Look for Texas to rebound behind C.J. Wilson
How important is Game1? Today in the Giants’ clubhouse, it’s huge. On the other side, it’s no big deal, just one game. But the reality is that of the 41 World Series played since the playoffs expanded in 1969, the winner of Game 1 has won the Series 27 times. That’s a 27-14 historical record the Rangers are dealing with today. Game 1 winners have been more successful of late, winning 18 of the past 22 series. However, the Yankees lost to Cliff Lee and the Phillies last year in Game 1 before winning in six games.
But that’s all history, which is cool for the media and fans, but the players don’t really care. For players and managers, it’s all about tonight.
Matt Cain and C.J. Wilson will take the mound tonight. Cain hasn’t allowed an earned run in the postseason. And he tossed eight shutout innings against the Rangers back in 2009. But these teams are vastly different now, so we’re discounting that.
Tonight’s atmosphere should be a little calmer for both pitchers. Game 1 jitters are out; now it’s time to get down to business.
A key for the Rangers will be to make Cain work. Usually when Cain gets in trouble it’s related to walks. When he’s in the strike zone, he’s tough to hit. So if the Rangers don’t chase pitches and aren’t overly aggressive, they should be more successful. Earlier in his career, Cain had trouble holding runners, but he’s been above average in the last few years. Having Posey behind the plate has helped. Elvis Andrus is 7-for-8 in steals in the postseason, so if he gets going, the big hitters behind him can feast. Cain is Josh Hamilton’s type of pitcher. Cain won’t be overpowering inside, and isn’t the kind of pitcher that will induce Hamilton to chase pitches in the dirt — which he has been susceptible to. The likely AL MVP hit over .400 against right-handed pitching this season. Expect the Rangers to live and die offensively with Hamilton tonight.
Wilson was terrific against the Rays in the ALDS, but shaky in two starts against the Yankees in the ALCS. He was fine for most of Game 1, but the Yankees got to him in the seventh. Wilson has had trouble holding runners, so the Giants will be running tonight at every chance. Look for Ron Washington to have him on a short leash tonight. With Derek Holland available for extended innings, and a day off tomorrow, Washington will be quick to go to his bullpen.
The opposite could be true for Cain. With a 1-0 lead in the series and a bullpen that was busy last night, Bruce Bochy will be patient with Cain. Unless he’s having control issues, Cain will be allowed to battle through rough innings.
Many fans and members of the media are suggesting that Washington bench Vlad Guerrero in National League parks due to his weak defense in right field. And his two errors last night fuel that fire. But expect Washington to leave Guerrero in right field and in the cleanup spot. This lineup needs him.
Expect Game 2 to look more like what was expected in Game 1 — with runs at a premium and little margin for error. The Rangers offense will come alive and head back to Texas with the Series tied at a game apiece.