The Detroit Tigers have lost the first two games of the American League Championship Series to Texas, and there’s one Ranger Tigers fans probably are sick of seeing on their television.
He hasn’t driven in a run.
He hasn’t pitched an inning.
He hasn’t fielded a grounder.
And yet no Ranger, it seems, has been more visible in the last two postseasons than president Nolan Ryan. It’s understandable perhaps — Ryan was one of the game’s great pitchers, and his position in the front office gave a once-struggling franchise credibility.
But is it really necessary to validate every Ranger success with a cut-in of Ryan cheering them on? Is it mandatory to focus on Ryan just because he doesn’t hide himself in a luxury box?
Ryan has made more appearances in the postseason the last two years than he ever did in a 27-year playing career (for the record, he was 2-2 in nine games for three teams). And Ryan may be making several more if the first two games are any indication.
The Rangers have won five games in a row now — three by one run, one by two runs and one in extra innings. Their bullpen is the best of the four teams left playing; it’s had to be because they’ve had just one quality start in six games. If we’re going to see so much of Ryan, let’s ask him what he thinks of that.
Ryan made seven postseason starts, only once failing to complete the sixth inning. The Rangers’ ace, C.J. Wilson, hasn’t been as good as Ryan at his worst; Wilson has yet to finish the fifth.
(Sidebar: as an Astro, Ryan lost a deciding Game 5 in 1981 to the Dodgers, and a three-run lead in the eighth inning of a deciding NLCS Game 5 in 1980; the Phillies won in 10. His greatest postseason was his first, when he was in the bullpen — he won the clinching Game 3 of the first NLCS in 1969 with seven innings of three-hit relief vs. the Braves; he combined with Gary Gentry on a four-hit 5-0 shutout of the Orioles in Game 3 of the Series).
Ryan’s Rangers aren’t what Ryan’s Mets were. They have more power and less pitching, but like the ’69 Mets, a futile history — the Rangers made only five postseason appearances in 50 years and lost nine straight games after winning one in the first three of those.
The Rangers should know how quickly this ALCS can change — the Tigers are home and have been resourceful all year, the two games have been close, Justin Verlander is lurking. The Rangers’ 2-0 lead might not last.
Perhaps no one knows that better than Nolan Ryan. It would just be nice if the spotlight wasn’t always on him.
Cardinals 12, Brewers 3: The NLCS may be won by the last first baseman to bat. Prince Fielder’s home run gave the Brewers the lead for good in Game 1; Albert Pujols topped that with three doubles and a home run in Game 2, even as Fielder homered again.
In two games the two first basemen, both pending free agents, have eight hits — five for extra bases — and two walks in 15 at-bats. Fielder has homered twice, Pujols has doubled three times. Fielder has knocked in three runs, Pujols five. Pujols is batting .556, Fielder .500.
Oddly enough, their regular seasons were also similar, Fielder’s the better mostly because of his 107 walks (Pujols had 61). But they each hit .299, and Fielder had 38 home runs, Pujols 37.
Maybe the NLCS will be won by the team that first pitches around one of them.