Bullpen woes may seal Rangers' Series fate
Relievers combine to give up seven eighth-inning runs in Game 2
SAN FRANCISCO -- In the first two games of this World Series, the Rangers' bullpen that settled down and became an integral part of their American League Championship Series victory over the vaunted Yankees has utterly failed against the Giants' far-less-heralded lineup.In Game 1, right-hander Darren O'Day served up a three-run home run to Juan Uribe to open the floodgates in the Rangers' 11-7 loss. And in Game 2 on Thursday night at AT&T Park in San Francisco, an eighth-inning meltdown turned a two-run game into a blowout and all but ended any hope of a rally. With San Francisco leading by just a pair of runs entering the bottom of the eighth, Texas manager Ron Washington used four relievers, two of them walking four batters in a row. Eleven men came to the plate, nine of them with two and no one on. When the dust settled, the score was 9-0, and the Giants had tallied seven runs, their second most during a single World Series inning in this their 18th visit, to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. The Rangers' bullpen has given up 11 earned runs over just 5 1/3 innings, having allowed 10 hits and four walks for a staggering 18.68 ERA. "We just couldn't find the strike zone," Washington said. All the moves he made?
"They just didn't work," Washington said.O'Day started the ill-fated inning, striking out Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez before Buster Posey reached safely on an infield hit.
Washington went to the bullpen in that situation to pit left-hander Derek Holland against Giants lefty-swinger Nate Schierholtz, a defensive replacement and a .250 hitter this postseason. Schierholtz walked on four pitches to put runners on first and second. Did any of the Giants realize at the time that the walk would start an avalanche?"I don't think anyone did," Schierholtz said. "You never know. It seems like our guys have been battling every at-bat the last two days. They just couldn't throw strikes for a little bit and we were lucky enough to capitalize on it." Before Holland's appearance was over, he had thrown 13 pitches, 12 of them for balls, to walk three consecutive batters. Coming into the game, he had strolled only three in 10 1/3 innings this postseason. But this time, he walked Cody Ross to load the bases and Aubrey Huff to force in a run. All the while, Washington waited to warm up someone, anyone in the bullpen. Holland had thrown nine consecutive balls before the 'pen began heating up. He threw 11 in a row before tossing a called strike to Huff. Asked why he waited so long, Washington said: "Because I thought [Holland] would correct himself. I felt like he could finally get back in the groove. I brought him out there to get Schierholtz, and he didn't. But I didn't expect 12 balls in 13 pitches. It happened. He's not a situational lefty. Holland has gone through other people before." But not on this particular Thursday night. Finally, in came right-hander Mark Lowe, who walked Uribe to force in the second run of the inning, which was followed by Edgar Renteria's two-run single. The four consecutive walks decided the game and may perhaps determine the Series.
"We benefited from the walks. We know it. And we kept the line moving," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's a tight ballgame at that time, so you take all the runs you can get. These guys did a great job of finding a way to get on base either through walks or big hits."To be sure, the avalanche was in full force with left-hander Michael Kirkman now in the game. Bochy had sent lefty-swinging Mike Fontenot up to pinch-hit, replacing him at the point with the right-handed Aaron Rowand. More disaster loomed, but let's let Rowand tell the story: "I knew he was going to try to get ahead me, but [I] found myself in a 2-0 count," Rowand said. "I got a little aggressive. I swung at a ball that was probably out [of the strike zone]. He gave me something up and away that I could get on top of." Kirkman: "I wanted to make a good pitch and got behind. I threw a fastball up and he took advantage of it." Rowand's triple scored two more runs. And Torres doubled Rowand home for the seventh and final tally of the inning. The Rangers were at a loss for words to explain what happened. "On every pitch, you were hoping that it would be over," Texas catcher Matt Treanor said. When the Giants scored six runs in the fifth inning of Game 1's 11-7 victory on Wednesday night, it matched their second-highest total for one World Series inning, set 73 years ago in the second inning of Game 4 of the 1937 Fall Classic against the Yankees and matched in Game 7 of the 1912 World Series. Keep in mind that the Giants lost the '37 Series in five games and dropped that seventh game in '12. With this series shifting to Texas for Game 3 on Saturday evening, the Giants have a chance to win the title for the first time since 1954 and the first in four tries since they moved to San Francisco from New York in 1958. With 20 runs in two games, a team that scored 19 in six games to defeat the Phillies in the National League Championship Series has to feel like it's on a roll. "Well, it's nice to get the first two, but that's what it is," Bochy said. "You've got to get to this number before your next number. Now we're going in their ballpark. I'm sure they're going to have a sense of confidence. We've been road warriors, so that's what it's going to take right now. There's a lot of baseball left, but it's good to win the first two. There's no getting around that."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.