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The Fall Classic is upon us: a Texas-sized World Series prediction

By Matt Johnson in Sports

To anyone who read my last MLB-related article, I halfheartedly apologize.  I really did not even give the Cardinals a chance.  But did anyone?

This Wild Card team that qualified for the postseason on the final day of the regular season matched up against the vaunted Phillies, who won 102 regular season games and had six All-Stars on their roster.  Forget statistics—this team certainly passed the eye test.  The Phils beat up on their competitors in both leagues, even taking two out of three games from both the Red Sox and Rangers during interleague play.

Even though I still had the Phillies losing in the NLCS to the Brewers, bottom line is that I thought the Phillies were much better than they really were and the Cardinals were not as hot as they really were. My dad’s saying certainly held true: if you can just get into the playoffs, anything can happen (especially if you get hot at the right time).

With that qualification and semi-apology, I say congratulations to the Cardinals and focus my thoughts on the incredibly intriguing World Series that lies ahead of all fans ravenous for a juicy end to the season.

Predicted World Series Winner: Rangers in six

This matchup is very tough to pick.  When two teams come onto the biggest stage and are both on fire, when irresistible force meets immovable object, you never know what will happen.  This is part of what makes this matchup so fascinating.

The reason I lean toward the Rangers is twofold.  First, this season they have been performing at a higher level more consistently than the Cardinals have.  Second, and more importantly, teams that have been hot throughout a postseason tend to falter upon reaching a championship final.  This has held true not only in baseball (see the 2007 Colorado Rockies or the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays) but through other sports as well (see the 2007-08 New England Patriots or the 2010-11 Butler Bulldogs).

The Rangers also have a ton of offensive weapons.  Even if outfielder Nelson Cruz, who went ballistic in the ALCS with six home runs, cools down, the Rangers can still score . . . and score . . . and score.  After all the pieces are all there—speedy sparkplugs who can rake at the top of the lineup (Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler) and power guys who rake the rest of the way down (Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Cruz, and Mike Napoli).  If you didn’t get it, this whole team can flat-out rake.

Although their starting pitching is not always stellar, the Rangers have the bullpen to cap off wins.  Relievers Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams, and Neftali Feliz are all stellar; they gave up a total of two earned runs in sixteen innings pitched during the ALCS.  These pitchers will be able to quiet the hot bats of David Freese, Matt Holliday, and even the great Albert Pujols in the late innings.  If the offense can continue its production and give leads to the relievers, I like the Rangers’ chances.

All in all, even though the Cardinals have fought through some terrific teams in the Phillies and Brewers, the Rangers are too complete a ballclub all around for the Cardinals to keep their improbable run going.  Texas has the ability to make up for mistakes very easily, so if one part of their game is not functioning well on a given day, they have the ability to adjust and still pull out a win.  Plus, the Rangers were here last year, so they will be more accustomed to the Series atmosphere.

Unfortunately for St. Louis, the buck stops here.  Look for a Texas-sized victory celebration to end the 2011 season on a high note.

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