no one on the current roster that was also with the club then has a hit off of him.  So the Tigers know next to nothing about him, except for they’ll be able to see on tape.  And Holland lucked out, since Delmon Young (who has four hits in five at bats against him this year) will not be in the lineup.  If Holland can just make some pitches, then there is a very good chance that he will keep the number of hits to a minimum, and the Tigers may not even be able to put up a run on him.

Potential Lineups:

TEX—

  1. Kinsler (2B)
  2. Andrus (SS)
  3. Hamilton (CF)
  4. Young (DH)
  5. Beltre (3B)
  6. Napoli (C)
  7. Cruz (RF)
  8. Murphy (LF)
  9. Moreland (1B)

DET—

  1. Jackson (CF)
  2. Raburn (LF)
  3. Cabrera (1B)
  4. Martinez (DH)
  5. Ordonez (RF)
  6. Avila (C)
  7. Peralta (SS)
  8. Santiago (2B)
  9. Inge (3B)

All of the guys in the Texas lineup have at least one hit off Scherzer.  So you know they’ll all play, and Ron Washington will set up the lineup the same as he has for the past five postseason games.  Since Murphy has multiple hits off Scherzer this year, he’ll get the start for that platoon, and thus will be in the eighth spot, pushing Moreland to the ninth.

I don’t like this Tiger lineup, but I don’t know of any good reason why Leyland would change it (other than it just didn’t work last night).  Cabrera looked so uncomfortable batting in Game 1, and I hate to think it’s because he’s not hitting where he normally does.  I get the reason behind putting him there, I do.  I just don’t like it at all.  I hope I’m wrong, and Leyland puts him back in the four hole (perhaps moving Santiago up to the two spot and shifting Raburn down to number three, or sliding Magglio into the three spot and just moving Cabrera and Martinez down to their usual spots again).  Since Holland is a left-hander, like Wilson in Game 1, it’d be hard to believe that we won’t see the same nine players for the Tigers.

Keys to the Game:

TEX—Destroy Scherzer.  If everyone in the lineup continues to hit against Max, then it’ll be very hard for the Tigers to stay in this game.  Granted, Scherzer is 3-0 lifetime against the Rangers, which means that even if he’s been hit a lot, he’s still making quality pitches to get out of jams and keep his team in the games.  In order to counteract that, the Rangers are going to have to make their hits count.  Their ballpark was designed for just pelting a pitcher like Scherzer, so they need to make the most of the opportunity.  There’s a lot going in the Rangers’ favor with this matchup, and they need to make the most of it.  If they don’t, then Scherzer has the kind of stuff where he’ll settle in and dominate.  Plus, the Tigers always seem to put up runs for him, so the Rangers need to make sure they hit him around early and often, before the Tigers can get into the game.

DET—Figure out Holland.  Even without Delmon Young, there are a lot of big bats in the lineup that can come alive at any given moment.  Raburn, Cabrera, Martinez, Ordonez, Peralta, and even Austin Jackson and Brandon Inge have enough power that if they hit one up into the left-center jet stream, it’ll be long gone.  Even though they haven’t faced him this year, hitters like Cabrera and Martinez, who are smart in their at-bats, can figure him out from at-bat to at-bat, and could potentially punish him.  Of course, there’s also a good possibility that Derek Holland turns into Ivan Nova, part two, in which the Tigers’ hitters once again cannot figure out this pitcher that they haven’t gotten a good look at in over a year, leaving them baffled and without any real offense to show for their day.  But if they can figure him out, and Max can put together his A-game, then you can bet we’ll have another good game on our hands.

Predictions:

I hate to say it, but I give the advantage to the Rangers to win Game 2 tonight.  The odds are stacked against Max Scherzer, and it’s a big question mark what kind of performance he’ll turn in.  On the other side, the Rangers have the hitting advantage against Max, and a pitcher that the Tigers haven’t seen this season.  That mystery may be just enough to keep them off-balance and let the Rangers take an easy win in Game 2.  Assuming that Texas does go up 2-0 in this series, the Tigers will just have to hope they can sweep the Rangers in Comerica and send it back to Texas only needing one win.

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2 responses

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