Back home with backs to the wall, Texas hands the ball to Lewis
The Rangers were outscored 20-7 in the first two games of the Series
Texas averaged almost a run more per game more at home than on the road
Lewis hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last eight starts
Cliff Corcoran breaks down each day's game throughout the postseason.
Series: World Series, Game 3, Giants lead 2-0
Time: 6:30 p.m. EST
Starters: Jonathan Sanchez (2010 postseason: 0-1, 2.93 ERA; 2010 regular season: 13-9, 3.07 ERA) vs. Colby Lewis (2-0, 1.45 ERA; 12-13, 3.72 ERA)
The Rangers come home trailing 2-0 in this Series due to a near-total collapse in the first two games in San Francisco. Yes, they scored seven runs in Game 1, but five of those came after they were down 8-2, and as a team they are hitting just .227/.293/.303. Only Bengie Molina and Mitch Moreland have had multi-hit games, both doing so in Game 1, and Ian Kinsler is the only other Ranger with more than one hit in the series. Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz, the team's leading hitters in the ALCS and regular season, are a combined 2 for 17, and though Kinsler came close with his Game 2 double, the Rangers are homerless in the Series. C.J. Wilson was fantastic for six innings in Game 2, but a reoccurrence of his blister problems forced him from the game in the seventh. Cliff Lee was lit up in Game 1 and the Rangers bullpen has allowed 11 runs in 7 1/3 innings, 14 runs if you include the inherited runners they have allowed to score.
Manager Ron Washington deserves some of the blame for that last bit. His decision to play Vladimir Guerrero in right field in Game 1 gave the Giants three extra bases in their three-run eighth inning, and his management of his bullpen in the Giants' seven-run eighth inning in Game 2 was utterly inexplicable. Guerrero's defense won't be an issue with the Series moving to Texas, where he can return to his usual role as the designated hitter, but Washington's bullpen management is still a major concern.
The issue is three-fold. Washington refuses to use his closer, Neftali Feliz, in non-save situations prior to the ninth inning (he said after Game 2 that he didn't even consider getting Feliz warmed up to stop the bleeding in the eighth). Since Feliz assumed the closer role in mid-April, he has only twice entered a game prior to the ninth inning. Compare that to Bruce Bochy's use of Brian Wilson, who has entered a game in the eighth inning three times already this postseason after doing so 14 times during the regular season. Washington also refuses to use Alexi Ogando, who dominated the Giants for two innings in Game 1 while his team was trailing by four runs, in high-leverage situations. Perhaps most alarmingly, Washington seems to lack the necessary sense of urgency for removing a struggling pitcher. Washington let Derek Holland pitch to a third batter in Game 2 after he walked the first two on eight pitches to load the bases, explaining after the game that he thought Holland would "correct himself." (He didn't, walking in a run on five more tosses.) Perhaps during the regular season you can let a young pitcher try to work out of his own jam, but in the World Series, particularly down a game with another slipping away, every run and every out is precious. If Washington fails to appreciate that, the Rangers are in trouble.
The good news for the Rangers is that they're coming home and have Lewis on the mound. Lewis dominated the Yankees in the decisive sixth game of the ALCS and hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last eight starts. The key for Lewis will be to work deep into the game. He failed to complete the sixth inning in three starts prior to his Game 6 gem, but pitched eight full innings in that clincher. With Guerrero safely stashed away at DH, Lewis can help keep Washington from being a decisive factor by limiting the bullpen's exposure altogether.
Lewis's mound opponent will be Sanchez. The lefty lasted just two innings in his last start, in the decisive sixth game of the NLCS against the Phillies, evidence that Bochy has that killer instinct for hooking struggling pitchers that Washington has thus far seemed to lack. Sanchez was wild in that game, but Bochy lifted him early enough that the Giants were able to come back and win. In his previous two starts this postseason, Sanchez pitched quite well, striking out 18 men in 13 1/3 innings against just four walks while limiting his opponents to three earned runs.
Outside of Jeff Francoeur going 2 for 14 (.143), both singles, against Sanchez, there is no significant history between either pitcher and the hitters he will face on Saturday night. The Rangers as a team fared better against right-handed pitching than left-handed pitching during the regular season, but big righty bats Cruz and Kinsler combined to make five trips to the disabled list, and Bengie Molina didn't arrive until July. With righties Cruz, Kinsler, Molina, Guerrero and Michael Young all in the lineup tonight, one imagines that, regular season numbers aside, facing a lefty, even one as good as Sanchez, could help jump-start the Rangers' offense. An even bigger factor, however, might just be returning home to Texas, where the Rangers scored almost a run more per game during the regular season than they did on the road.
Of the 51 teams that have fallen behind 0-2 in the World Series, only 11 have come back to win. The last club to do so was the 1996 Yankees, and they offer some encouragement for the Rangers. Texas was outscored 20-7 in the first two games, but the Yankees were outscored 16-1 at home in Games 1 and 2 of the 1996 fall classic, but turned the Series around on the road against a Braves rotation even better than that of this years' Giants. However, no team has ever rallied from 0-3 in a World Series, and only one club in baseball history has ever overcome such a deficit in any best-of-seven series. That makes a Game 3 win essential for the Rangers to keep their title hopes alive.