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Edge: Rangers.


Rangers: Playing in the American League, the Rangers don’t need to use their bench as much as St. Louis does. Still, the elements are there for an adequate group. Gentry and Chavez each offer speed and a strong glove. Both are candidates to enter as defensive replacements in the late innings. It would be nice if there was a pinch-hitting thumper, especially for the games in St. Louis. But if he doesn’t start at Busch Stadium, Murphy would be a good choice off the bench for any important at-bat, particularly against a right-hander.

Cardinals: La Russa has gone to his backups extensively all season and it’s definitely paid off in October. Everyone on this team seems to embrace his role and the Cardinals got several key contributions from part-time players during the playoffs. Craig has earned more at-bats with his impressive production. The names on the bench aren’t big ones, but La Russa knows how to use them.

Edge: Even.


Rangers: Ron Washington. Enthusiastic and occasionally unconventional, Washington has left his stamp on this team since taking over before the 2007 season. Texas has increased its win total each year under Washington, who gets whipped up into a frenzy and runs in place in the dugout as his players are trying to score. He utilized his bullpen nicely in the ALCS and there’s no doubt he gets the most out of his guys. He also intentionally walked Miguel Cabrera with nobody on in Game 4 of the ALCS and it nearly came back to bite him. Wonder if Washington will have any more intriguing tricks up his sleeve when he squares off against La Russa.

Cardinals: Tony La Russa. Long considered one of baseball’s top managers, La Russa turned in another terrific job this season. He guided the Cardinals to a stunning comeback after they trailed Atlanta by 10 1/2 games in the wild-card race on Aug. 25. St. Louis is in the postseason for the ninth time in La Russa’s 16 seasons and second time in three years. Always intense, always prepared, he’s had a magic touch with this bullpen and bench down the stretch and throughout the postseason.

Edge: Cardinals.


Pick: Rangers in 6.