- Associated Press - Monday, October 25, 2010

A position-by-position look at the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants going into the World Series, starting Wednesday at AT&T Park:

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First Base

Rangers: Mitch Moreland. Called up in late July, the rookie batted .255 with nine homers and 25 RBIs in 47 games. Entering the postseason, it appeared he would platoon with right-handed hitting Jorge Cantu. But Cantu went 0 for 7 in the playoffs and Moreland has solidified a trouble spot for Texas with competitive at-bats and solid defense. He batted a team-high .389 with three RBIs in the AL championship series against the New York Yankees and is now starting regularly, even against left-handed pitching.

Giants: Aubrey Huff. Signed as a free agent to a one-year contract at the bargain price of $3 million, Huff had a huge season and provided much-needed power in the middle of an inconsistent lineup. He had a .385 on-base percentage with 26 homers and 86 RBIs. Playing in his first postseason, the 34-year-old slugger is a clubhouse leader but his defense can be shaky.

Edge: Giants.

Second Base

Rangers: Ian Kinsler. Injuries limited the two-time All-Star to 103 games this year, when he batted .286 with only nine homers and 45 RBIs. But he’s turned on the power in his first postseason, batting .342 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 11 games. A dangerous bat in the No. 6 spot.

Giants: Freddy Sanchez. The 2006 NL batting champion was stuck in a losing situation with Pittsburgh before getting traded to the Giants in July 2009. Now, he’s playing in his first postseason and coming off a .360 batting average in the NL championship series upset of Philadelphia. A shoulder injury sidelined the three-time All-Star at the start of the season, but he’s an excellent contact hitter with gap power who handles the bat well. He fits nicely in the No. 2 hole and offers steady defense, too.

Edge: Rangers, but it’s close.

Shortstop

Rangers: Elvis Andrus. Second-year speedster seems to enjoy the spotlight. He’s been an offensive spark from the leadoff spot, batting .333 in the playoffs and stealing seven bases _ including home. The 22-year-old is still learning and makes overaggressive mistakes, especially on the bases. But his range and overall defense might be unmatched by anyone at his position.

Giants: Edgar Renteria. In and out of the lineup, the 34-year-old Renteria played only 72 unproductive games this season, due in large part to injuries. With a wealth of postseason experience, he found his way back into the lineup in the NLCS, though he went 1 for 16 (.063) against Philadelphia. San Francisco sometimes goes with Juan Uribe at shortstop and Pablo Sandoval at third, leaving Renteria on the bench.

Edge: Rangers.

Third Base

Rangers: Michael Young. Another respected veteran who waited years to win, Young is enjoying his first postseason appearance after a decade of playing second base, shortstop and third for Texas. He’s the unquestioned leader in the clubhouse, and one teammate referred to him as the Derek Jeter or Cal Ripken Jr. of the Rangers. Young is a six-time All-Star who owns five 200-hit seasons. He had a homer and seven RBIs in the playoffs, but struck out an uncharacteristic 13 times.

Giants: Juan Uribe. What a crucial and pleasant surprise Uribe has been to a Giants club short on power. He set career highs with 24 homers and 85 RBIs this season, playing mostly at shortstop. But he can also slide over to second or third, and his defense is sound. A free swinger at the plate, Uribe won a World Series ring as the everyday shortstop for the 2005 Chicago White Sox. He also hit a tiebreaking homer in the eighth inning of Game 6 in the NLCS to help San Francisco close out the Phillies on the road.

Edge: Rangers.

Catcher

Rangers: Bengie Molina. Traded from San Francisco to Texas on July 1, Molina has the unique distinction of playing for both teams in this World Series. He could wind up with a ring no matter who wins, and he said the Series will be a “happy, weird feeling” for him. Slow-footed but steady, the 36-year-old veteran is one of three Molina brothers who are major league catchers, all with championships. Bengie, who brings quality defense and a capable bat, won his with the 2002 Angels. His firsthand knowledge of San Francisco’s talented pitchers should only help his new Texas teammates. Molina hit .333 with two home runs and seven RBIs in the playoffs, including a go-ahead, three-run homer at Yankee Stadium in Game 4 of the ALCS. Matt Treanor, however, catches No. 2 starter C.J. Wilson.

Giants: Buster Posey. Called up from the minors May 29, Posey was considered one of baseball’s top prospects and quickly showed why. San Francisco initially put him at first base just to get his bat in the lineup, then traded Molina to make room for the rookie at his regular position behind the plate. Posey batted .305 with 18 homers and 67 RBIs, moving into the cleanup spot and blossoming into a leading contender for NL Rookie of the Year. A future star, he boasts a strong arm and rare intangibles.

Edge: Giants.

Left Field

Rangers: Nelson Cruz. Though he spent most of the season in right field, Cruz is likely to play left in San Francisco, where NL rules prohibit a designated hitter, forcing Texas to put Vladimir Guerrero in right. Hamstring injuries limited Cruz to 108 games this season, but he provides prodigious power from the right side and he’s been on a tear in the postseason, batting .375 with five homers and eight RBIs. Left-handed hitter David Murphy is likely to start in left if the Giants throw a right-hander in Texas, moving Cruz back to right and putting Jeff Francoeur on the bench.

Giants: Pat Burrell. Released by Tampa Bay, Burrell was salvaged off the scrap heap when the Giants signed him to a minor league deal May 29. He was called up six days later and batted .266 with 18 homers and 51 RBIs for San Francisco. Burrell remains a threat to go deep, but he hit just .207 with a homer and four RBIs in the NL playoffs, striking out 11 times. He doesn’t help much on defense, either.

Edge: Rangers.

Center Field

Rangers: Josh Hamilton. Many are familiar with his incredible comeback story from drug and alcohol addiction. Hamilton was rated one of the best prospects in the history of the draft when Tampa Bay selected him No. 1 overall _ ahead of Josh Beckett _ in 1999. It took The Natural a long time to fulfill his potential, but he’s a top contender for this year’s AL MVP award after hitting a major league-best .359 with 32 homers and 100 RBIs despite missing 24 games in September with two broken ribs. The multiskilled Hamilton runs down balls in center, has a strong arm and jaw-dropping power. He won ALCS MVP honors, batting .350 with four homers and seven RBIs while frightening the Yankees into eight walks, five intentional.

Giants: Andres Torres. A longtime minor leaguer, Torres replaced pricey veteran Aaron Rowand as the starter in center this season and ignited a stagnant offense from the leadoff spot. The 32-year-old had 43 doubles and 26 steals while compiling a .343 on-base percentage with 16 homers and 63 RBIs. He slumped so badly in the playoffs, striking out 14 times, that Rowand got a couple of starts before Torres took over again.

Edge: Rangers.

Right Field

Rangers: Guerrero or Francoeur. Primarily a DH this season, Guerrero is likely to move back to his old spot during games in San Francisco. Achy knees have slowed him, though, and right field at AT&T Park can be tricky. Looking for his first World Series ring, Guerrero had a big comeback this year after an injury-marred season with the Angels in 2009. He batted .300 with 29 homers and 115 RBIs. Francoeur is likely to start in right against left-handers at home. Acquired from the New York Mets on Aug. 31, just in time to be eligible for the postseason, the free-swinging Francoeur is not the hitter he used to be. Giants pitchers can go after him. But he still plays solid defense and flashes a rocket arm while bringing his upbeat attitude to the clubhouse.

Giants: Cody Ross. After aspiring to become a rodeo clown while he was growing up in New Mexico, Ross has developed into a folk hero by the bay for his clutch hitting this postseason. Plucked off waivers from Florida in late August, he batted .324 with four homers, four doubles and eight RBIs in 10 playoff games, winning the NLCS MVP award. Texas pitchers must be careful with him.

Edge: Rangers.

Designated Hitter

Rangers: Guerrero. The nine-time All-Star and 2004 AL MVP is a .330 career hitter against the Giants, with nine homers and 31 RBIs in 62 games.

Giants: Sandoval. The 24-year-old switch-hitter had a surprising drop-off in production this season, batting .268 with 13 homers and 63 RBIs after hitting .330 with 25 home runs and 90 RBIs in 2009. His struggles continued in the playoffs, landing him on the bench at times. DH is a good spot for “Kung Fu Panda” because he’s limited on defense.

Edge: Rangers.

Starting Pitchers

Rangers: No better way to open a postseason series than with Cliff Lee on the mound. The lefty ace-for-hire, with his fourth team in two years, has made pitching in October look easy. He is 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA in eight postseason starts, striking out 67 and walking only seven in 64 1-3 innings. The 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner beat the Yankees twice in last year’s World Series but is still looking for his first championship ring. San Francisco’s lineup could be the easiest one he’s faced in the past two postseasons, too. Behind him, things are less certain _ though the Rangers have built a strong pitching staff after years of trying to outslug opponents. Converted closer C.J. Wilson went 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA this season and pitched well in his first two playoff starts before struggling in Game 5 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium. Right-hander Colby Lewis has been a pleasant surprise, going 2-0 with a 1.45 ERA in three playoff starts, with both wins coming against New York. Derek Holland entered early in relief of No. 4 starter Tommy Hunter in the ALCS and did a superb job.

Giants: One of the best rotations in the majors is headlined by undersized Tim Lincecum, winner of the last two NL Cy Young Awards. The Freak had a spectacular postseason debut, striking out 14 in a two-hit shutout of Atlanta. Then he split a pair of much-anticipated matchups with Roy Halladay in the NLCS _ and struggled in a brief relief outing on one day of rest in Game 6. He can zip a fastball by almost anyone, or baffle hitters with off-speed stuff. Next, he’ll face Lee in the World Series opener. Matt Cain was nearly untouchable in two playoff starts, allowing nine hits and striking out 11 in 13 2-3 innings. He did not allow an earned run. Young lefties Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner both have moxie and strikeout stuff. Sanchez went 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA this year and carried that success into the playoffs before a short outing in Game 6 against the Phillies. Barry Zito, the $126 million lefty who won the 2002 AL Cy Young Award, was left off the roster in the first two rounds.

Edge: Giants.

Bullpen

Rangers: Rookie closer Neftali Feliz looked more and more comfortable as the playoffs wore on, though he doesn’t have a postseason save yet and hasn’t been tested much in tight situations. With a 100 mph fastball, he converted a rookie-record 40 saves in 43 chances during the regular season. Texas’ setup situation is a little precarious. Alexi Ogando has a power arm but is mostly unproven. Left-hander Darren Oliver, 40, is experienced and versatile, but he struggled in the playoffs. Right-handed submariner Darren O’Day went 6-2 with a 2.03 ERA in 72 appearances this year. Clay Rapada and Michael Kirkman were added to the ALCS roster to get lefties out. Kirkman threw two scoreless innings.

Giants: Eccentric closer Brian Wilson, with his funky haircut and thick, black beard, anchors a bullpen that’s been lights-out for most of the last two months _ except for a quick blip in the division series against Atlanta. The hard-throwing right-hander, who shows plenty of guts under pressure, led the majors with 48 saves in 53 opportunities this season. He’s been a rock in October, saving five playoff games and striking out 12 in nine innings without giving up an earned run. Wilson makes things interesting at times, putting runners on base and Giants fans on the edge of their seats, but he closed out the powerful Phillies by getting five tough outs in Game 6 at Philadelphia. San Francisco has plenty of quality arms in front of Wilson, too, including lefty Javier Lopez. He was acquired from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline and went 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in seven playoff outings. Jeremy Affeldt is another experienced lefty with good stuff and Santiago Casilla was 7-2 this year with a 1.95 ERA.

Edge: Giants.

Bench

Rangers: Murphy is an accomplished hitter who batted .291 with 12 homers and 65 RBIs this season. He’ll probably be on the bench most of the series, giving the Rangers a dangerous pinch-hitter _ especially if they can get him to the plate against right-handed pitching. Cantu has been a run-producer in the past, but his swing seems out of sync. Julio Borbon brings speed and outfield defense, though he’s struggling at the plate. Treanor homered in the ALCS.

Giants: There’s experience on the pine in San Francisco, starting with Rowand and left-handed hitting infielder Mike Fontenot. The gritty Rowand, who carries a $12 million salary, was once an All-Star center fielder and Gold Glove winner. He won a 2005 World Series ring with the White Sox and is a team player who’s stayed positive on the bench, trying to do whatever is asked. Travis Ishikawa has a slick glove that makes him useful as a late-inning replacement for Huff on defense. Left-handed hitting outfielder Nate Schierholtz gets at-bats as a pinch-hitter. Little-used catcher Eli Whiteside rounds out a decent bench that could use some more speed.

Edge: Even.

Manager

Rangers: Ron Washington. It’s been a tumultuous but gratifying ride for Washington, making his first appearance in the World Series. In spring training, he admitted that he used cocaine once during the 2009 season. He offered to resign last year, but team president Nolan Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels stuck by him then and again when it became public. Washington has succeeded in bringing his own style of baseball to the Rangers, emphasizing fundamentals on defense and aggressive baserunning. Texas has increased its win total each year under Washington, now in his fourth season. He still has a power-packed lineup and now a legitimate ace in Lee, but the thoughtful manager has a nice touch with this team. His players respect him and play hard.

Giants: Bruce Bochy. With a flawed lineup and plenty of new faces who arrived during the season, Bochy has had to juggle roles in San Francisco. He’s done an outstanding job, keeping the Giants headed in the right direction throughout a tight NL West race and then picking up his game during the playoffs. It seems all the major moves Bochy has made in October have worked, and there have been lots of them. He has issues at shortstop, third base and center field. The catcher is a rookie and much of the bullpen was unproven entering the postseason, yet he’s found the right mix with a team full of youngsters, aging veterans and castoffs. It does help, however, to trot out such an excellent rotation.

Edge: Giants.

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Pick: Rangers in 6.

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