Rangers look to change Series complexion
Big Tommy Hunter will get the ball on Sunday night as the Texas Rangers look to equalize the World Series after four games with the San Francisco Giants.
A tied Series would be a sea change from just 24 hours earlier, when long-suffering Rangers fans had to be wondering in the back of their minds whether their team would suffer the ignominy of bowing out in four straight in their first ever Series appearance.
After giving up 20 runs in the City by the Bay in the first two games, Colby Lewis helped the Rangers stem the tide Saturday with yet another strong postseason outing. Lewis allowed only five hits in just under eight innings, with no Giants batter having more than one hit.
For the first time in the Series, the Rangers were able to hold on to an early lead thanks to Lewis. That allowed a beleaguered bullpen — raked for 11 runs in just over five innings in San Fran — to remain on the sidelines.
No one knows, probably not even Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux, which Hunter will show up Sunday.
On the positive side of the ledger, the left-hander went 7-0 at home and has walked just one batter in his last 24 innings. But he gives up a lot of longballs — 11 of 21 came in his own park — and his two playoff appearances haven't been the stuff of legend.
He's given up 11 hits and five runs in just over seven innings of playoff work, with a 0-1 record.
San Francisco's 21-year-old Madison Bumgarner has to be counting his lucky stars that he's starting a World Series game. He won just one game in 10 appearances starting in mid-July, but ended the season with two wins. The left-hander was kept on the post-season roster at the expense of seaoned former Cy Young winner Barry Zito.
Bumgarner's been just marginally better than Hunter in the playoffs. He was impressive in pitching six innings of two-hit ball against Atlanta in the first round, but had a shaky no-decision in his next part.
Bumgarner was then part of San Francisco's bravura bullpen performance exactly one week ago in the clincher against Philadelphia when Jonathan Sanchez was ousted early, but he gave up the most hits of the five relievers — three in two innings.
Texas's new scheme
The Rangers bedeviled the New York Yankees in the AL championship with better base-running and defence, but those aspects of the game abandoned them on the road to open the World Series.
In Game 3, Texas won instead with power, with Mitch Moreland and Josh Hamilton going deep.
Moreland is being credited in Dallas for changing the tone of the Series with his long at bat that led to a two-run blast, while Hamilton ensured that the top of the order was rewarded for their table-setting work. Leadoff man Elvis Andrus — who was on base for Hamilton's blast — and second hitter Michael Young combined for four hits in Game 3.
Moreland's at-bat also had a little something to do with the designated hitter being in play as the series shifted to Texas. While Vladimir Guerrero went 0-for-3 as the official DH, Moreland was batting out of the No. 9 spot reserved for pitchers in NL parks.
Pablo Sandoval went 0-for-3 with a strikeout in San Francisco's first opportunity utilizing a DH. It was part of a hitless performance by the bottom of the order, with Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria cooling off after heroics in the first two games.
According to the Dallas Morning News, NL teams have gone just 7-24 since 1998 in World Series games played under the DH rule.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy decided to bench Pat Burrell for Game 4 after the left-fielder struck out eight times in nine World Series at-bats.
"I talked to him awhile today," Bochy said. "It's fair to say he's not seeing the ball. His timing's off."
Bochy moved Cody Ross from right-field to left to take Burrell's place, while Nate Schierholtz earned his first start of the post-season in right field. Aubrey Huff goes from first base into the designated hitter role and Travis Ishikawa starts in Huff's spot, also Ishikawa's first post-season start.
San Francisco is trying to avoid breaking a trend in Series history. The last 11 teams to take a 2-0 lead at home have gone on to win the championship.
Game 5 will see aces Cliff Lee of Texas and Tim Lincecum of San Francisco square off at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Monday.