We now shift our attention to the pitching staff for our brief World Series position outlooks. Let's look at the bullpen.
The Rangers had one of the top relief corps in the majors this season. And while they did blow some late leads, they were reliable, gave the club innings when needed and got the job done.
But the injury to Frank Francisco changed things dramatically for the postseason. He wasn't there for the ALDS or ALCS and it impacted how manager Ron Washington set things up in the late innings, specifically the eighth.
The bullpen didn't have impressive numbers against Tampa Bay, struggling in both home games in the series. They weren't needed in Game 5 as Cliff Lee went the distance. In Game 1 of the ALCS, the bullpen blew a four-run lead in the eighth as a parade of relievers couldn't get the Yankees out.
But they bounced back. The bullpen did the job in Game 2 to help the Rangers preserve the win and head to Yankee Stadium with a split. Big offensive outings meant they weren't under much pressure in the two wins in New York, though they pitched well when things were close in Game 4 before Bengie Molina's homer broke things open.
Derek Holland was a prime example of someone bouncing back. After giving up a two-run homer against Tampa Bay in Game 4 that stretched the Rays lead, Holland settled down and pitched three scoreless innings after that. He then carried over the momentum into the Yankees series. Holland pitched well enough that he's garnered consideration as a starter in the World Series.
Of course, if the starters go six innings, Washington is able to better set things up in the pen. But Darren O'Day and Darren Oliver will continue to be the prime setup men. Alexi Ogando gets his shot, but the club is hestitant to use him with men on base because he has a history of allowing inherited runners to score. Clay Rapada is a situational lefty, so he's not likely to go more than a few batters.'
One thing to watch for me: Neftali Feliz. He didn't get the chance to come in and pitch in a really close game late because the Rangers didn't really have one against the Yankees (outside of Game 1 when things had fallen apart before he was needed). How does he respond when a save is on the line in the World Series? Probably just fine. But it would be fun to find out.
San Francisco has a very good bullpen as well, including the bearded closer Brian Wilson. It will be an interesting matchup.