As much as I like watching TV executives not get what they want, I really would have liked to see the Phillies make it to the World Series. The Phillies are just more interesting than the Giants, who seem to be compiled of eliminated survivor contestants. Pat Burrell, Jose Guillen, Cody Ross, Mike Fontenot and don't get me started on facial hair.
All joking aside, congratulations to the Giants, who have a dominant pitching staff and a MacGyver-like offense kept together with duct tape and bailing wire.
As for the American League Champions either Texas or New York would have been fine for me. I preferred Texas, if only to avoid the Derek Jeter media banter that would have ensued. Instead, we'll get the supposed "feel good" story of Ron Washington getting busted for cocaine use in Spring Training. Overcoming a life threatening illness or loss of a loved one, feel good story. Manager getting busted for cocaine use WITH a recovering drug and alcohol addict in Josh Hamilton on the team, not a feel good story. That is outright bad leadership, and should not be celebrated as a feel good story.
A feel good story should be the Rangers, who after 49 years of baseball are going to their first World Series. It should be about Josh Hamilton, who has had to fight demons, and probably faced his biggest challenge in forgoing the celebration that apparently has to happen at every step of the postseason process. Obviously the flip side to that is the consideration some of his teammates and Rangers personnel had in making him part of the celebration. After eleven years in the majors, Michael Young in his first postseason makes it all the way to the World Series. The continued dominance of Cliff Lee. The Los Angeles castoff Vladimir Guerrero makes his way back to the postseason, while the Angels sit at home and watch. Okay, that last one may be a little cynical, but it is a feel good story for Guerrero whom most had written off.
Ranting aside, as a baseball fan, it is good to see two new teams in the World Series. For all the talk about the Yankees and Phillies stacking their teams, it's the mid-market Rangers and Giants who are left standing preparing to go at it for the ultimate prize.
Below I've done another roundup of former Astros players LCS-style, and after that a preview of the World Series which should sound familiar to Astros fans.
ALCS Rangers verse Yankees: Rangers win series, 4-2.
The least recognizable former Astro Darren Oliver appeared in three games. He allowed two earned runs in 2.1 innings of work, striking out one and only giving up one hit, but also issued three walks. Two of those walks came in the Game 1 blow up, in which it took four relievers to get out of the 8th inning. He did get a save in Game 4 going 1.2 innings allowing only one hit.
Game three starter Andy Pettitte was effective, going seven innings and only allowing two runs in the first. Unfortunately his mound opponent that night was Cliff Lee, who has begun his own legacy in the playoffs. Those two runs would be Pettitte's undoing as the Yankee offense failed to do anything against Lee and the bullpen allowed six runs to the cross the plate in the top of the ninth, effectively putting the game and a no-decision out of reach for Pettitte, who absorbed the loss.
The one, the only Lance Berkman saw a significant upgrade in his playing time this time around. He appeared in four games collecting three hits, two walks, driving in two runs in twelve at bats. Primarily serving as the left handed platoon partner of Marcus Thames in the DH spot, Berkman was pressed into service after Mark Teixeira suffered a hamstring injury that would force him from the playoffs. In Game 4, Berkman had a drive down the right field line that was initially called a home run but was later overturned.
NLCS Giants verse Phillies: Giants win series, 4-2.
Apologies to Aubry Huff, who I failed to make note of in my division series round-up. In the Division Series against the Braves, Huff went 4 for 15, driving in one run. For the National League Champion Ship Series, he fared about the same with a 6 -for-24 performance, driving in three and scoring three runs.
The former ace of the Astros pitching staff Roy Oswalt had quite the series. He was called upon several times to keep the Phillies in it. In 14 2/3 innings of work, including two starts and a relief appearance, Roy O went 1-1 with a 1.84 ERA, striking out 14 and walking only three. He also allowed three earned runs to score. One of those runs unfortunately came at the end of Game 4 when he was called upon to try and keep the score even in the bottom of the ninth. In Game 2, he was asked to even the series, after a crushing 4-3 Phillies loss in Game 1 in which Roy Halladay had taken the hill.
Oswalt delivered. He went eight innings, allowing only one run to score while striking out nine Giants. In Game 6, attempting to stave off elimination, he kept the Phillies in the game by going six innings, striking out five, walking none, while allowing two runs to cross the plate. One of those runs was the result of an error that allowed Huff to score in the top of the third inning, which would tie the game.
Continuing his postseason dominance, Brad Lidge pitched three innings in three games, allowing no runs to score, striking out five and collecting one save.
World Series Preview
The dream match-up of Roy Oswalt facing off against long-time teammate Lance Berkman didn't happen, but does this sound familiar?
First World Series for a Texas team, who recently won it's first postseason series. The starting shortstop for the other team is named Juan Uribe. The theme song for the other team is "Don't Stop Believin" by Journey.
It's like we're back in 2005, only this time it's the Rangers not the Astros in the World Series, and the lead singer of Journey, Steve Perry, is a huge Giants fan. Uribe is still the bane of my existence.
This matchup is hopefully better than the 2005 series in which our beloved Astros were swept. I don't think either team is easily sweepable. Then again, with the likes of Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, and Roger Clemens you wouldn't have thought the Astros were capable of being swept either. The Rangers look like the better team, but so did the Phillies and they will be enjoying the World Series from a nice comfy couch. And as we saw for the Phillies last year, the only thing Cliff Lee guarantee's is his team won't be swept.
The most interesting matchup will be Cliff Lee and Cody Ross. Aspiring rodeo clown Ross hit his first career home run off Lee. Of course, Lee was a different pitcher then and has since then added and improved his repertoire. Still, with the show Ross has put on so far this postseason, it should be a good match-up.
The World Series for Bengie Molina is almost pointless. If he wanted to, he could set up a hammock in the dugout and sit back and relax. On July 1, he was traded to the Texas Rangers, from the San Francisco Giant. If the Giants win, can he sneak over to their clubhouse to partake in the celebration?
The Rangers appear to be the early favorite in the media, and I am inclined to agree. Both rotations match up well, while the Rangers probably have a slight advantage because of Cliff Lee and his postseason dominance. Both C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis will have to continue their success in order for the Rangers to have a shot at winning this thing. Having Lee gives the Rangers two, possibly three very good chances at winning games, but as we know it takes four to win it.
The Rangers have the clear advantage on offense, and the Giants have the advantage in the bullpen. Brian Wilson literally scares me, but in a scary movie type of way. The offense for the Rangers has a big challenge ahead of them. After having to face Lincecum, Cain and Sanchez, they then have to face a Giants bullpen that has already proven it can shut down a good offense. Whether Josh Hamilton can continue his hot hitting remains to be seen. He'll most likely have to do it, especially in the later innings, against the numerous lefthanders the Giants can deploy against him. His line against lefties this year is .271/.331/.458, so Bruce Bochy may be better served just sending up his best available reliever to face him.
Speaking of managers, the Giants have the edge over the Rangers. No stranger to the World Series, Bochy has been in this position before with the San Diego Padres back in 1998. Reaching the World Series with a Giants band-aid offense is impressive and no easy task to accomplish. I'm a bit worried about Ron Washington's use of the bullpen as it imploded in Game 1 of the ALCS and for some reason deciding to use his closer in games in which the Rangers had a substantial lead.
The spotlight for this series will again be on the pitching with Cliff Lee verse Tim Lincecum, which is yet another dream pitching matchup for baseball fans. The key to the series will be the offense. Can Cody Ross and the rest of the Giants continue their magic and drive in just enough offense to make the pitching stand up. Or will the Rangers offense, lead by Elvis Andrus, Josh Hamilton, and Nelson Cruz, be the one that finally breaks through the Giants bullpen red rover style.
As an Astros fan, we'll be subjected to that horrible song that accompanied the demise of the 2005 team. I know some of you are hoping the Rangers falter so that Texas fans can join Astros fans in their misery that is Journey. Still others are rooting for Texas pride, hoping to bring a championship to this great state. Regardless of which way you're leaning, it should be a fun World Series to watch.