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World Series preview:
Rangers vs. Giants
Pitcher Cliff Lee of the Texas Rangers Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Cliff Lee: In the zone

There are plenty of players in this World Series who have a chance to make history, attain legend status, achieve something unprecedented. Baseball presents that opportunity on a daily basis. But only one player has a chance to become known as the greatest of all time. That player is Cliff Lee, the Texas Rangers' ace left-hander, who will start Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night against right-hander Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants. By Dave Sheinin

All games televised on Fox.   * - if necessary

At S.F.

7:57, Wed.
Oct. 27
Lee vs. Lincecum

At S.F.

7:57, Thur.
Oct. 28
Wilson vs. Cain

At Texas

6:57, Sat.
Oct. 30
Sanchez vs. Lewis

At Texas

8:20, Sun.
Oct. 31
Bumgarner vs. Hunter

At Tex.*

7:57, Mon.
Nov. 1
 
 

At S.F.*

7:57, Wed.
Nov. 3
 
 

At S.F.*

7:57, Thur.
Nov. 4
 
 

ROSTER | STATS | SCHEDULE

Offense

What we've learned so far

  • That they can survive without much of it. The Giants are averaging a mere three runs per game this postseason and have exceeded four runs only once in their past 17 games, dating to the regular season. They're also not real adept at small ball -- with only four successful sacrifices and three steals (in seven attempts) this postseason.
  • That Cody Ross is for real. He may not keep up his "Babe" Ross act (four homers, a .794 slugging percentage this postseason), but you can be assured the Rangers will be treating him as a true threat.
  • That they will sacrifice offense for the sake of defense. This means less Pablo Sandoval, more Edgar Renteria.

What we still don't know

  • Whether they can hit lefties. The Giants ranked 19th in the majors this season with a .716 OPS against LHPs, and they were shut down by Philadelphia's Cole Hamels in the NLCS. The lefty question is critical because the Rangers are loaded with LHPs:starters Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson, plus four relievers.
  • Whether Andres Torres is healthy. Torres, the Giants' leadoff man, was the unsung engine of their offense this season, but he has scored just two runs all postseason, was benched twice during the NLCS, and exited Game 6 with a hip injury. The Giants need Torres at full strength and full speed.

Pitching

What we've learned so far

  • That Tim Lincecum takes a back seat to no one. Despite being the two-time defending NL Cy Young winner, Lincecum was cast as the underdog to Philadelphia's Roy Halladay in the NLCS. But he essentially fought Halladay to a draw in two starts, and he is a worthy opponent in Game 1 to Texas's Lee.
  • That their bullpen isn't as deep as we thought. RHP Sergio Romo was supposed to be their top set-up man, but he appeared in only half the NLCS games and was bypassed in favor of Lincecum in the eighth inning of the clincher. RHPs Santiago Casilla and Ramon Ramirez were largely ineffective. The Giants don't necessarily want to ask Brian Wilson to keep getting five-out saves, but that may be their best option.

What we still don't know

  • Whether Javier Lopez can be as potent a weapon against the Rangers. Lopez was brilliant in the NLCS as a LH specialist, but that was largely a function of the Phillies' susceptibility to LHPs. His primary target in the World Series will be Josh Hamilton, but Hamilton can bash lefties, too.
  • Whether Jonathan Sanchez can keep it together. Sanchez's awful performance in Game 6 of the NLCS had to give the Giants pause when constructing their World Series rotation. They chose to stick with him, and will give him the Game 3 start, but he will be on a short leash.

Management

What we've learned about Bruce Bochy

  • That he is on a serious hot streak. The Giants' skipper has managed aggressively during the postseason and has almost always been rewarded for it. His lineup is in constant flux (five different SS-3B combos in six NLCS games) and his bullpen usage at times has defied convention. But one of the takeaways from the NLCS was that Bochy outmanaged his Philadelphia counterpart, Charlie Manuel.
  • That he isn't swayed by sentimentality (or finances). Bochy has no problem putting his highest-paid players, such as LHP Barry Zito and CF Aaron Rowand, on the shelf and going with the younger, cheaper players if the latter are better. (See also: His quick hook of Lincecum in the eighth inning of Game 6.) He favors results over experience, and the Giants are all the better for it.

What we still don't know

  • How he will handle the DH duties in Games 3, 4 and 5. Like many NL teams in the World Series, the Giants don't have an obvious DH candidate for the AL park. LF Pat Burrell would be a natural (with Rowand in the outfield), but he wasn't comfortable as a DH in Tampa Bay. Sandoval could get the nod against RHPs Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter, but it is likely to be a revolving door.
  • What Bochy's hat size is. Texas LHP C.J. Wilson tweeted it best: "Bochy's head is the size of two heads!"

ROSTER | STATS | SCHEDULE

Offense

What we've learned so far

  • They are a beast of a lineup. The Rangers have homered in all 11 games this postseason, and scored 38 times off the Yankees in the six-game ALCS. Every regular except Mitch Moreland had at least two extra-base hits and drove in at least two runs. There are no easy outs here.
  • They are fast. The Rangers stole 123 bases during the regular season, and nine during the ALCS. Get ready to see plenty of the Rangers' goofy "antlers" signs, because they're going to run. The Giants' pitchers are notoriously poor at holding runners on base -- particularly Tim Lincecum -- and the Rangers will be looking for every opportunity to put the game in motion.

What we still don't know

  • Whether Josh Hamilton will keep getting the Barry Bonds treatment. The Yankees wanted no part of facing Hamilton, walking him eight times in the ALCS (five of them intentional), choosing to put the game in the hands of DH Vladimir Guerrero and RF Nelson Cruz. But Guerrero and Cruz frequently made the Yankees pay -- never more so than in the pivotal fifth inning of Game 6, which turned on Guerrero's two-run double following an intentional walk of Hamilton.
  • Whether Guerrero knows where his glove is. The Rangers' DH has played sparingly in the field this season (16 starts in the OF), but will be pressed into duty in at least one of the first two games in San Francisco, where there will be no DH. It could be an adventure.

Pitching

What we've learned so far

  • That they are more than a one-man starting staff. In case you have forgotten, Cliff Lee pitched only once in the six-game ALCS, and the Rangers did just fine. Both LHP C.J. Wilson and RHP Colby Lewis, their Games 2 and 3 starters, respectively, have delivered at least one big performance this postseason -- none more impressive than Lewis's Game 6 gem against the Yankees.
  • That the late innings could be an adventure. The Rangers had the majors' sixth-best bullpen (3.38 ERA) this season, but aside from rookie closer Neftali Feliz, they lack true shut-down arms in their bullpen. They have been particularly shaky this postseason.

What we still don't know

  • Whether RHP Tommy Hunter can be trusted in Game 4. There is some thought the Rangers could abandon Hunter, who has been ineffective in two starts this postseason, in favor of LHP Derek Holland, a starter who brilliantly rescued Hunter in both Game 4s in the earlier rounds. Keep an eye on this one.
  • Whether Feliz can avoid a ninth-inning meltdown. He has lived on the edge at times this postseason, issuing five walks in his 4 1/3 innings, but he has been helped by the fact that he hasn't yet seen a save situation. That should change against the Giants, who have a knack for playing close games.

Management

What we've learned so far
about Ron Washington

  • He is amazingly consistent. If he did things one way during the regular season, you can be certain he will do them the same way in the postseason, whether it's his strict, three-out usage of Feliz, or his by-the-numbers outfield platoon.
  • He has earned a big contract. Because Arlington, Tex., isn't New York, few realize that Washington, like the Yankees' Joe Girardi, is unsigned beyond this season. The Rangers' brass says it will make it a priority to get him re-signed after the World Series, but Washington has now put himself in line for a hefty raise and a long-term commitment.

What we still don't know

  • Whether he would deviate from the plan if cornered. The Rangers have trailed in a series only once this postseason (after a Game 1 loss in the ALCS), so Washington hasn't had to manage with his back to the wall. Would he bring back Lee on short rest in Game 4 if the Rangers are trailing? Would he make a Holland-for-Hunter switch?
  • Whether he can set a new record for most cigarettes smoked in a World Series. The chain-smoking Washington has a shot at the all-time record, currently held by Detroit's Jim Leyland in 2006.
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