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The Rangers’ Colby Lewis was just what the Texas fans ordered last night to get the home team back in the series. Mitch Moreland and Josh Hamilton supplied the offense. Tonight Texas will send Tommy Hunter to the mound to even the series. Hunter was 13-4 during the regular season, but struggled in two starts against the Rays and Yankees. The Giants’ starter Madison Bumgarner has had better results this postseason. But as the Rangers’ bats are warming up, the Giants’ bats are cooling off. Both pitchers will be on short leashes, but it will be interesting to see just how much Ron Washington trusts his bullpen.
It was clear last night that the Rangers improved their team by moving to their ballpark with American League rules than the Giants did. Getting Vlad Guerrero back in the lineup was a much more dramatic improvement than the Giants getting Pablo Sandoval into the lineup. Bruce Bochy hasn’t indicated if he will stay with Sandoval, who went 0 for 3, or make a change. Options include using Audrey Huff as DH and insert Travis Ishikawa, who is a better defender, at first. Other options would be playing Aaron Rowand or Nate Schierholtz in the outfield and using Pat Burrell as the DH. Burrell who struck out four times in four trips last night now has 19 whiffs in 38 postseason at-bats. How much longer will Bochy be loyal to Burrell? That may end tonight.
The keys tonight will be the bullpens. It’s unlikely that either starter will go deep into the game, putting pressure on the managers to pull the right strings and relievers to get big outs. To this point, that would seem to favor the Giants, but the Ron Washington continues to speak highly of his relievers, and Darren O’Day — one of the first arms he’ll call on — was effective in a pressure situation in Game 3. Derek Holland, who was so effective all season and in the first two round of playoffs, was a disaster in Game 2 when he couldn’t throw strikes. Tonight’s game has the feel of the perfect situation for Holland. If he can regroup, the Rangers could gain the upper hand. If he hasn’t found his control, that takes an important piece of the pen away from Washington.
The Giants’ pen is full of situational pitchers that Bochy uses in specific situations. So it will take more pitchers to get fewer outs than the Rangers. If the game remains close, this could be another factor in favor of the home team.
The crowd gave the Rangers a big lift in Game 3. Expect the same tonight. After lots of runs, pitching changes and managerial decisions, the Rangers even the series at two games apiece.