Nelson Cruz pounds the Tigers for ALCS win

Texas Rangers Nelson Cruz celebrates his seventh inning home run against the Detroit Tigers in game six of the ALCS at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 15, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. Crux had six homers and 13 RBIs in the series. The Rangers won the series 4-2 and will play the winner of the NLCS in the World Series. UPI/Ian Halperin

The Texas Rangers are returning to the World Series after a 15-5 thumping of the Detroit Tigers to win the ALCS by four games to two. Nelson Cruz was a beast in the series, pounding out six home runs and 13 RBIs against Tiger pitching. Cruz hit 29 home runs in the regular season in 475 at bats.

The Rangers will now play the winner of the NLCS between the Cardinals and the Brewers. The Cards are leading the series 3-2 with Game 6 coming tonight in Milwaukee. The Rangers have never won a World Series.

Meanwhile, the Tigers had a great season but had no answer for the Rangers lineup. Justin Verlander wasn’t dominant in the post-season, but at least he did his job.

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Top 5 Hitters and Top 5 Pitchers in LCS Play

Unlike the division series that began in 1995, the ALCS and NLCS has been played since 1969. Before that, there was just a World Series. Anyway, with the two series underway to determine who will play in the 2008 fall classic, we’ll take a look at the career Top 5 in LCS play in both batting average and starting pitching ERA. Enjoy, and hope you’re enjoying the games…..

Batting Average

1. Kevin Youkilis (.531)—Okay, so Kevin Youkilis has only played in one full LCS, last year’s ALCS with Boston, and he just began his second, against Tampa . Last year, Youkilis went 14 for 28 with a double, a triple, three homers, and 7 RBI. And last night he went 3 for 4 with two doubles. Sox fans not surprisingly love this guy as well as, or in spite of, his facial hair.

2. Mark Grace (.515)—Mark Grace played in two league championship series—in 1989 with the Cubs and in 2001 with the Diamondbacks. Despite the fact that Gracey hit .647 with a homer and 8 RBI in the 1989 NLCS, the Cubs lost to the Giants. Are you surprised?

3. Will Clark (.468)—First baseman Will Clark has played in three NLCS—1987 and 1989 with the Giants and 2000 with the Cardinals. He hit .360, .650 and .412 in those series, respectively. It’s worth noting that the .650 was against Mark Grace’s Cubs. That, and a billy goat, partially explains the result of that series.

4. Craig Counsell (.400)—“Screech” is lights out in the LCS (with Florida in 1997 and Arizona in 2001), but has a .212 average in the NLDS and .130 World Series mark. Huh?

5. Mickey Rivers (.386)—Talk about consistency. In three straight ALCS appearances for Rivers’ Yankees against the Royals (1976-78), he was almost impossible to pitch to, hitting .348, .391, and .455. Considering Rivers was the Yankees’ leadoff man, do I have to tell you who won each series?

Starting Pitching ERA (note: we only included those who have started more games than they relieved)

1. Gary Nolan (1.35)—Gary Nolan pitched in four NLCS for the Reds—1970, 1972, 1975 and 1976. In four starts, he went 4-0 with a 1.35 ERA, and 16 strikeouts. Though Nolan was a very good 3.08 in his career during the regular season, he clearly knew how to turn it up a notch when it counted most.

2. Orel Hershiser (1.52)—Orel Hershiser was almost unhittable in 1988, but in all he pitched in five LCS—1985 and 1988 with the Dodgers; 1995 and 1997 with Cleveland, and 1999 with the Mets. His record in championship series play? 4-0 with the 1.52 ERA and 47 strikeouts.

3. Jeff Suppan (1.69)—Jeff Suppan has pitched in three NLCS, all with the Cardinals—2004-06. His numbers are aided mostly by those two ridiculous starts in 2006 against the Mets when he gave up one earned run in 15 innings of work. And as a Mets fan, I do mean ridiculous literally.

4. Randy Johnson (1.72)—The Big Unit has been lights out in LCS play—in 1995 with Seattle and in 2001 with the D-Backs. In those two series, he went 2-1 with 32 strikeouts and just 5 walks in 31 innings. The man is just sick.

5. Fernando Valenzuela (1.95)—Fernando Valenzuela was like a cult hero for the Dodgers and pitched for them in three LCS—1981, 1983 and 1985. Over that time, Valenzuela, who’s out pitch was a screwball, went 3-1 with 28 strikeouts.

Source: Baseball Reference

Red Sox have eclipsed Yankees as premier team

As Murray Chass on Baseball notes, the Boston Red Sox have supplanted the New York Yankees as the premier team to beat in the AL East.

Jacoby EllsburyThat conclusion isn’t based strictly on the outcome of this year’s division race, though the season is symptomatic of developments in the lives of the Yankees and the Red Sox. In a more general way, the Red Sox have demonstrated that they are smarter and more adept than the Yankees in judging talent, in trading, in scouting, in player development and in strategic planning.

The teams have similarities that are useful in judging the quality of their operations.
The Red Sox went to Japan and signed Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Yankees went to Japan and signed Kei Igawa.

The Red Sox have a young center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, who is instrumental in igniting their offense. The Yankees have a young center fielder, Melky Cabrera, whom they sent to the minor leagues in August.

The Red Sox have a young second baseman, Dustin Pedroia, whose .326 batting average fell two hits short of winning the A.L. batting title and who led the league in runs scored, multi-hit games and doubles, tied for the lead in hits and was fourth in total bases. The Yankees have a young second baseman, Robinson Cano, who needed eight hits in the last three games to get his on-base percentage over .300.

The Red Sox needed a starting pitcher and in mid-August traded for veteran Paul Byrd, who compiled a 4-2 record in eight starts. The Yankees needed a starting pitcher and in June yanked Joba Chamberlain out of the bullpen and put him in the starting rotation, where he suffered a shoulder ailment that cost him a month.

The Red Sox needed to trade their best hitter, Manny Ramirez, and in a three-team deal that included Pittsburgh got Jason Bay, who batted .293 with a series of key hits that fueled critical Boston victories.

The Yankees needed a hitter and, five days before the Bay trade, turned to the same team, the Pirates, and got Xavier Nady, whose batting average for the Yankees was 25 points less than Bay’s was for Boston and whose on-base percentage was 50 points and slugging percentage 53 points less.

This is what people continue to miss about the Yankees and their spending. Just because they can spend more, doesn’t mean that they’re better off. Yes, there should be a cap in place so that all of the spending is even. But the Yankees continue to shoot themselves in the foot with all of their freewheeling contracts and trading, because they’re not developing young, marquee talent anymore like they once did with Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Bearnie Williams. They thought players like Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano and Phillip Hughes would develop like the aforementioned names, but those three haven’t panned out yet, at least not how the club thought they would.

The article is right – the Red Sox have been better at judging talent and making trades over the past couple years and it’s exactly why they’re playing in October right now while the Yankees are at home plodding ways to get CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Manny Ramirez.

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