- Associated Press - Friday, October 7, 2011

A look at the best-of-seven American League championship series between the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers:

Schedule: (All times EDT) Game 1, Saturday, at Arlington, Texas (8:05 p.m.); Game 2, Sunday, at Arlington, Texas (7:45 p.m.); Game 3, Tuesday, at Detroit (8:05 p.m.); Game 4, Wednesday, at Detroit (4:19 p.m.); x-Game 5, Thursday, at Detroit (4:19 p.m.); x-Game 6, Saturday, Oct. 15, at Arlington, Texas (8:05 p.m.); x-Game 7, Sunday, Oct. 16, at Arlington, Texas (8:05 p.m.). (All games on FOX).

x-if necessary.


Season Series: Tigers won 6-3.


Projected Lineups:

Tigers: CF Austin Jackson (.249, 10 HRs, 45 RBIs, 11 triples, 22 SBs), RF Magglio Ordonez (.255, 5, 32), LF Delmon Young (.268, 12, 64 with Twins and Tigers), 1B Miguel Cabrera (AL-leading .344, 30, 105, 48 doubles, 111 runs, 108 BBs), DH Victor Martinez (.330, 12, 103, 40 doubles), C Alex Avila (.295, 19, 82), SS Jhonny Peralta (.299, 21, 86), 2B Ryan Raburn (.256, 14, 49), 3B Brandon Inge (.197, 3, 23).

Rangers: 2B Ian Kinsler (.255, 32, 77, 121 runs, 30 SBs), SS Elvis Andrus (.279, 5, 60, 96 runs, 37 SBs), CF Josh Hamilton (.298, 25, 94 in 121 games), DH Michael Young (career-high .338, 11, 106 with 213 hits), 3B Adrian Beltre (.296, 32, 105), C Mike Napoli (career highs .320, 30, 75 in 113 games), RF Nelson Cruz (.263, 29, 87 in 124 games), LF David Murphy (.275, 11, 46), 1B Mitch Moreland (.259, 16, 51).


Projected Rotations:

Tigers: RH Justin Verlander (24-5, 2.40 ERA, 250 Ks, 251 IP), RH Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.75), RH Doug Fister (11-13, 2.83 with Mariners and Tigers), RH Max Scherzer (15-9, 4.43).

Rangers: LH C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.94 ERA, career-high 223 1-3 IP, 206 Ks, 74 walks), LH Derek Holland (16-5, 3.95, 4 shutouts; 10-1 with 2.77 ERA in last 15 starts), RH Colby Lewis (14-10, 4.40), LH Matt Harrison (14-9, 3.39).



Tigers: RH Jose Valverde (2-4, 2.24, 49/49 saves, 69 Ks, 72 1-3 IP), RH Joaquin Benoit (4-3, 2.95, 2 saves, 63 Ks, 61 IP), RH Al Alburquerque (6-1, 1.87, 67 Ks, 43 1-3 IP), LH Phil Coke (3-9, 4.47, 1 save in 48 games, 14 starts), RH Ryan Perry (2-0, 5.35), LH Daniel Schlereth (2-2, 3.49), RH Brad Penny (11-11, 5.30 in 31 starts).

Rangers: RH Neftali Feliz (2-3, 2.74, 32/38 saves), RH Mike Adams (2-3, 2.10, 1 save in 27 games for Rangers; 3-1, 1.13 in 48 appearances for Padres), RH Koji Uehara (2-3, 2.35 in 65 games for Rangers and Orioles), LH Darren Oliver (5-5, 2.29, 61 games), RH Scott Feldman (2-1, 3.94 in 11 games, 2 starts, since return from microfracture surgery on right knee), RH Alexi Ogando (13-8, 3.51 in 31 games, 29 starts, for converted reliever who returns to bullpen for postseason), LH Michael Gonzalez (2-2, 4.39 in 56 games for Rangers and Orioles), RH Darren O’Day (0-1, 5.40 in 16 games).



The Rangers are in their second consecutive AL championship series. They were the only current franchise in the majors that had never won a postseason series before beating Tampa Bay in the first round last season. The visiting team won all five games, a first for a postseason series. Texas then beat the Yankees in a six-game AL championship series before losing to San Francisco in the World Series in five games. … This year, the Rangers got by the Rays again, rebounding from a Game 1 rout and winning twice more under the roof at Tropicana Field to wrap up the best-of-five playoff in four games. It was the only first-round series that didn’t go the distance. … Texas is looking for a chance to win the World Series one year after losing it. The last team to do that was Oakland (1988-89). … Rangers manager Ron Washington insisted that Ogando will remain in the bullpen during the playoffs, even though he was the starter and winner for the only three Texas victories against Detroit this season. … The teams played three series this year, with Detroit winning two of three each time. Detroit outscored Texas 24-15 in the three games at Rangers Ballpark. Four of the Tigers’ six wins were one-run games in Detroit. … Texas batted .275 with six home runs against the Tigers this season. … Fister’s first start for the Tigers was Aug. 3 against Texas. He allowed two earned runs with no strikeouts in seven innings. … Cruz was 15 for 40 (.375) with 5 HRs, 5 doubles and 8 RBIs in the AL playoffs last season. He was 1 for 15 in the division series this year. … Benoit was with the Rangers from 1999 until missing the 2009 season because of rotator cuff surgery. He went to Tampa Bay on a minor league deal and had three scoreless appearances in the 2010 ALDS vs. Texas. Then he signed a $16.5 million, three-year contract with Detroit last offseason. … Texas hasn’t lost consecutive games since dropping three in a row to Boston from Aug. 23-25. … Delmon Young, acquired from Minnesota in a quiet trade Aug. 15, has provided a boost for Detroit’s offense. He hit three homers in the first round against the Yankees, a Tigers record for a postseason series. But he left Game 5 with a strained muscle on his side and it was uncertain whether he would be able to start the ALCS opener. … Scherzer came out of the bullpen in Game 5 on Thursday after his Game 2 gem, when he pitched two-hit ball for six-plus innings at Yankee Stadium. … Fister went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA after being acquired in a trade from Seattle. He was touched up by New York in one of his first-round outings but won the decisive Game 5 at Yankee Stadium with five solid innings. … Verlander threw a complete game in his only start against the Rangers this season but lost 2-0 to Ogando on April 11.


Big Picture:

Tigers: Riding a pair of MVP candidates in Verlander and Cabrera, the Tigers (95-67) dusted the Indians and White Sox in the second half to win the AL Central for the first time. It was their first division crown since 1987, when they played in the AL East. Detroit is in the ALCS for the first time since 2006, when the wild-card Tigers swept Oakland before losing the World Series to St. Louis. Detroit beat the Yankees in the first round that year as well. … Verlander started Game 1 of the division series at Yankee Stadium, but worked only one inning because the game was suspended in the second due to rain. Three days later, he struck out 11 and threw 120 pitches over eight innings to beat New York in Game 3. Tigers manager Jim Leyland insisted he wouldn’t use his ace out of the bullpen in Game 5 on Thursday night and stuck to his word, so Verlander will be on regular rest for the opener in Texas. The right-hander won the pitching version of the Triple Crown, leading the AL in wins, ERA and strikeouts _ not to mention innings. He threw a no-hitter and came close a couple of other times. … Fister and three relievers shut down the Yankees for a 3-2 victory in Game 5, making big pitches under pressure to work their way out of several jams. … Leyland managed 14 seasons in the National League, and it shows. Whether he’s shuttling in defensive replacements late in a game or giving spot starts to his backups, he’s been willing to go deep into his roster of position players. Expect to see 3B Wilson Betemit (.285, 8, 46 with Royals and Tigers) and 2B Ramon Santiago (.294 since Aug. 14) against right-handers. Ordonez is often the first candidate to come out for defense if the Tigers have a lead, and utility man Don Kelly can play just about anywhere. He was a surprise star in the ALDS against the Yankees, hitting .364 (4 for 11) with a key homer and 2 RBIs. … In the regular season, Verlander and Fister combined to go 14-0 with a 1.61 ERA from Aug. 16 on. The Tigers won 30 of their final 39 games. … Cabrera hit .391 after July 19 and finished the regular season on a 15-for-26 run with 4 homers. He was 3 for 15 (.200) with a HR and 3 RBIs against the Yankees. He also walked five times and struck out five times. … Raburn hit .213 before the All-Star break and .341 afterward. … Alburquerque was hit in the head with a ball during batting practice Aug. 12 and had a concussion. He struck out 10 batters in 6 1-3 innings after returning. … Benoit had a 1.36 ERA from May 20 on. … Coke began the year in the starting rotation, but since moving back to the bullpen, he’s 2-1 with a 3.41 ERA. … Detroit went 46-24 after the All-Star break. The Tigers hadn’t had a winning record after the break since 2000. … Young hit 8 home runs in 40 regular-season games with the Tigers after hitting four in 84 games for Minnesota.

Rangers: Texas set a franchise record with 96 victories and won its second consecutive AL West title after more than a decade out of the playoffs. This is the Rangers’ fifth time in the postseason, all as division winners (1996, 1998, 1999, 2010, 2011). … Texas finished the regular season winning its last six games, and 14 of 16, to hold off Detroit for home-field advantage in the division series, and now the ALCS. … The Rangers have increased their win total each year under Washington, who is in his fifth season. … After going to their first World Series last season and then losing Cliff Lee in free agency when the ace left-hander went back to Philadelphia, the Rangers bulked up their offense with the additions of Napoli in a trade and free-agent Beltre, who chose Texas over the Angels. Beltre, who missed six weeks with a strained left hamstring, hit 12 homers in the last 16 regular-season games. Then he homered three times in the Game 4 clincher at Tampa Bay. … Napoli ended the regular season with consecutive two-homer games at Los Angeles, where he had previously played. Then he had a go-ahead homer in Game 3 of the division series after a key two-run single in Game 2 when Rangers fans were chanting his name. He batted .357 (5 for 14) with a homer and four RBIs in the ALDS. … The Rangers had three players with 30 homers (Kinsler, Beltre and Napoli) for the first time since 1999 (Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez and Rafael Palmeiro). … Young, the longest-tenured Rangers player, requested a trade last winter after Beltre joined the team. Young played 3B the past two seasons after previously being a shortstop and second baseman for Texas. Napoli was a catcher who also played first base and DH, the two spots expected for Young after Beltre signed. Once he got to spring training, Young put his focus on the field and in his 11th season hit a career-best .338 while splitting time between DH and the infield. He was 2 for 15 (.133) in the division series, though, without an extra-base hit or RBI. … After winning the AL MVP award last season, Hamilton was only a dozen days into the new season when he sustained a non-displaced fracture at the top of his right arm when he tried to score with a daring dash on a foul popup at Detroit. He was out six weeks. … The Rangers were already in first place to stay when Hamilton and Cruz (strained right quadriceps) returned to the lineup May 23. … Texas led the majors with a .283 batting average, was second with 210 homers and third with 855 runs. The Rangers also had a major league-low 930 strikeouts. … The team’s 3.79 ERA was its lowest since the club-record 3.31 in 1983. … The staff had 1,179 strikeouts, two off the team record set last year, and the 461 walks were the fewest in a full season since 1978.


Watch For:

_ Valverde’s Streak. Detroit’s excitable closer converted all 49 of his save opportunities during the regular season, although his strikeout rate has actually declined the last few years. Then he closed out the Yankees three times in the first round, earning a pair of saves in one-run games. He makes things interesting at times, but no missteps so far. The last reliever on a perfect run like this was Brad Lidge in 2008 with Philadelphia, and he kept it up through the postseason to help the Phillies win the World Series.

_ Leaning Left. With Wilson, Holland and Harrison, the Rangers got a franchise-record 46 wins from left-handed starters during the regular season. That’s the most in the majors since the 1997 Seattle Mariners had 52. Detroit’s most dangerous bats are right-handed, however, including Cabrera, Young, Peralta and Martinez, a switch-hitter. Wilson’s 16 wins were one more than he had last season in his transition from reliever to starter, but he was roughed up in a Game 1 loss in the ALDS. Holland worked out of the bullpen last postseason, and in his World Series debut threw 11 consecutive balls. Harrison was left off the postseason roster last year after being primarily a reliever.

_ Action Jackson. The Detroit leadoff hitter didn’t have a great year offensively, but he’s of tremendous importance in center field, especially at spacious Comerica Park. Jackson’s range enables Leyland to play less mobile fielders in left and right, and if his bat shows up in this series, it will make the Tigers that much tougher to beat. Jackson went 2 for 16 (.125) with 8 strikeouts in the ALDS, but he doubled off CC Sabathia and scored a key run in Game 5.

_ Young At Heart. Michael Young adapted to his new role and had a team-high 159 starts, the ninth time in 10 seasons he played at least 155 games. This time, he started 69 games as the DH, 39 at third base, 36 at first, 14 at second and one at shortstop. He became the only player to have at least 200 hits (213) while playing 35 games or more at three different positions during the season. Before last year, Young had played 1,508 regular-season games without getting into the playoffs. This year, Game 1 of the World Series is scheduled for Oct. 19, his 35th birthday.

_ On The Road Again. Lewis was 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four postseason starts last fall, all at Rangers Ballpark. He threw five scoreless innings in his no-decision and won the AL pennant-clinching game. This year, Lewis was more effective on the road, going 9-5 with a 3.43 ERA, 107 Ks and 27 walks in 107 2-3 innings. That continued in the division series at Tampa Bay, where he allowed one hit over six innings for a Game 3 victory.

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