World Series Game 7 Preview and Free Pick – Rangers vs Cardinals ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
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By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer
With the lone exception of Joe Buck trying his heart out to sound like his father, the last two hours of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series will go down as not just as one of the best World Series games ever, not just one of the best baseball games ever, but as one of the best nights of must-see television this country has ever seen. And if you think I’m exaggerating, then you were one of the few that didn’t watch last night.
With dramatic plays from Napoli, Beltre, Pujols, Cruz, Molina, Hamilton, and of course the man of the moment in St. Louis, David Freese, the stage is set for one final, winner-take-all showdown in the Fall Classic â and it has certainly been just that. But who has the edge? With all of the twists and turns in this series, can there really be a favorite?
Yes. Yes there can. And that’s why we’re here.
As the ball left the bat of David Freese and soared into the night and over the fence at Busch Stadium, the only thought that ran through my mind was, “The Cardinals have just won the World Series.” Yes, I knew it was only game six, but these types of games have the tendency to suck the life right out of the opposition â 1986 and 1991 come to mind. One that didn’t, though, was 1975, when Carlton Fisk hit that dramatic homerun to life the Red Sox to all-square with the Reds, setting the stage for an ever better game seven that ultimately went the way of Cincinnati. So for Texas, all is not totally lost, despite my initial reaction.
The adage that “in baseball, you’re only as good as your next day’s starter” is said for a reason â because it’s true. So let’s start there. We’ll rate five key categories (starting pitching, bullpen, offense, defense, and manager/intangibles) and assign a run differential. Add up the numbers and measure them out and that will be our winner and by how many runs. This is the first time we’ve ever done anything like this, so we’ll see what happens and then tweak it, if necessary, for next year.
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On the surface, using only name recognition, it would be advantage Cardinals. Chris Carpenter is, without question, the best starting pitcher in the series, and is schedule to go against Matt Harrison of Texas. Carpenter is starting on only three days’ rest, something he’s done only once in his career. That would have been game two against Philadelphia earlier this year, the game that turned that entire series in favor of St. Louis. But that happened after Carpenter lasted just three innings and gave up four runs, the worst postseason outing of his career. Harrison is on full rest PLUS a day, so he’ll be more than ready to go in tonight’s finale.
Advantage: Cardinals +2
After tonight, the arms on both sides are virtually shot. Heck, they mostly looked shot before tonight, especially Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando for Texas. Meanwhile Jason Motte didn’t pitch for St. Louis, so he could go multiple innings tomorrow. The key here, however, is that Texas actually has their best pitcher, C.J. Wilson, ready to go tomorrow for as long as he’s needed, for like Carpenter he’ll be on three days’ rest. Plus, Mike Gonzalez has closed before and did not appear in Thursday’s game, so Ron Washington has more options than it would seem. The Rangers actually have the edge here as long as they don’t pitch Ogando in ANY way until maybe 2014, when his arm has finally recovered from its abuse this postseason.
Advantage: Rangers +1
This is really hard to tell. Both teams have huge power bats in the middle of the order and one guy â Mike Napoli for Texas and David Freese for St. Louis â that seems to be able to get a hit every single at bat. They both have big pinch hitting options, with Mitch Moreland on the bench for the Rangers and Allen Craig available for Tony LaRussa and the Cardinals. Both saw their big hitters â John Hamilton and Albert Pujols â break out of mini-slumps and guys behind them â Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz, and Lance Berkman â come up with huge homeruns. So who’s got the edge and where? Believe it or not, it’s the Rangers, because of the one area where the Cardinals should have the advantage and don’t: lead-off hitter. Rafael Furcal has been bad for St. Louis, while Ian Kinsler had another good night for Texas. If that continues to hold true tonight, the Rangers will scratch out an additional run or two as a result.
Advantage: Rangers +2
Whenever either team decides to play some, that would be lovely. In all seriousness, there were two crucial plays that factored into last night’s game even reaching extra innings. The first happened in the second inning, with runners on first and second with no-one out for Texas and Colby Lewis, the pitcher, coming up. Expecting a bunt, the Cardinals charged their corners and Lewis â unused to bunting as an AL pitcher â bunted away from the right-handed first baseman Pujols. Freese started a 5-6-4 third-to-first double play and helped keep Texas to just one run. On the other side, Napoli’s pick-off of Matt Holliday at third base with one out and the bases loaded in the sixth kept the Cardinals from taking the lead right there, setting the stage for their dramatic comeback later. Both teams need more plays like that if they want to ensure themselves their best chance at a title â and less of the lackluster effort given by Cruz in the ninth inning. The Rangers lose this category just for that.
Advantage: Cardinals +1
The Cardinals are home with the rally squirrel and all of the momentum. They will also have all of the pressure, especially with Carpenter on the mound. But despite that, the Rangers actually have a better track record of comebacks than the Cardinals do. Until last night, the Cardinals hadn’t won a postseason game in which they trailed at any point since game two of the NLDS against Philadelphia. In fact they scored first in every game of the NLCS versus Milwaukee. Meanwhile Texas managed to accomplish that feat twice in this series alone, the ninth inning rally in game two and the bullpen-phone fiasco in game five â against Motte and Carpenter, no less, the two guys they’re likely to face. Plus, Washington will be loose (have you SEEN the camera shots of him in the dugout?) and LaRussa will be the same stodgy old man he was when he was busy losing three of the five prior times he’s been to the World Series. Besides, you never know if he’ll wind up bringing in Lynn when he really wants Motte.
Advantage: Rangers +1
That’s a final tally of Rangers 4, Cardinals 3 â exactly what the series score will be if Texas wins it on the road. It’s a tall order, yes, but one I completely believe the Rangers can accomplish, especially considering just how close they came in game six. I picked them before the start of the series, and I’m sticking with them through till the end. Besides, as a Mets fan, I just can’t pull for the Cardinals after 2006. It’s much too painful. I still have nightmares about Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright.
Now then, bring me Vin Scully in the broadcast booth and Ronan Tynan for “God Bless America” and let’s make this a real October showcase. After all, folksâ¦ this is GAME 7!
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