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Right Field

Rangers: Nelson Cruz. Anyone who watched the ALCS knows what Cruz is capable of. He was a one-man show against Detroit, putting on an unprecedented power display and cutting down a runner at the plate with a rifle throw in a crucial situation. Cruz had six homers and 13 RBIs _ both major league records for a postseason series _ and finished 8 for 22 (.364) with two doubles. He went 4 for 20 (.200) with a HR and three RBIs in the 2010 World Series.

Cardinals: Lance Berkman. After signing an $8 million, one-year contract to join St. Louis last offseason, a rejuvenated Berkman provided quite an offensive boost. The switch-hitter batted .301 with 31 home runs, 94 RBIs and a .412 on-base percentage to win the NL comeback player of the year award. His 35-year-old legs limit his range in the outfield, but Berkman is a gamer.

Edge: Even.

Designated Hitter

Rangers: Michael Young or Mike Napoli or David Murphy. Rangers manager Ron Washington has several options when the series shifts to Texas for Game 3. He could put Young in his customary DH spot and start Moreland at first base, or move Hamilton to left and upgrade the outfield defense with Craig Gentry or Endy Chavez in center. Or, Yorvit Torrealba could start behind the plate, with Napoli shifting to DH or first base.

Cardinals: Lance Berkman or Allen Craig. American League rules give manager Tony La Russa a chance to keep Berkman’s bat in the lineup while replacing him on defense with a more athletic outfielder. One would think he’ll take advantage of it. Craig could start in right, especially against the lefties. A right-handed bat with pop, he hit .315 with 11 HRs and 40 RBIs in only 200 at-bats this season.

Edge: Even.

Starting Pitchers

Rangers: After losing ace lefty Cliff Lee to Philadelphia in free agency last fall, the Rangers compensated with a group effort from their solid _ if not spectacular _ starters. C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison were all durable, with each making at least 30 starts and throwing more than 185 innings. Alexi Ogando made the All-Star squad as a starter but has moved back to the bullpen in the postseason, giving Washington quite a weapon. Wilson stepped up and performed like a legitimate No. 1 starter all season, going 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA and 206 strikeouts in a career-high 223 1-3 innings. But he really struggled during the playoffs, posting an 0-2 mark with an 8.04 ERA in three outings. A potential free agent after the World Series, perhaps he’s feeling the pressure. Regardless, he figures to get the ball again in Game 1.

Cardinals: St. Louis also lost an ace before the season began. Adam Wainwright, who won 39 games the past two years, had major elbow surgery in February and missed the entire campaign. But the Cardinals showed their depth, getting solid seasons from Jaime Garcia and Kyle Lohse to complement Chris Carpenter, the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner. The rotation received a boost with the addition of right-hander Edwin Jackson in late July, just before the trade deadline. He went 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA for the Cardinals. A proven postseason ace, Carpenter is the key. He won 10 of his last 12 regular-season decisions following a 1-7 start and was 2-0 with a 3.71 ERA in three playoff starts. The 36-year-old right-hander threw a three-hitter for a 1-0 win at Philadelphia in Game 5 of the division series, outpitching old pal Roy Halladay to finish off the heavily favored Phillies. Carpenter also tossed an eight-inning gem in his only previous World Series appearance against Detroit in 2006. Some of the St. Louis starters look tired, but La Russa has had a quick hook and the bullpen has delivered.

Edge: Cardinals, barely.


Rangers: General manager Jon Daniels went looking for relievers at the trade deadline and found two of them, obtaining coveted setup man Mike Adams and fellow right-hander Koji Uehara. Michael Gonzalez, a lefty, was acquired from Baltimore at the end of August. Now, with Ogando and Scott Feldman back in the bullpen, the Rangers have a deep unit in front of second-year closer Neftali Feliz. Washington went to them early and often to tame the Tigers in the ALCS. Uehara has struggled, but 41-year-old lefty Darren Oliver is steady. Feliz, throwing 100 mph, had four saves and a 1.17 ERA in seven playoff appearances. Ogando was 2-0 with a 0.87 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 10 1-3 innings.

Cardinals: The bullpen was the biggest reason St. Louis was able to beat division rival Milwaukee in the NLCS. La Russa called on his relievers 28 times to bail out a rotation that finished the series with a 7.66 ERA. The Cardinals became the first team to win a postseason series without a starter reaching the sixth inning, according to STATS LLC. There aren’t many household names in this group, but guys like Fernando Salas, Lance Lynn and Octavio Dotel keep getting the job done. Jason Motte, who also features a 100 mph fastball, has grown nicely into the role of closer. He allowed one hit over eight scoreless innings in the playoffs, striking out seven and earning four saves.

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