The Texas Rangers aren't a surprise team. They entered the playoffs as the defending American League champs, and they won 96 games during the regular season. It isn't a surprise that they're back in the World Series, winning their second straight AL pennant after defeating the Detroit Tigers, 15-5, in Game 6 of the ALCS. What is a surprise, though, is how they've done it.
Game 1, ALCS: C.J. Wilson, 4⅔ IP, 2 R (W)
Game 2, ALCS: Derek Holland, 2⅔ IP, 3 R (W)
Game 3, ALCS: Colby Lewis, 5⅔ IP, 4 R (L)
Game 4, ALCS: Matt Harrison, 5 IP, 2 R (W)
Game 5, ALCS: C.J. Wilson, 6 IP, 6 R (L)
Game 6, ALCS: Derek Holland, 4⅔ IP, 4 R (W)
The Texas Rangers are going to the World Series. After 172 games, they're the one team out of 14 in the American League that is still playing. Yet in ten playoff games, the Rangers haven't had a starting pitcher pitch into the seventh inning. Only twice have they had a starter record an out in the sixth inning.
The offense helped, for sure, but they weren't an unstoppable juggernaut - before Saturday night's explosion, the Rangers had averaged 4.4 runs in their nine playoff games. So they had an okay offensive showing and a starting staff that couldn't make it into the late innings.
But, oh, that bullpen. The Rangers bullpen has allowed 11 runs in the playoffs, but five of those were charged to Koji Uehara, and they don't let him around the close games these days. Texas relievers have thrown 42 innings in the postseason, carrying the team on their backs to the team's second consecutive trip to the World Series.
On Saturday night, though, the Texas bullpen was mostly a non-factor. The Rangers exploded for 15 runs, knocking Max Scherzer out in the third inning and jumping all over the Tigers' bullpen to turn a close game in a close series into a complete and total laugher.
Five Rangers starters reached base three or more times. Seven Rangers starters scored two runs. Four Rangers starters had two or more RBI, including Michael Young, who finished with five. It was complete domination. Brad Penny was involved, you'll be shocked to learn.
The Tigers led early, scoring runs in the first two innings on solo homers from Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta. The lead would hold until the bottom of the third, when the Rangers exploded for nine runs.
Ian Kinsler grounds out
Elvis Andrus walks
Josh Hamilton singles
Michael Young doubles (Andrus, Hamiton score)
Adrian Beltre singles (Young scores)
Mike Napoli walks
Nelson Cruz walks
David Murphy singles (Beltre, Napoli score)
Craig Gentry reaches on fielder's choice
Ian Kinsler singles (Cruz, Murphy score)
Elvis Andrus out on fielder's choice
Josh Hamilton intentionally walks
Michael Young doubles (Kinsler, Andrus score)
Adrian Beltre flies out to left
Young's double was the crusher, his second of the inning; he became the first player in postseason history with two extra-base hits in one inning, and finished with five RBI. David Murphy reached base five times in the game. Everyone scored two runs. Everyone had sixteen hits when the smoke cleared. It was a mess.
And with every hit the Tigers' hopes sank lower and lower and lower. They got two runs back on Austin Jackson's home run, but with a thin bullpen they were forced to turn to Brad Penny. To be fair to Penny, even though he was awful this season, he hasn't pitched in three weeks. That's tough for any pitcher to rust like that. The Rangers scored a run in the fifth, two in the sixth, and three in the seventh. When the carnage was over, the Rangers led 15-5.
Derek Holland didn't make it out of the fifth inning, but since when has starting pitching mattered in the playoffs? The Rangers and perhaps the Cardinals seem to have discovered a different path to the World Series this year, one that rarely (or never!) includes dominant outings from starting pitchers.
It took 50 for the Rangers to win their first postseason series. It took 50 years for the Rangers to reach their first World Series. It took twelve months for them to reach their second World Series, and they are first American League team to make back-to-back World Series appearances since the Yankees eleven years ago.