Rangers' quality goes beyond starting pitching
Stout bullpen, potent offense pick up rotation's slack
ARLINGTON -- The Texas Rangers didn't log a single quality start in the American League Championship Series, and as they enjoyed a wild, wet celebration in their home clubhouse on Saturday, it didn't seem to matter much.
Texas' second World Series ticket in as many seasons was punched by a 15-5 victory over the Tigers, a Game 6 victory in an ALCS fueled by a dominant bullpen, a one-man wrecking crew in series MVP Nelson Cruz and some timely hits sprinkled along the way.
So while lights-out starting pitching is a wonderful weapon to have, the Rangers proved that there's more than one way to get the job done in a best-of-seven series.
"If you would have said at the beginning of this series that our starting pitching wasn't going to do well, I'm sure it would've made some guys nervous around here," said Rangers outfielder David Murphy.
"But our bullpen came up so big that all we needed to do was get our starter through four or five innings. Nelson Cruz was a big-time hero this series, but I'd definitely say Alexi Ogando could have been the MVP right behind him."
Indeed, there was no surprise registered when Cruz was announced as the ALCS MVP immediately after Game 6's final out -- not after he set new postseason series records with six home runs and 13 RBIs.
But there could have been an honorable mention for Ogando, who picked up his second win of the series, firing two innings of scoreless relief in Game 6 to become just the fifth reliever in history to log two victories in an ALCS.
"[There's] a lot of happiness," said Ogando, who joined Sparky Lyle (1977), Tom Henke (1985), Gene Nelson (1988) and Francisco Rodriguez (2002) in the select two-wins club.
"We worked hard, very hard to get to this point. Last year, I had just gotten here, and I didn't have much experience pitching in the big leagues. But now they gave me the opportunity, and I did a good job to help us win."
Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre lauded Ogando as a hero in the series. In 7 2/3 innings, he struck out 10 and walked two, permitting three hits -- one of which was Brandon Inge's game-tying solo homer in Game 4.
"He was the main guy in our bullpen that kept us alive," Beltre said of Ogando. "Those close games, he kept it right there and we scored later in the game. He was the reason we won those games."
Among the other standouts: Scott Feldman contributed 5 2/3 scoreless innings, Mike Adams pitched in five games -- allowing a run in 4 1/3 innings -- and 41-year-old lefty Darren Oliver made three appearances, recording eight outs.
In the six ALCS games, Texas' bullpen allowed just four runs in 27 1/3 innings pitched (1.32 ERA) with six walks and four strikeouts.
"The main key for us the whole series was the bullpen," Beltre said. "I don't think we hit like we normally could. The bullpen was huge, the starting pitching wasn't that bad -- some guys struggled a little bit, but some guys threw a pretty good game. I think altogether we did a good job."
The Rangers became the second team in a best-of-seven postseason series to earn each of its four wins from the bullpen, joining the 1997 Cleveland Indians.
Moreover, no team in the best-of-seven era (since 1985) has ever won an LCS without getting so much as a quality start. The Rangers have only one quality start in their 10 postseason games, that being Colby Lewis' six-inning, one-run performance in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Rays.
Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux notes that part of the reason for that quirk is that manager Ron Washington pushed his buttons differently in the ALCS, leaning more on a relief staff that he trusted.
"Our rotation all year long was so good," Maddux said. "They kept the bullpen fresh, which is why we are allowed to kind of use the bullpen the way we use it right now, because the starters covered their tails all year.
"Our starters were great, fantastic, and you just manage a little bit differently in the postseason, that's all."
Texas' starting pitchers in the series worked 28 2/3 innings, with none going deeper than C.J. Wilson's six innings of six-run ball in Game 5. They allowed 21 runs, for a starting staff ERA of 6.59.
"That's fine. The bullpen picked us up," said Derek Holland, who started Games 2 and 6. "It's been vice versa this season, too. The big thing is, we continue to battle each time we go out there."
And perhaps the story will be different in the World Series. Yet, as the dust settled from the 15-run barrage Texas put on Tigers pitching in Game 6, it'd also be silly to dismiss the value of good old-fashioned slugfests.
Cruz wasn't alone in the bashing department, but he clearly led the charge, hitting .364 (8-for-22) and becoming the first player to hit two extra-inning home runs in the same postseason series.
"What an unbelievable series," Michael Young said. "When Nelly gets hot, he's as dangerous as any hitter in the game. We're confident he'll keep it rolling in the World Series."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.