When you look at how far the Dodgers have gone, winning a Division Series and five games into a Championship Series, it’s pretty remarkable that they have done that with only two starting pitchers.
And, when you stop and consider it, that’s exactly what the Rangers were trying to do this post-season as well—win with just Hamels and Darvish, and a steady parade of bullpen help.
Of course, the Dodger’s big ace, Clayton Kershaw, is better than Hamels, and Rich Hill and Darvish are pretty evenly matched, but their next two, Urias and Maeda, are worlds better than Lewis and anyone else the Rangers have.
But the Rangers bullpen, which recorded the second-worst ERA in the American League, is far superior to the Dodgers. The ERA is a bit deceiving since it included so many of the charlatans that were not around at the end. The new and improved Rangers bullpen performed well in the short time it was allowed to perform in the playoffs.
Texas would have matched up very favorably to Los Angeles.
Compare the Rangers to the team already headed to the World Series. Although the Cleveland Indians did have a slew of quality starters, injury and an errant drone propeller reduced their rotation to just two as well—Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin. (For the World Series, they are supposed to be getting back Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer’s sliced pinky should stop spewing blood by then, but Carlos Carrasco won’t return.)
The difference between the Indians and the Ranger is depth. After the top two starters, the Rangers have nobody. They don’t have a Ryan Merritt they could pluck from obscurity to come in and save the day.
All they have is Perez and Griffin and Nick Martinez and Chi Chi Gonzalez and Lucas Harrell. They absolutely do not have a Ryan Merritt.
Maybe there is somebody deep in the bowels of the farm system, but he won’t be ready for a Game 4 start for another five years. Ironically, the best pitching product the Rangers farm system has produced in the last ten years is starting Game 6 tonight for the Cubs. (But at least Texas got thirteen starts out of Matt Garza and a 4.44 ERA for him.)
Cleveland made it to the World Series with two quality starters. The Dodger are attempting the same thing.
It could have very well been the Rangers. If only the starting pitcher part of the plan had worked like it was supposed to.
Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69) vs. Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13)
Game time: 7:08, FS1