Hamilton Cruz frustrated

Giants grab 3-1 lead, leave Rangers on last legs

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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.

Max Scherzer still can’t throw fastballs

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals works against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth inning during game five of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.

The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.

Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.

The Dodgers asked the Tigers about Justin Verlander this offseason

DETROIT, MI - MAY 18: Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches during the first inning of the game against the Minnesota Twins on May 18, 2016 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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File this under “man, that would’ve been cool.” Or, if you’re a Tigers fan, file it under “man, that would’ve signaled several years of misery.” However you fall on the matter, however, know that, according to Jon Heyman, the Dodgers inquired about trading for Justin Verlander over the winter.

It never went anywhere, but it’s not like it was silliness for the Dodgers to ask. As you may recall, the Tigers were reported to be willing to listen to offers on any and all players back in November, as GM Al Avila contemplated a tear-down. That never came to pass — the Tigers had a quiet offseason and are keeping the team together to make another run at the playoffs with the Verlander/Miguel Cabrera core — but it couldn’t hurt to ask.

Verlander, who is coming off a resurgent season which saw him return to form as one of baseball’s best pitchers, has 10-5 rights, allowing him to veto any trade. He’s married to an actress/model, however, owns a home in L.A., and the Dodgers are a clear contender, so there’s a good chance he would’ve allowed such a trade to happen. Heck, dude even loves pitchers batting, so a chance to do it all the time would be right up his alley.

The bigger issue likely would’ve been Verlander’s $28 million salary. The Dodgers already pay the luxury tax so taking on that commitment would cost them more than the sticker price. And, of course, if the Tigers are going to ever give up one of the best players in franchise history, it would take the motherlode of prospects to do it.

So, no, a Verlander-to-L.A. trade wasn’t ever a strong possibility. But even the slight possibility seems exciting in hindsight. It was a boring as hell offseason.