World Series questions, answers
How hot has Cody Ross been?
So hot you'd swear he had been traded to the Texas Rangers.
In a postseason built around outstanding pitching performances, the Rangers have been the only team to consistently put runs on the board. They turned in the only double-digit performance of these playoffs in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series and were held under five runs only three times—twice by Tampa Bay in the division series and once by the Yankees in the ALCS.
Given the Giants' trouble scoring, the Rangers may very well celebrate a championship on home soil in Game 5 of the Series. But the Giants get the edge if their pitchers continue getting more than 80 percent of the big outs, forcing Texas into an extended series full of the low-scoring, tense games that have replaced Rice-A-Roni as the San Francisco treat.
No question will be bigger in the World Series than this one: Can the best pitching staff stop the best lineup?
Among the other questions awaiting answers:
Tim Lincecum … or Cliff Lee?
The Yankees won the 2009 World Series despite losing twice to Rangers ace Cliff Lee, then with the Phillies. They kept him from completely making CC Sabathia a non-factor by using Sabathia on short rest in Game 4, when he beat Philadelphia's No. 4 starter Joe Blanton. Neither Lee nor Lincecum have much of a history working on short rest, so we could get a second head-to-head meeting in Game 5. Lee is auditioning for a run at a Sabathia-sized contract in free agency and the ring that his Philadelphia teammates failed to get him last year. Losing twice to a guy who looks like he's trying to find the local skateboarding park would sting.
Who does the Molina factor favor?
San Francisco catcher Buster Posey probably will win the National League Rookie of the Year award and could get an MVP vote or two, but the Giants have left themselves Molina-free, which could be a mistake. Texas acquired catcher Bengie Molina from San Francisco on July 1 and now hopes to enjoy the traditional Molina World Series success. Teams with one of the three Molina brothers—Bengie, Yadier and Jose—have won three World Series in four tries, the only unsuccessful trip for a Molina coming for Yadier with the 2004 Cardinals. Yadier and Jose have two World Series rings between them; Bengie is trying to pick up his second.
Should Texas fear “The Beard”?
This is a definite yes. San Francisco closer Brian Wilson is 5-for-5 in save situations in the playoffs, and Texas doesn't have a player who has had a hit off him. The guys the Rangers are expected to have active are a career 0-for-19 against Wilson. Their edge could be hitting coach Clint Hurdle, who has done a great job preparing the Texans to face specific pitchers.
Will tradition survive Texas?
There are no cheerleaders dancing atop the dugouts, but still there's a feeling of an NFL-style production at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington — most notably when flag-waving team employees race across the center-field berm after runs score. By contrast, AT&T Park is the hippest place in the majors.
Ross, fact or fiction?
Claimed on waivers from Florida on Aug. 22, the Giants seemed to be as interested in blocking San Diego from adding Ross to its lineup. They probably wouldn't have gotten past Atlanta and Philadelphia without him, however, as he's hit .324 with four home runs and eight RBIs in eight games. The 29-year-old is with his fifth big league team and may have found a home. His postseason success didn't come out of nowhere, as he hit 24 home runs and drove in 90 runs for the 2009 Marlins.
Weather finally has been forgotten as a postseason factor, with only one four-minute rain delay in the first 27 playoff games. October weather in San Francisco and Dallas-Fort Worth usually is terrific, so Major League Baseball may have dodged a bullet, though rain showers are in the forecast for Game 2 on Thursday.
Is this the same Colby Lewis who pitched in the A's bullpen?
Amazing, the Texas starter who has gone 2-0 with a 1.45 ERA in three playoff starts is the same guy who had a 6.45 ERA in 26 games for the A's three years ago. He reinvented himself with the addition of a cut fastball in a two-year stint with Japan's Hiroshima Carp, and the Rangers look very smart for signing him.
Phil Rogers writes for the Chicago Tribune
Last updated: 3:08 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012