Before this series began, many prognosticators gave the Rangers the edge because of the postseason success of Cliff Lee and the team’s powerhouse offense. Not an unreasonable conclusion to make, really. Well, not only did Lee get knocked around pretty good back in Game 1, but the Rangers have been shut out twice in the first four games of the series.
Things just aren’t going according to plan.
Madison Bumgarner was absolutely dominant in Game 4 on Sunday night, allowing just three measly singles over eight shutout innings as part of a 4-0 win. Only one Rangers’ baserunner managed to make it past first base all night long — and that was set up by an error by Juan Uribe in the bottom of the seventh inning. The 21-year-old left-hander walked a pair and struck out six in the victory, including three strikeouts of Vladimir Guerrero, who looked completely lost in the batter’s box.
Bumgarner is the second youngest pitcher in World Series history with at least eight shutout innings. Jim Palmer was 20 years old when he tossed a complete-game shutout in Game 2 of the 1966 World Series, beating some guy named Sandy Koufax. Gee, and to think, a year ago, many people were ready to give up on Bumgarner as a legit pitching prospect because of a drop in velocity.
Believe it or not, I actually have some good news for Rangers fans. Coming into the series, there was some debate about just where Jonathan Sanchez belonged in the Giants’ rotation, or if he belonged at all. Imagine if Bumgarner got the call in Game 3 on Saturday night instead of Sanchez? The Giants may well have had a commanding 3-0 lead going into Game 4 on Sunday. And that’s certainly not a place you want to be.
While that was the glass half-full approach, here’s the thing. No team has come back from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series since the Royals defeated the Cardinals in 1985. And that was with the infamous help of first base umpire Don Denkinger. In other words, it doesn’t look good.
With their collective backs against the wall, the Rangers will turn to their ace Cliff Lee against Tim Lincecum in Game 5 on Monday night. Granted, the left-hander revealed himself to be human in Game 1, but we have a mountain of evidence to suggest that he is quite capable of bouncing back from a poor outing. The Giants have a brilliant pitcher of their own going on Monday, so it would be foolish to look past him, but assuming the Rangers can scrounge up enough runs to actually win — obviously no given at this point — the real toss-up may be Game 6 against Matt Cain back at AT&T Park in San Francisco. A place where the Rangers are 0-11 all-time.
As you may remember, C.J. Wilson was forced to leave in the seventh inning of Game 2 because of a blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reported Sunday that Wilson began using a topical skin adhesive and plans to be available to start Game 6 on Wednesday. If the Rangers are fortunate enough to get that far, it’s just impossible to know what pitcher they are going to get.