Michael Young(notes), Elvis Andrus(notes) and the Texas Rangers roll into the World Series Wednesday after a dominating ALCS performance versus the New York Yankees. Following their defeat, the Yankees admitted that they were beaten in every aspect of the game.
If the Rangers take the same approach against the San Francisco Giants, they should win the first championship in franchise history. Here are the five keys to their winning formula:
1. Score early: Throughout their playoff run, even in the games they've lost, the Rangers have been proactive. Their hitters get on base and can put runs on the board early, whether through aggressive baserunning or a big hit. They take control of the game and force the opponent to respond.
Landing the first punch might be even more important against a Giants team that has to win with pitching. The Rangers have already chased David Price(notes) and CC Sabathia(notes) this postseason. They don't figure to be intimidated by Tim Lincecum(notes) and Matt Cain(notes). San Francisco's bullpen also seems less imposing if it's not protecting a lead or preserving a tie.
2. Get 6-7 innings out of starting pitchers: Another reason going ahead early is important is that it allows Texas to keep its starting pitchers in the game longer. The fewer pitchers the Rangers have to use between their starter and closer Neftali Feliz(notes), the better.
Derek Holland(notes) has pitched well in long relief, but likely can't do that more than twice in the series. The two Darrens are more effective in late-inning situational matchups, rather than eating up middle innings. Clay Rapada(notes), Dustin Nippert(notes) and Alexi Ogando(notes) were unreliable in their few appearances.3. Josh Hamilton(notes) must be patient: Will the MVP of the ALCS receive the "Barry Bonds treatment" and see nothing to hit? The Yankees took that approach in Game 6, walking him three times. But Hamilton already did his damage in the first five games of the series, batting .350 with three homers and seven RBIs.
It's difficult to imagine the Giants' pitchers completely avoiding Hamilton. But the Rays kept him in check by throwing off-speed stuff low and away, compelling Hamilton to take some bad swings. He either needs to wait for his pitch or take his base.
4. Embrace their National League side: The Rangers have hit 17 homers this postseason. But that's not the only way they can score. Texas can manufacture runs with bunts, hit-and-runs and sacrifice flies.
Not only are the Rangers good at playing small ball, but they enjoy it. That will be valuable in tight ballgames where runs might be hard to come by, and Washington is mulling over whether or not to pinch-hit for his pitchers.
5. Vladimir Guerrero(notes) needs to hit: Walking Hamilton seemed like a good strategy when Guerrero wasn't driving the ball for extra bases. But he finally broke through in Game 6 of the ALCS, following up an intentional walk to Hamilton with a two-run double.
Washington wants Guerrero in the lineup, penciling him in the outfield for at least the first game in San Francisco. Guerrero has to justify his manager's faith in him by continuing to swing a hot bat.